Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pooper Scooper Meditation*

(*This title was inspired by my friend A, who cleans up after a minimum of five dogs, every single day.)

I've always been charmed by those tasks which are mentioned in books of Buddhist philosophy as good practice for being in the moment: chopping wood, carrying water, sweeping the garden paths. Simple tasks, and repetitive, but also clean, spare and elegant, like a Japanese garden.

I have lately come up with another task which can lead one to being in the moment, to engaging in process rather than attaching to outcomes (since it is endless), and to maintaining a properly humble attitude: pooper scooping.

I have practiced pooper scooping on a daily basis for about a week now. At first, I used my long-handled tools--the shovel and the rake--to keep at arm's distance from the object of my efforts. But I have discovered that that doesn't work. To scoop poop efficiently, especially if it is encased in ice, you have to get up close. You have to grab your tools near the business end for maximum leverage, and you have to dig and carve. You sometimes even have to dislodge a stubborn bit with the toe of your rubber boot. And you have to retrieve the pieces that fly off and scoop them patiently onto the shovel, then into the bucket. You have to be present, you have to be humble, you have to be one with the poop.

Here I am, an educated 21st century woman living in the world's most affluent society, doing work that, in the cradle of Buddhism, is relegated to the untouchables. How ironic! How utterly paradoxical!

I believe that pooper scooping--like washing lepers' wounds--is an excellent Buddhist, and Christian, exercise. It puts you in touch with the present (you have to concentrate to do it well); it puts you in touch with the realities of life (food-to-poop on the one hand, suffering and death on the other); and it makes you feel gratitude (for having dogs, for not having leprosy). Its rhythm--walk, scoop, dump, walk, scoop, dump--induces a meditative state similar to that achieved by deep breathing methods.

Except that, when you pooper scoop, you try to keep deep breathing to a minimum.

6 comments :

  1. That task. That was my very least favorite task of all tasks I accomplish in my house, including cat litter. The grass and the poop and the crumbly bits and the piece I forgot and ugh. I do not miss it. But I kind of miss the dog that came with the task. Which is also sort of a Truth. We all come with unpleasant parts to go along with the good.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've mentioned to my family that the reason I don't really mind scooping the cat litter is because it is sort of Zen-like. Not only does it calm me (in a stinky sort of way) but the act of raking the scooper through the litter is a little like one of those sand Zen gardens.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bridgett, yes, all living, loving, lovable beings come with poop. That's the price we have to pay for their adorableness.

    Dona, that bit about the litter and the Zen garden sand is worthy of a New Yorker cartoon.

    ReplyDelete
  4. i wish you lived next door to me rather than the people who do. (abigail's waste is building up again....)

    we clean up after our boys every day too. we live in a city. it's the polite thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This afternoon I was walking Cricket around a nearby elementary school, and she decided she wanted to walk up on a steep bank instead of on the street with me. Thinking it would be good for her ACL surgery recovery PT, thinking it was grand, I let her walk along all lopsided...and then she squatted to poop and...because she was on a steep bank every piece bounced as it hit the ground and rolled down the slope, all in different directions, so I was chasing balls of poop all over the place. Today's the first day I've ever laughed while picking up poop! Do you think she did it on purpose?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Laurie, I don't know. With our sthree dogs, the stuff build up so quickly that even a daily clean up might bother my close neighbors. But it would be fun to have you next door!

    Alison, sort of like chasing ping pong balls? I sometimes feel like I am on a nightmarish Easter egg hunt.

    ReplyDelete