Tag Archives: Pets

A Meditation on Impermanence

An unfamiliar companion has been hanging around me lately. His name is Death.

Masala my sweet 12 yo
Masala my sweet 12 yo

Within the last month, I have learned that our sweet old dog, Masala, is dying of liver cancer. I’ve made a new friend, Mitali, who, at age 32, has devoted the past 18 months of her life to serving as caretaker for her father as he battles colon cancer. And another close friend called to tell me that her husband of 20 years, her best friend, had been killed in a tragic accident.

There is a message here about impermanence. While I’ve heard it many times before, somehow every time an unexpected event happens or I receive unwelcome news, I have to learn the lesson all over again. We are not in control of so many things.

View From Hearst Castle

When I was going through a divorce eight years ago, I took great comfort from the book When Things Fall Apart, by American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. She reminds us that in spite of all our carefully-laid plans and best efforts, the only aspect of life we can predict with certainty is change. Therefore, rather than fighting against forces larger than ourselves to maintain a semblance of control, we’re best served by surrendering to the reality of impermanence. Accepting that we are truly adrift in a sea of unknown. When we do, we realize that the only place where we truly can, where in fact we must, find grounding is in ourselves. I would add: and in our relationship to the higher power.

Forest light

It is a powerful — and threatening — message to digest. But the irony is that when we embrace impermanence, when we surrender to God, we don’t become weak; we grow that much stronger.

When I came to accept my life as it is in this very moment, when I learned to find peace, joy and love for myself as I am right now, I knew for the first time who I was and what life is about. I am a peaceful warrior. My purpose on this planet is to help others overcome their self-sabotaging patterns and achieve their loftiest goals. I even have a mantra: “Fear less, love more!” And I have seen with absolute clarity that the point of being here is only, truly, simply, beautifully… to love.

Central CA Coast

I had done more than overcome the pain of my divorce. The very heartbreak I experienced had cracked me open, exposed my flaws, and readied me to form even deeper and more profound connections with myself and others.

And that’s exactly when I united with the love of my life, Kiran. My soulmate. My creative partner. My inspiration. After six long years of loneliness and personal growth, and not a moment sooner. Shiva the Destroyer had set my old life on fire and burned it to the ground. From the ashes, I had rebuilt on a foundation of trust, love, and radical honesty. Now, God the creator had brought me my greatest gift. True love.

Open Sky

But any of this might — will — disappear again at any moment. An accident. A tragedy. An illness. We know that we all will die someday. Some of us are facing that truth on a moment-by-moment basis. Others are choosing to forget, to push it aside, to pretend like we can outsmart God. I do both, depending on the day.

Horse in field

Buddhism, a well of wisdom from which I have drawn much comfort, preaches non-attachment. You’re not supposed to give weight to your past, your story, your ego, your societal position, or even your friendships. The Dalai Lama himself was taught to view all beings as his mothers, to love every single one of us equally, without giving any special consideration to his real-life blood family.

Well, I’m no Tibetan Buddhist master. While it’s true that beyond having enough clothes, food, and shelter to keep me safe and sound, I could care less about status, wealth, or possessions, I also choose to attach myself to my loved ones. I love them fiercely, like a lioness. And now that it is time to say goodbye to one, my Bodhisattva of a doggie companion, it pains me more deeply than I thought possible. My heart cracked to allow more love in, and when it did, it also opened the gateway to more suffering.

Masala in the forest

But I am okay with that. In fact, I welcome it.

I am reminded of the words of Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet:

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain… When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

So be it. I will carve deeper the sorrows so that my cup of happiness may overflow. I will sob and ache as I let go of my beloveds and hold tight those around me as they grieve their losses, so that one day, we all may cry again with tears of joy.

Meanwhile, I walk by the ocean and watch the waves roll in, exactly as they have done for millions of years. Unperturbed by our human loves and frailty, our strengths and pain.

How comforting, the vast indifference of the sea.

Woman on beach

Photos by Kiran Ramchandran, @KIRANCreates on Instagram

10 Things Your Dog Would Tell You

* Written by Eric Handler

I am publishing this blog in memory of my dog, Stella (pictured above), who died last year on September 21st.

I saw this list shared by several friends on Facebook. It is so simple and moving that I felt compelled to share it here. I invite you to share your thoughts below.

1. My life is likely to last ten to fifteen years. Any separation from you will be painful: remember that before you get me.

2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.

3. Place your trust in me—it is crucial to my wellbeing.

4. Do not be angry at me for long, and do not lock me up as punishment.

5. You have your work, your entertainment, and your friends. I only have you.

6. Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice.

Our dogs spooning. Rocco and Stella (passed on last year)

7. Be aware that however you treat me, I will never forget.

8. Remember before you hit me that I have sharp teeth that could easily hurt you, but I choose not to bite you because I love you.

9. Before you scold me for being uncooperative, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I might not be getting the right food, or I have been out too long, or my heart is getting too old and weak.

10. Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old. Accompany me on difficult journeys. Never say: “I cannot bear to watch” or “Let it happen in my absence.” Everything is easier for me if you are there—even my death.

Remember that I love you.

Eric Handler is the co-founder of Positively Positive. He recently spoke at TEDx. Follow Eric on TWITTER. 

Miss My Dog Sooooooo

 A few weeks ago, at approximately 8:30pm, someone tried to break into my apartment in NYC. While I was home! TRUE!!


I know this is going to break your mind open but I seriously have considered getting a gun for protection.  What man wouldn’t?!

Aside from protection, I also think that a yogi with a gun might help spread yoga into those segments of the population that still think yoga is for sissies.

After checking in with the Gravity Cowboy as to his thoughts on a gun, he suggested instead I get a bow and arrow.

What an interesting idea. With tights and a sock to stuff neatly inside, I’d be a hit in the East Village.

But I believe the Gravity Cowboy was being serious.

And sure enough, I’ve looked into it, and even ventured to a store in Queens that sells bows and arrows along with Israeli gas masks, wood bullets, and vintage Jon Rocker Atlanta Braves jerseys.

After testing the idea on some of my female yoga students as practice…

…before presenting to my fiancée the notion of bearing arms…

….I heard a smorgasboard of less-than favorable responses that included  “Man up bitch!!”

Truth be told: should a burglar attempt to break in while sleeping, I’d be a lot better off with bow and arrow than without bow and arrow.


This past year, due to moving into a tiny apartment in NYC, my fiancee and I had to leave our dog Gibson with my future in-laws in Arizona.

I’m not sure if Gibson misses us because he is so distracted and in love with his 2 lab cousins Kalvin and Kooper.

But you better believe we miss the heck out of Gibson!

Next year, we will get a bigger place and move Gibson to NYC.

And we are going to get another dog so Gibson has company.

While we most likely will rescue a dog, I would lie to you by saying I haven’t researched the various breeds.

I’m particularly fascinated by the following:

Schnoodle: Schnauzer + Poodle

Doxie Poo: Daschund + Poodle

Bully Wheaten: Bulldog + Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

Some of these combinations are almost as crazy as:

Yoga teacher + Bow and Arrow.


As mentioned in my book, there’s nothing like the bark of a dog to keep you safe (and avoid having to even ponder the idea of a bow and arrow).

But beyond the bark, we miss so terribly the wet doggy kiss when returning home, and the warm body lying at our feet while sleeping.

One thing is certain, no matter the inconvenience, life without love, whether the dog or human variety, is missing something.  

A wise one said, “Without love, what are we worth?  Eighty-nine cents!  Eighty-nine cents worth of chemicals walking around lonely.”

So whoever tried to break into my place, beware: next year, we’ll have Gibson and his Doxie Poo Schnoodle sibling to protect us.

And who needs a gun or a bow and arrow when you have the greatest defense of all.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / bill barber


Does Love Ever Die?

How to feel loved even when a relationship ends

7 days ago I made one of the hardest decisions of my life.

A decision made for love, but a choice that really seemed to be set up to take love away from me.

7 days ago, I helped my best friend of 17-years, my heart companion, my soul dog, die.

She wasn’t sick. Just old.

Her body no longer worked the way it needed for her to Be the vibrant, jubilant, beautiful being she had always been.

And although I didn’t know it at the time, inside I became very afraid that Love was going to leave me… again.

Love had certainly felt like it had left before – when my father died, when my engagement ended abruptly, and in the times previous best friends became people I no longer talked to.

Through my previous experiences with love and loss, I had come to believe that when people leave, so does the love. Which has also caused me to believe that as humans, we will do most anything to avoid feeling the pain associated with feeling the loss of love. Or sometimes we will do everything to run straight into and sit in the pain, suffering to make ourselves feel alive and connected to the one that has left.

As I made the choice this time around to let someone I love go, what I found were two beliefs around love and loss – one that served me and one – a love lie — that just caused me great suffering, that I thought we all could benefit from getting to the real truth.


The thought of losing love is one of the scariest things we face as human beings.

This is true.


When a relationship ends or a person leaves our lives, the love dies. The love leaves with them.

This is totally false.

It is true that if you input a belief into your mind that tells you “Love is gone! Love has been taken away!” you will feel pain, excruciating suffering kind of pain.

Because just like we need air to breathe, we need love to live.

Anyone who has had the experience of losing someone they love deeply can attest to feeling like the wind was knocked out of them, because it was. And yes, losing someone we love, hurts, a lot. There is no way around the grief but through it. However, it’s been my experience that avoiding the pain or festering in the belief that love had been stripped away, brings loads of unnecessary suffering. Because the truth is that while the physical presence of that person ceases to be with us, and we will grieve that physical loss, there is evidence everywhere that the love doesn’t die, and in fact, the heart, while it may be breaking, has the opportunity to as it mends, open up to even more love.

3 Ways to Open To More Love In Times of Loss

1. Make the choice to Surrender. Surrender your expectations of what and how you should feel… and when. Surrender the belief that love could ever be stripped away. Surrender your fear of letting love go. The less you struggle and the more you surrender to love, the more ease you will have. When I am having a hard time surrendering, I take a “Surrender Plunge:” Put your body a cross-like position, or if that weirds you out, assume the body position as if you were floating on water. Arms out to the side, creating a T shape. And say out loud, over and over, until you feel a shift, the words, ‘I Surrender. I Surrender. I Surrender.”

2. Find Evidence of Love Everywhere and Open your Heart to Receiving The Love. Remember, you need love to live, so take it everywhere you can get it… and seek it. Hugs, smiles, considerate acts of kindness from strangers, all great! Surround yourself with people who love you. Ask for their help, and let them (not expect them) to go above and beyond for you. Plan dates with friends where you don’t have to ‘do’ anything but be with each other. And in the moments you find yourself alone, reach out to nature, the sun, a book or a bath to soothe you and connect you to the fact that you will never leave you.

3. Create physical touchstones that bring love to your body, heart and spirit. Having something or someone to touch you helps you feel the love still present. I have put these two love generating tools to the test: A. the Love Pacifier – a physical object that reminds you of that person or that relationship in a healthy way. My pacifier for Nanook, my soul dog, has been a white faux fur blanket that feels like her shiny warm coat I used to love snuggling up to. B. Body and energy workers working on you! In the past 2 weeks I have received Acupuncture, Emotional Freedom Technique, Reiki, Cranio-Sacral Therapy and Massage, and I am heading to a week long retreat with natural mineral salt baths this week. Grief gets stored in the body and you need to release it. Any of these forms are great release techniques. If you aren’t familiar with them, get familiar by googling them. Open minds lead to open hearts!

If you have other ideas to share on how you have opened to more love as you’ve experienced the ending of a relationship with someone you loved, I’d love to hear about it! Post it here or visit my blog http://www.daretoliveyou.com/blog/2011/04/love-never-dies.html where you can also watch a video I taped called Love Never Dies.

Bird sanctuary at Oak Haven

This video was taken on my farm at Oak Haven®. It’s so meditative to watch the precious movement of these newborns, with a last remaining egg–barely cracked with a baby bird–ready to feel the warmth and love of this world.
Here are some tips to start your own bird sanctuary:
  • No feral or stray cats (prey animals like birds will instinctually fear being around the predator)
  • Bird boxes must be 8ft off the ground (on a tall wooden pole)
  • Clean the bird boxes (ones that open easily; must be cleaned out and disinfected after nesting every year)
  • Put up bird feeders within 100 feet (use the food for the bird you want to attract); here’s a how-to for a simple bird feeder using citrus peels

I feel so blessed with my connection with animals. Do you have a mindful animal story to share or do you want to create a mindful connection with animals?


Dog Talk

Dog owner training
Learning often begins with unlearning. Dog owners come equipped with preconceived ideas, personal experiences and their own strategy for raising pets. In many instances parents will raise and communicate with their dogs as they do their children.
After investing much time and money in dog training classes, and private dog training sessions, many owners give up and just accept the fact that their dogs aggression problems or leash pulling is here to stay so they adjust their life to accommodate their dog’s misbehavior. In many instances this equates to the dog owners only walking their dog at night, in less populated areas, kenneling in the garage when visitors come over or not having guests come to their home. I have seen this time and again.
Dogs do not merely judge us by our behavior, they go a notch deeper, they tune into our energy on a psychic level. We do the same, yet give precedence to a person’s words and actions. Perceptual conflicts arise when we are getting an energetic reading from a person that conflicts with their words and deeds.
The perception (reference) your dog has of you will determine how it acts while around you.  Changing your actions (behavior) without changing your energy signature will yield unsustainable results.
Dogs are brilliant and know when we’re operating from fear which comes through as inconsistency, frustration, anger and dominance.  Fear is low-frequency energy and repels higher frequencies. 
In order to succeed with your dog you must gain rapport which means you have to step out of fear and operate from a higher state. Fear cannot train fear to evolve beyond fear. You will see changes in your dog in direct proportion to the changes within yourself. Many dog owners are fast to defend their egos by saying, “I don’t need to change, my dog does.” LOL!   This is how alcoholics think – that everyone else is screwed up including the world, until they see the light of an AA meeting and awaken to truth.
Consideration for others
Permission equals respect for others. How often do you sit on the lap of a total stranger, take food out of their hand without it being offered or attempt to lick the mouth of another whom you do not know?
My hunch is never. Why then is it ok for dogs to do it?  Is it because they’re dogs and that’s what dogs do? I think not. Unfortunately some people believe this.
Training is not behavior
“My dog is well trained – he sits, stays, shakes, fetches and goes to his bed on command but I can’t seem to deal with his aggression towards people, cats and his tendency to steal food from the counter and from the hands of my kids!”
“My brother has multiple Master’s Degrees and received high marks all through college, but he’s an alcoholic, embezzled $700k from his former employer and cheats on his wife!”
Training is not behavior. Academic intelligence and training is not the same as emotional and spiritual maturity.
We live in a society that favors academic prowess over spiritual and emotional maturity. This must be changed in order for our species to evolve to the next level.  Mastery of self must take precedence.

Pools of black


I was just looking into the eyes of my little boy Maltipoo, Riley.  They are deep black pools – full of mystery and life.  Expressive with longing and understanding. Looking for appreciation, affection and maybe a treat!  So carefree, he is.  Dependent upon me for everything – food, water, shelter, love, attention, affection and care.  Not a care in the world that little boy – loves to play, cuddle and give kisses.  Could my life be that simple?  Could I ever just let go and let God take care of me?  Such an easy concept to put into writing – such a hard principle and way of life to adopt.   

Pools of black


I was just looking into the eyes of my little boy Maltipoo, Riley.  They are deep black pools – full of mystery and life.  Expressive with longing and understanding. Looking for appreciation, affection and maybe a treat!  So carefree, he is.  Dependent upon me for everything – food, water, shelter, love, attention, affection and care.  Not a care in the world that little boy – loves to play, cuddle and give kisses.  Could my life be that simple?  Could I ever just let go and let God take care of me?  Such an easy concept to put into writing – such a hard principle and way of life to adopt.   

7 Christmas Gift Ideas For Pets And The People Who Love Them

 We love our pets. The American Pet Products Association reports that Americans spent 45.5 billion dollars on our 171 million dogs and cats in 2009, as well as millions of small animals, reptiles, and fish. During the holiday season, then, it’s no surprise that we want to pamper our furry little companions with a special treat. Here are some ideas to show that faithful friend that it’s Christmastime for them too, and a few gift ideas for a pet lover in your life as well.

Santa Dog Hoodies are an adorable way to help your pal stay warm and share in the fun of the season. Available in many sizes, from extra small (20”) all the way to extra large (40”). $49.95 at Fetchdog.com

PetHoliday Cat Santa Hat. You might lose a finger trying this and the hat is unlikely to stay on for more than the length of time it takes you to snap the picture, but hey, at $4.99 from PetsMart, it’s a bargain for a great chuckle and lasting memory!


Nom, nom, nom! Your feathered friend will feel festive as he munches on this cute Stick Angel Bird Toy. All birds love to shred and chew. The bright colors will keep your bird entertained and the hard wooden block will help keep his beak neatly trimmed. From Doctors Foster and Smith, $6.99


This hilarious doormat is, of course, a parody of the famous line, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls.” Funny and functional. Available at Amazon.com, $19.99.


If you are looking for great hostess gift for a cat-lover, you can’t go wrong with this whimsical serving platter from CentralChef, $22.95.

These super-tough giant Christmas bulb dog toys are double the fun, as your pooch can chew and bounce them and work at getting a treat out of the center. Available from the Best Friends General Store, $10.99.

What’s warm and cozy and will provide hours of fun for your kitty? Why, the Heated Crinkle Tunnel, of course! The crinkly part is in the arch. The padded bottom heats to 102 degrees. Heater is removable and the tunnel is machine-washable. Available from SpecialPetsStore.com, $51.97.


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