“Boy, that’s some water bowl!”

“That’s not a water bowl, Aussie, that’s the kiddie pool I got so that you could spend these hot, humid days lying belly-down in cool water just as you do when we go on walks.”

“I say it’s a water bowl. Watch me drink and drink and drink. Sure comes in handy on hot days like today.”

“Aussie, your water bowl is inside. This is a pool.”

“It’s a water bowl.”

“It’s a pool.”

“It’s a water bowl.”

“You know, Aussie, there are koans like this.”

“You’re telling me! I’ve lived here for almost three years.”

“So what is this, Aussie?”

“Glub glub glub glub. Yum!”

“You know, Aussie, I watched you join Leeann and her group of dogs the other day. I saw Derek the Lab puppy try to give you a puppy lick, and what did you do?”


“Then I watched Forrest the Terrier try to sniff you, and what did you do?”


“Then I saw Jamie the whatever-it-is wag his tail hard because he wanted to play with you, and what did you do?”


“What kind of behavior is that?”


“Is Grrrr! equivalent to being silent?”


“You know, Aussie, a wonderful reader of this blog emailed me to say that ‘silence can be heard in sharing songs, cooking, walking and interacting in life, silence is just this spacious “thing” which exists inside and outside of us’. Do you think the same can be said about Grrrr!?”


“Aussie, you don’t have to play with other dogs if you don’t want to, but hear this: Working with koans is like working with life. Life gives you different challenges and situations and asks you to respond. If you always respond the same way, that’s not a good answer to a koan and it’s not a good answer to life, see?”


“For instance, in this country we rely on money so much. If one of our children has a problem, we throw money at it: more stuff, a therapist, a more expensive school, a great trip. As if money is an answer to everything.”


“It’s important for a Zen canine to cultivate not-knowing, Aussie, which means that you loosen up a bit, try to see things differently, be more open to new ways of relating. For example, this yellow pool—”

“Water bowl!”

“—is clearly something you haven’t experienced before. When Henry first saw it in the back yard he barked at it for a few minutes.”

“What a dummy, barking at a water bowl!”

“Whenever Henry sees something unfamiliar, he barks. But you go back to past experiences, and since you’re not used to pools you think it’s a big water bowl. But if you can let go of your usual ideas about water bowls, Aussie, you might see the potential of stepping inside and lying down inside rather than drinking the water, see? That’s what a true Zen canine would do.”


“And if you keep on responding all the time with Grrrr!, first to Derek, then Forrest, then Jamie, now me, you’re not giving a live answer, right? You’re just saying the same thing all the time. That’s not good koan practice and it’s not a good way to live, Auss.”

“I don’t say the same thing all the time.”

“You do.”

“I don’t. Grrrr! Water bowl! Grrrr! Water bowl! Grrrr! Water bowl! Grrrr! Water bowl!”


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