“Aussie, guess what level I’ve reached in my word game?”

“What game?”

“The one I do when I get into bed every night, just before I get my book out.”


“2,643. My sister is more like 50,000. And guess what level of brilliance they’ve assigned me, Aussie?”

“Depends. Do they use fractions?”

“104,282. My sister, of course, is in the millions.”

“How much do you pay them?”

“Not a cent, Auss. Of course, they ask for payment to eliminate ads—“

“What’s ads?”

“—or for bees.”

“Bees? Like zzzzzz?”

“Bees give you letters for free, Aussie. But I  never pay one penny, not even for Star Rush.”

“What’s Star Rush?”

“Star Rush is when you finish a game in less than 3 minutes. For each game you finish in less than 3 minutes you get a star, and you keep getting them till you can’t finish a game in less than 3 minutes, and then they ask you if you’d like to pay to keep all the stars.”

“What happens if you don’t pay?”

“You lose your stars, Auss.”

“Let me get something straight. Is this how you relax?”

“Yeah. How do you relax, Aussie?”

“I just lie there.”

“I see you doing that a lot and I always feel sorry for you.”


“Because you’re just lying there, Auss. I wonder if you’re bored, if you want another walk—”

“I always want another walk.”

“I wish I could talk to you about books, Aussie, or about Zen practice. Do you want to meditate together?”

“Hell, no.”

“When you just lie there you look like life is passing you by.”

“It is passing me by, and good riddance. I’m not racing anybody here. Days want to rush by? Let them, I’m staying put. You know why? Because I’m content. I have my walks, I have my food, I have my home, most of all I have my favorite human, Leeann—”

“You don’t have to remind me, Aussie.”

“I’m content. I’m not bored.”

“You don’t look very energetic, Auss.”.

Lying there is how I relax. Lying there is how I’m happy.”

“But you’re so quiet—”

“What am I supposed to do, wag my tail from morning till night? Run up and down the fence barking like a maniac? I’m content, human. Get over it.”

I thought about what being content means. It’s being content with things as they are. Not fussing, not pushing and pulling, not manipulating, reshaping, all the little actions I take and confuse with being alive. Contentment doesn’t need any of that. It has a tender energy of its own, more quiescent, a soft glow like the moon rather than the radiant sun. Nothing to do, nothing to prove. I have what I need.

What a powerful statement that is! How many people in this world can claim that they have what they need? Instead, we clamber up Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs like amateur mountaineers, thinking up more and more needs—job satisfaction, loving relationships, not-to-be-missed events, a sense of relevance and meaning, the list goes on and on. Most of it is to remind ourselves that we’re alive, that we’re important, that our existence is a big deal–if not to the universe, at least to the dog.

“Would you go lie down?”

“You know, Auss, after Bernie turned 70 he started taking things easy. I’d walk into the bedroom and see him lying in bed, glancing at his laptop, occasionally at the TV. I’d say: ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Nothing,’ he’d say. ‘Don’t you want to do something?’ I’d ask him. ‘Like what?’ he’d say. ‘Write another book? Come up with a Fourth Tenet?’ ‘Nah,’ he’d say. ‘I’m happy.’”

“Was he bored? Was he depressed? Was he lazy? No, he was just happy. Just content.”

“Aussie, the German translation of The Book of Householder Koans: Waking Up in the Land of Attachments that I did with Egyoku Nakao has come out (the link is to Amazon but you could get it in independent bookstores as well). Should I ask folks to buy it for the holidays?”

“In German?”

“Or in English. Or in Portuguese. It would make for a nice gift, Auss.”

“Will it fund any treats?”

“A few. But since you’re so content with things as they are, Auss—”


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