Every morning I walk my giant Bernese Mountain dog, Sunny. I arm myself with treats because she is not the greatest walker. I also have my phone, headphones and most importantly some would say — bags to collect her poop. Off we go and immediately Sunny decides to poop at the very edge of the grass almost in the street. She finishes her business kicking dirt and jumping away while I bend down to scoop up her poop. I would rather have her poop at the end of our walk, but I carry it with me as we continue on.
Lately I have noticed small green bags of poop littering our path. First there was one or two left on top of a snow mound, but then more and more. The snow melted and they were everywhere! I noticed myself getting angry and appalled. I started creating stories in my head about the person who would do such a thing. Maybe it was a fancy lady down the street who would never walk with a bag of poop or a runner who did not want to carry poop on his run. This went on for 3 days. Each time my eyes would spot those bags my mind would drift away from the walk, away from the podcast and away from the present moment to my angry thoughts about the poop people.
Then it occurred to me — Aha! My feelings were not about the poop people at all. They were about ME. How did I know? First, I caught myself thinking about my thoughts. This is a gift of a solid meditation practice. I know how to become the observer of my own mind. The thoughts I was having about these green bags and their people were extreme. Here’s another way to think about it. Consider what happens to you when your child doesn’t listen. Do you find yourself getting really, really, really angry? You start to worry that your toddler will never make it in life. This is a lightbulb moment and a chance to pause for a minute. You can ask yourself a question like I asked myself, “Why am I having such a big reaction to something so small?” The other way I realized this was about my own crap and not from Sparkle the Poodle was that I felt the tension in my stomach.
My negative thoughts were causing so much stress that it was creating a physical symptom. I started out on my walk feeling totally fine, so I could easily attribute the stomach pain to the green bags. Go back to your toddler who won’t put on a coat. You are angry and worried. Do you feel it in your body? Are you so angry that you feel like your head might explode? Or so worried you start having heart palpitations? These are clues that whatever you are having a reaction to stems from somewhere inside.
When I caught myself, I looked within and began to consider why I was so triggered. The first thing that jumped out at me was that I wished I had the freedom to leave Sunny’s poop on the ground. I am a rule follower and while some might say this is a good thing there are negative consequences. I would rather have a crappier walk than break a rule. I also care about what people think of me. What would people say if they saw me leaving the bags on the ground? And what if someone stepped in it? I’d feel terrible.
Here’s the thing — once I realized this I created the space inside to decide what I wanted to do about the bags. I was freed up enough to take action. I could choose to leave the bags or pick them up. The true gift in this revelation is that I was at peace either way. Oh and my stomachache miraculously disappeared. Now if I spot a small green bag of poop on the grass, I look within and own my sht!