Lessons from a Tiny Hippo

Hi,  I’m Elanor. Nice to meet you.


Do you ever feel like your brain doesn’t work? I can’t quite decide if it’s an energetic manifestation of the fall season and the cloudy thinking that can sometimes go along with it, OR the fact that we got a puppy and now I struggle to get anything done or access the deeper regions of my brain. 
It’s a toss-up. But clearly the forces are not with me at the moment.
Case in point, I’ve been trying to write the same newsletter for over two weeks now.
Back in October the hubs and I went out of town for a cabin getaway over our anniversary, and for what unintentionally turned out to be our “puppymoon” – you know, the last cool trip you take before the puppy. Traditionally I understand this would be a “babymoon” but we’re one of those “my kids have four legs” couples over here.
Four days after returning home, we picked up the pup, adding number two to our pack of beefy four-leggeds.
And I can say that…it’s definitely a work in progress.
It reaffirms some of the reasons that I don’t want a pack of two-leggeds anytime soon (baby phase is waaaay longer than puppy phase and just not something I’m looking to do right now – or maybe ever – but please, send me your teenagers with any and all emotional and existential crises because now THAT is interesting. It takes a village, right? You do the dipes and I’ll do the existential crises and we all work together here, I’m serious.)
But whenever I find myself struggling in or against something, I am reminded that there’s probably a lesson to be learned somewhere in there. And, it’s probably applicable to a lot of stuff beyond just the current circumstances. And, if we share our struggles and lessons with one another, maybe we can all learn something.

So, without further ado and with a mildly cloudy brain, I present to you:

Lessons from a Tiny Hippo*
because underneath the surface of our struggles, sometimes there is magic.

1. We Must Take Out Our Trash (Externally and Internally):

If there’s one season that masters the work of letting go of what’s no longer useful, it’s fall. Look at the trees; they always know what to do and we can take some wise cues from them! The trees are busy letting go of what no longer serves them. Without this phase of letting go, they can’t move forward into a fresh new chapter of spring later on. But before we can welcome in the new, we must first let go of the old. As in, don’t hold on to your dead leaves and don’t hoard your trash.

Think about trash night at your house – you have to consciously spend a little time locating and gathering up every trashcan in your home, even that weird tiny one hiding in the corner of your office, and don’t forget the one outside with all the dog poo (so much poo) – we consciously collect all the trash in our house and then we take it out, wash our hands clean, and move forward. But we have to do this internally, too.

I was starting to get so mad about the puppy situation at first and how it was really messing up my ability to work peacefully at home and how I’d become some hybrid of puppy servant and mixed martial arts referee, spending more time yelling, separating, and going outside to potty (the dogs, not me) than doing any of the things I used to do like reading, writing, enjoying an excessive amount of quiet, and going to the bathroom without also telling someone to STOP BITING THE RUG.

So one evening I shared all my woes with the hubs and my frustration that he still got to flit off to his job outside the home #fundad while I was stuck here with all the work and the inability to do my other job, you know the one where I own a business. I laid out all the garbage that was collecting inside of me, he listened nicely, we talked about solutions, and the next day…I felt better. Sometimes we need to say out loud ALL THE STUFF THAT’S BOTHERING US to a listening ear (or a trusty journal) as a way to take out our trash. Once it’s out there in the open, it has less of a hold on us and we can let it go – and begin to enact whatever necessary changes we’ve identified. Inside it just sits there trapped and eating away at us. You know, just collecting flies.

Usually within any struggle we face there is an important lesson to be learned that is vital to our personal growth and spiritual evolution. But I find that the ability to find that silver lining or see that lesson more easily comes AFTER you get out all the garbage.


2. Surrender to What is:

There’s a quote I’ve shared before by Sonia Ricotti that says “Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be.” This has been a big year for surrender, hasn’t it? Things not exactly going the way we want them to go, not having the amount of control over our lives that we’re used to having. Whether it’s a pandemic, something political…or, ok a puppy…it feels like this year there’s constantly something blowing up our sense of control and normalcy. And we can either fight it, thereby making the pain that much worse by inflicting suffering upon ourselves, or we can surrender to what is.

Right away in puppy life I realized I could either suffer constantly or just surrender to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to follow any kind of normal schedule or get any kind of meaningful work done for awhile. Does it mean I did it perfectly and didn’t inflict any suffering upon myself ever? Nope (hence this newsletter of lessons learned, you’re welcome). But it did mean that I could keep reminding myself to surrender what I wanted to be happening to what was actually happening. There’s a Gabrielle Bernstein affirmation card that says, “when I think I’ve surrendered, I surrender more.” Yeah, that!

Now keep in mind that surrendering doesn’t mean giving up and calling it quits, it means becoming present to whatever is happening in that moment. Not fretting over how things used to be, not worrying about how things will change going forward (or at least, not for very long – just long enough to take our your trash, see the previous point!) but instead, becoming fully present to what is. It’s only in this way, zooming way into the present moment that we have any chance whatsoever of contacting the magic present in each moment. The magic that brings us into direct contact with the beauty of that moment.

Remember that tactic of zooming into the present moment when everything around you seems overwhelming? The beauty of the moment just might contain some pretty good stuff like puppy snuggles and kisses (or whatever happens to be in your present moment) that makes all that overwhelming stuff around you and all that work you’re not getting done fade off into the distance. “Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be.”


3. Appreciate the Ebb and Flow (but especially the ebb):

When it comes to seasons, moon phases, and the ocean tides, we can appreciate that things move in cycles, and in those cycles are phases of high and low, light and dark, growth and death. The same is true of our lives, but somewhere along the way we…forgot. Instead of moving through these phases, we instead tend to run our lives like one long never-ending sprint.

What happened to honoring the low, the dark, the death or rest – the ebb? But guess who still honors this? Puppies. Or, at least, we make them honor it because without enforced naptime they start to get really bite-y.

Our culture is all about that productivity and getting things done, checking things off our to-do lists in order to prove we’re here, alive, worthy. Even for someone like me, who teaches all about the joys and benefits of slowing down and doing less, taking time for the pause – even for me, our culture’s grip of productivity can clench me. Not being able to get things done, I felt crazy.

But I had to realize that the puppy’s schedule was in fact a good reminder of the importance of honoring the ebb and flow. Even though I work from home and usually enjoy an environment of quiet and peace, I’m not always good at taking breaks. I love to get absorbed in the flow of what I’m doing, and puppy makes it hard to get that need met – but what puppy was reminding me of was to also honor the ebb.

What good is the flow without the ebb? So what if I have to stop and play with a puppy? Oh, what a rough life, right?! We’re not supposed to spend so much time sitting at our desks staring at our screens anyways, so I guess I can thank puppy for getting me up and making me go outside, take some deep breaths, and spend some time playing with sticks.

And as we learn to truly appreciate and honor the ebb in our lives, we learn that it makes the flow that much sweeter – and we realize that it frees us up from the obligation of being constantly productive. Ahh sweet, sweet freedom from the grip of productivity. There’s a great quote from one of my oracle cards that reminds us: “Your life is not a race or a competition. It is a personal soul journey for you to take at your own pace and in your own way. So please, be gentle with yourself.” Appreciate that ebb.

4. The Power of Quiet Time (guard it with your life):

I joked for the first two weeks of puppy life that my favorite part of the day was naptime. It was the time when I could actually get things done. I was getting so annoyed that I couldn’t “get anything done.” Until finally, one day during blessed naptime, I felt exhausted or annoyed enough to find my way to my yoga mat, light some incense and move through a deeply quiet and restorative yin yoga practice for an hour. It was an excellent use of naptime, even though nothing had been “done.”

And then there was one early morning after getting up super early to teach a virtual class, realizing that everyone was still asleep and would be for some time, that I sat down in a chair in my yoga room, in the sun, and read. I hadn’t done that during the day in weeks. It was amazing.

And then there was the afternoon when the pups were sleeping and the hubs was out getting a haircut, that I meandered into my yoga room, lit a candle and some incense, sipped a cup of tea, and pulled some oracle cards. It was all very nourishing to the soul.

Forty-five minutes later when the hubs returned he popped in to say he was going to mulch the lawn, and I suggested he save that for the next day in order to maintain the integrity of quiet time and two napping pups and don’t screw this up for me. He then suggested three more decidedly non-quiet-time activities: lifting weights which involves slamming metal in the basement, using power tools to install a puppy gate, and unloading the dishwasher.

I looked at him bemusedly and said, “I don’t think you understand quiet time.”  He laughed, looked confused for a few moments and then said he was going to go hang out with our older pup who was napping on the futon. I went back to my oracle cards and my tea and my incense and thought about this idea of “quiet time” and how sacred these times had become because of puppy.

Could this tiny hippo, this miniature beast that cannot sit still, who produces louder noises than makes sense from such a tiny body actually be teaching us about the value of quiet time? It’s so easy to forget. It’s so easy to get sucked back into the trap of productivity again and again. Productivity is what proves our worth, getting things done is how we know we’re alive, sitting still is simply a reward for a hard day’s work. Right?
Or maybe we’re very, very wrong. What if this idea of our world is completely backwards? What if we’ve become so imbalanced that we don’t even remember what it feels like to experience a sense of calm, of quiet, of balance and peace?

When our ability to “get things done” is stripped from us, what are we left with? Who are we when we can’t ‘do?’ When we can’t produce, achieve, accomplish? When our external barometer of productivity that assures us that we’re still here/alive/worthy isn’t functioning, how do we know that we’re still ok? 2020 is a year that seems to be provoking these questions in all of us.

The thing is, there’s a deep sense of ok-ness, enough-ness, aliveness that lives inside each and every one of us. But it lies beneath many layers of wounds/thoughts/limiting beliefs that tell us to prove our worth by doing. It’s a dangerous and unsustainable game we play, forever trapping ourselves on a wheel that won’t allow us to stop running. We can hang our sense of worth on these tenuous external markers, or we can learn to connect with that internal and unending sense of ok-ness, worth and love that lives inside us.
And we tap into this place through the art of “quiet time.” We stop moving, we stop accomplishing, we sit, and breathe, and keep breathing until our focus shifts from external to internal, until our minds and hearts rewire to the frequency not of the external madness of whatever chaos is happening around us, but to the quiet and unending ok-ness of our soul. Now THAT’S quiet time.


5. Play is Healing (also Be Careful What You Ask For):

Now this one makes me laugh because it’s something I didn’t actually realize until I was in the middle of writing this newsletter and some notes on my desk caught my eye. It’s funny how things work out. As I was cleaning up my yoga room recently and reading some old notes I had lying around, I found one from August that listed what I wanted to release or ‘shake up’ and one of the two points I had written was: “loosening self-control so I can welcome in fun, play, pleasure and spontaneity.”

I forgot that there was a period of time over this summer that I was actively working on manifesting this! As they say, be careful what you wish for, you just might find yourself with a puppy who certainly encourages you to welcome in fun, play, pleasure and spontaneity! But there was another note in that little pile of notes where I wrote down one sentence from a tarot card I had pulled around that same time, which simply said: “laughter and play bring healing.” Well, it won’t be the first time that a puppy showed up in my life in order to bring some kind of healing.

Whenever we set intentions there’s a saying we always end with from Yasmin Boland’s book Moonology: this or something better now manifests for me, under grace in perfect ways. The idea is that we do the work of setting our clear intentions and then we leave the “how” up to the Universe. As comedian Tracy McMillan says, “when you ask for patience, what you get is a line at the bank.” Or when you ask for laughter, play and spontaneity, what you get is one silly puppy.

Look around at some of the struggles in your life right now; is it possible that in some weird way they are actually the answers to something you asked for in your life? Could it be possible that the struggles of the collective are in some way necessary to illuminate what we need to learn in order to move us forward into a better future? 

So here’s to looking beneath the surface of the struggle, finding those deeper lessons that move us forward in our personal growth and spiritual evolution, and giving thanks for that sometimes-hard-to-see magic and mystery of this world.

Sometimes we’ve just gotta stop and give thanks for the weird way this world works – and maybe thank a tiny hippo for coming into our lives to remind us of some pretty important life lessons. ✨

Thanks for listening.
Love, Elanor


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