I hadn't hung up Buddha's Christmas stocking this year. The photo on my banner was from some other Christmas - a Christmastime past when our 4-legged friend was here to enjoy the rawhide chew that he found snuggled into his dog-paw stocking. The truth is, this year, when I pulled out the box of Christmas decorations and saw Buddha's stocking, I just felt a wave of "missing him": and I put the stocking back in the box. No need for that any more. I couldn't throw it away yet, but I found no reason to hang it up.
Yesterday, as I looked at the photo of the red dog-paw-shaped stocking with the gold "Buddha" on it, I realized that I had options as to how I saw it. So I went to the box, took out the stocking, and hung it on our kinda somewhat of a mantle, which is really one of two horizontal stones embedded in the brick wall of our fireplace.
I don't claim to be Buddhist, but 15 years ago, I did name that sweet 9 month-old pup "Buddha" because of the qualities associated with The Buddha. Those qualities are ever present, with or without my big, black dog.
The stocking that used to belong to the best-dog-in-the-world now belongs to the qualities of compassion, loving-kindness, huge-heartedness, peace, light and the laying down of suffering. Well, I guess it always did belong to those qualities, but I can be a slow seer...
And the stocking is slowly getting stuffed with little pieces of paper on which I am writing my gifts and wishes to the Buddha Qualities, because I have a deep longing to realize those qualities within myself and everyone else.
It feels much better to open my heart to the Buddha than it does to close it in grief, hiding the reminder of the dog and essence I love so much.
This may sound blasphemous to some during this time of celebrating the birth of a different great teacher who also came to bring light and love. My apologies if that's so. In this strange and divisive time in our world, I enjoy whatever path - religious or not - that brings more love into this world that calls out so loudly for it.