My first event took place on March 21st at Matthews/Winters Park. I was at the end of my 4-hour shift and met a man getting ready for a jog at the trailhead and his dog was roaming around the area loose. I identified myself and asked if he had a leash for the dog noting it was Jefferson County law that all dogs must be leashed and under their owners control at all times in the park. There are also hazards in the parks from wild animals to other dogs to plant spores that would burrow into the skin if his dog brushes by them. He said he had one in his car. I was going to my car to put away my hiking equipment and leave and could not help but notice that the man had looked in his trunk with no leash in sight and was now standing beside his car eating a snack. He kept on looking my way as well. His dog was currently in the car. My assumption was that he was waiting for me to drive off so he could let the dog out to run loose. My job there was done. I could call a ranger if I wanted to aggravate the situation, but there was a forest fire going on in Golden so this would not be a high priority unless perhaps the dog was attacking people. So here was my challenge, loiter around to deliberately throw him off his schedule and me off of mine or leave and deal with my feelings later. I left the park. Practicing Ahimsa for the dog was easy. Pets count on their owners to keep them safe. I’ve had pets for most of my life. As for the owner, it was more difficult. Hearing about wild animal attacks on pets in their own backyard, or the annual winter news stories of loose dogs falling through thin ice at a lake or reservoir, it is easy for me to question a person’s love and loyalty to their pet while witnessing or hearing about this reckless behavior over and over again. Unless they live in a cave, they have no excuse not to know the risks involved.

The second event took place on March 29, 2011 at Mt. Falcon Park before I even got out of my car. I was driving into the parking lot when a loose dog darted in front of my car. I barely missed hitting it. I was seething. I managed a composed voice when I asked the people lingering in the parking lot whose dog it was. It turned out that none of them owned the dog. It apparently was a neighborhood dog that someone let run or it got out of a yard nearby. By the time I got a leash to try to corral the dog, it was gone. This provided a unique challenge since I had no actual person to attach my feelings to. Like my first example, this was similar to the emotions I feel when hearing about a pet injured or killed in an attack or the falling through thin ice scenario. So I sent Ahimsa toward the dog to make it home safe and practiced some yogic breath exercises to settle my mind. I also practiced Ahimsa toward myself not to let this event influence my mind for the next four hours of my volunteer shift. Ahimsa to the faceless owner was difficult again. Later in the shift, I encountered a gentleman with his grandchildren and a poodle sized dog off its leash. I identified myself and informed him of the county law. I also started to talk about the coyotes frequenting this park and he basically finished my speech for me saying he didn’t want his dog being someone’s lunch. I left the encounter in good spirits that I helped the visitor with information to make the right decision and saw them later on the trail with the dog still on its leash. So I think the Ahimsa toward myself helped me keep a level head and treat the second contact as a separate event and not pile on to the previous unpleasantness when I first came to the park. The Ahimsa practice is still a work in progress for me.

With the Svadhyaya component, I had quite an enlightening experience. Both recent and long-ranging personal history has led me to the core of my emotions regarding the dog-off-leash contacts I’ve made as a park patroller. In the spring of 2010, my mother-in-law was walking her Cairn terrier around the block. She doesn’t venture out very far because of Macular Degeneration in her eyes leaving her legally blind. Unfortunately, on this day, a neighbor’s dog got out of its yard and attacked my mother-in-law’s dog. In the commotion, she fell breaking her nose along with other scratches and scrapes. The neighbors responsible were gracious enough to pay the medical expenses and come to visit. But the memory of her injuries has made me more sensitive to the situation when I see people deliberately let their dogs run loose.

Some deep historical reflections led to the realization that my behavior explorations originated in childhood. I was ‘the good son’ in my family. I did what I was told and was relied upon to complete my chores to keep the house functioning. My younger brother got away with things including not doing his chores. The sibling rivalry was typical and it did have a lasting impression on me when I would see someone bending or breaking the rules. It was a point of self-righteousness for me that stroked my ego. I thought it made me a better person than the people who would cut corners or dodge the rules. The Svadhyaya experiment was valuable in helping me peel away the “ego structure” tied to these “unconscious configurations” that Richard Freeman talks about in The Mirror of Yoga. This observational skill is an integral part of the yoga practice.

Each Axis Yoga Teacher Training student writes a paper describing their personal experience with the yogic principles of Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances). This student reflected on how the Yama, Brahmacharya (continence) and the Niyama, Santosa (contentment) are already present and working in his current lifestyle.

The religious study component presents some very interesting areas for self-reflection.  I consider myself to be an Agnostic (one who holds the view that any ultimate reality-as God-is unknown and probably unknowable).  I would probably be best served to have some real in-depth discussions concerning the agnostic and atheist (one who denies the existence of God) definitions.  At any rate I have some very strong beliefs regarding the concept of God. Organized religion is a concept that I don’t believe in and do not support. I have no faith based system (belief and trust in and loyalty to God; belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion; firm belief in something for which there is no proof).  I consider myself to have a belief system (a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing; conviction of the truth or some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon, when based upon examination or evidence).  Additionally, I consider myself to have a spiritual outlook (Spirit: akin to blow, breathe; an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms; supernatural being or essence).  With this said, areas for further discussion and evaluation are: religion, faith, belief & spirit.  With respect to God, I look at the Sun as fulfilling this ‘category’.  Without the Sun (God) there is nothing else on our planet, Earth.  The Sun (God) makes everything possible—without the Sun (God) there is no Prana (lifeforce/breath).  This relationship (faith, religion & spirit) and associated challenge(s) was recently discussed in the Denver Post-April 4, 2011, Fitness Section, shedding additional light on a very personal and emotionally charged topic.  Question: Who/what keeps the Earth, Solar System, Universe functioning?  With this said, we move to another area of the religious, faith, belief & spirit discussion—Evolution, Creation and Intelligent Design.  I am a firm believer of evolution.  Not to be over-looked and a topic for another paper is the big-bang theory—how was the universe and our solar system created?  What additional forms of life exist “out there?”

The self restraint component of Brahmacharya continues to be a very interesting personal study:  Primarily my diet and lifestyle (if I remember correctly, it has been said, ‘we are what we digest’).  By choice, I have a very simple lifestyle and a clean diet.  By simple definition I am a vegetarian (have been strict for the past four years & hypocritical-ate fish-since 2001–then a number of years ‘on and off’ since 1976).  Other areas of self restraint/abstaining from as it relates to lifestyle, includes but not limited to:  alcohol of any kind (Jan. 2000), gluten (Jan. 2009), sugar/high fructose corn syrup, soda, fast food, tobacco and most forms of strict western medicine.  These are several of the very important components of my lifestyle/diet that I am of aware of on a daily basis.  By my own admission I am very strict, rigid and focused with regards to my diet and ingestion of nutrition.  I leave room for moderation and self-evaluation based upon each individual situation.   Equally relevant, in my opinion, is the concept of moderation (vs. abstaining from)—I am continually striving for more moderation (balance) as it relates to my pursuit of a ‘quality’ life.