“A leader is a decision-maker”, rolls off the Colorado cowboy’s tongue as he began our puppy training class.
During two hours of lectures and exercises I was continually struck by the parallel between his philosophy of building a relationship with animals through love, trust and respect and my view of the human’s journey to cultivate these same elements through building a nonjudgmental relationship with the mind.
The invitation remains the same; to experience true freedom and inner peace through cultivating a relationship with a ‘willful being’ whether it’s labeled a dog or the human mind.
Welcome Everything-Avoid Nothing
This dog training’s philosophy is, ‘create every problem you can in order to teach your dog proper response’. In other words, don’t avoid or control the environment but rather use everything as an opportunity to teach, expand the dog’s capacity to build confidence and to respond to the unexpected.
It seems to me that if we can cultivate this same philosophy and commitment to meet our daily circumstances directly as they arise, while we learn how to increase our capacity to respond, we may organically dissolve any need to avoid or control our lives.
The waves of change, transition, death, emotions, loss and fears will come and go.
As we expand our awareness of the thought patterns and beliefs that create automatic guarding and reactions we simultaneously increase our confidence to ride the waves of life.
What do we believe in the moments that we suffer? What are we feeling on a sensation level in our body? In essence what is the whole system reporting to us?
Reclaiming Our Innocence
Innocently, as a survival strategy, many of us have been trained to avoid feeling particular experiences. In this denial we silently dread these ‘dark’ knocks on our door. Does it help to deny the likelihood that these feelings or reactions will come and go?
What would it be like to apply this dog training view to no longer exert the energy of control to avoid what life offers?
Welcome new circumstances and change with the intent of learning how to respond with an open-heart and non-judgmental mind.
This type of ‘meeting’ doesn’t come through philosophy or intellectual discussion but rather stopping all distractions to have direct contact with the body sensations, thoughts, beliefs and stories that arise from a trigger.
We live in a fast paced world and stopping to investigate may not always be available to us in that moment. That’s okay, we can still hold the discipline and dedication to create space, even five minutes, at another time to revisit and be with the experience fully.
To a part of us this is very risky to engage in a full body experience of meeting ‘the terror we fear will send us to an institution’ or ‘the grief we fear will irreversibly shred out heart into the land of no return’.
It’s Our Choice
Do we want to align with these stories, which are merely concepts in the mind, or go directly to reality? Does our heart really shred into a million shards of glass when we say goodbye to someone we love?
It’s our choice.
We can live in the truth of our immediate experience or in the illusion of the mind’s idea of what it will be like or perhaps once was in the past.
The Whispers of Distraction
It takes dedication to be loyal to this kind of practice when we are surrounded by a culture that often says in a low whisper, ‘distract’; have a drink, go on a retreat, put more hours in at work.
The whisper of distraction is a unique voice and strategy for each of us. The practice of being present to our immediate experience without judgment reveals the strategies of this voice. With this clear seeing and acceptance we can choose something else or simply choose it with consciousness.
This is how we build confidence to meet whatever arises, like the puppy learning through direct experience. It’s a continual choice to return to being intimate with and to receive all aspects of our lives. Even the ones that feel so challenging or painful like transitions, illness or loss.
As we learn to respond to that which arises in our daily life without our manipulation or guarding against we receive the gift of unshakable confidence that we can meet anything that arises even when it hurts.
Through this practice I have learned that the very idea of what I think will hurt the most never appears as I imagined and while there are experiences of grief, anger and other emotional reactions, when it’s fully received there is the following of a vibrant rainbow dancing inside as I cultivate the gifts of such a journey.