I found the text below in a folder in my computer. Although I wrote it several years ago, it still rings true. Bailey Rose continues to be one of my best teachers. Here are some of the lessons she teaches me every day.
- Always be alert and present. For if you’re asleep in your actions, you’ll miss that sweet treat at your feet.
Bailey is always totally present. Despite the fact that we walk the same way most mornings, she fully attacks each morning’s walk as if it were the first time she ever stepped foot on the pavement. Just as every day on our yoga mat is a different experience given how our bodies feel, what we ate for dinner the night before and where our minds and hearts are at, every day I step out of my house with Bailey for a walk the sights and smells are different. I’ve learned to address each day’s practice with the same energy and presence as Bailey Rose on her morning walks. Some days, Bailey’s commitment to presence (along with good luck) finds her upon some nugget of candy or some such thing on the ground. Despite my best efforts, she usually scoops it up before I can reach down and take it from her. This, the sweet treat of presence.
- True love and companionship is given unconditionally, without regard for what is means for the self.
I read somewhere that a dog will get just as excited if you leave and return in 15 minutes as if you have been gone for 5 hours. The level of excitement and joy upon your arrival home is always just as full of life regardless of how long your errands have kept you from your house and despite the fact that dogs actually prefer to be with people than being left alone. Again, perhaps this is a sign of the dog’s level of intelligence, but the sheer, unabashed, unconditional regard that is consistently shown me by my pet is a role model for me as oftentimes, I think of how someone I care for has not met my needs and how I hold back in future interactions. True love is unconditional and given without a sense of what one might receive in return.
- Patience is a virtue. Especially when you need to go to the bathroom.
One of the hardest things I have had to learn is patience. Maybe it was something I inherited but whether waiting on line at the supermarket, or meeting short and long term goals I have a limited amount of patience. Yoga teaches me how to breathe and slow down my racing mind and that rushing into a pose to “reap the benefits” is surely the way to injury. Bailey is the most patient of animals but at no time do I see this more than in the morning. In my own somewhat selfish desire to be completely ready, I rarely take her outside for her morning walk before I am ready. This means that more often than not, she wakes up, eats and has to then wait half an hour or so before going for a walk. You try this one morning. Get up, and don’t go to the bathroom for a half an hour. Hard, isn’t it? But yet she simply sits and patiently waits for me and when I prepare her leash, she never sulks, never drags her paws. She eagerly awaits the walk of the morning.
- Greet everyone with the same warmth and love, regardless of what they look like, who they’re with and their breeding.
One of Bailey’s favorite things is to run into another dog. She always greets them with the same fun loving energy, whether big or small, short or tall, fat or skinny. That’s one of the great things about labs; they have a wonderful friendly nature. After greeting the dog, Bailey always greets the owner with a rousing paw thumping, as she jumps up to greet them. Dogs are blind to all the characteristics that we humans see; they lack the ability to be judgmental and approach everyone with enthusiasm and warmth. We could all use a little “dog non-judgment” as we encounter people throughout our day. It is sometimes with the most unsuspecting person that we can have the most gratifying interaction if we open ourselves up to the possibility.
- Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to run around like crazy, kick up your heels and forget about how silly you look.
Ever watch a group of dogs as they play in a park? It’s not unlike a group of small children playing. They run around furiously, tails wagging, totally immersed in the power of the moment and totally oblivious to how they might look. That carefree spirit and ability to totally “let go” is one of the most liberating feelings and one that I often catch a glimpse of when I’m on my yoga mat. “Letting go” is an overused term, both in yoga and in life and yet despite its frequent reference, seems to be the hardest to attain. Just spend a few minutes in your local dog park. Watch how they relate to one another but more importantly, watch them as individuals. They don’t care how they look, they just bask in the glow of the moment, with not a care in the world.
- Compassion is one of the greatest gifts you can give another human being.
Just as many of you, I have had my shares of ups and downs in my adult life. Bailey Rose has been with me during those painful private moments of sorrow. Her usual outgoing, friendly, spirited self quiets, and in most cases, she simply lies next to me, her head down but her eyes looking up at me as if to say,” I know you’re hurting. I’m here next to you if that will make you feel better.” It only takes a few minutes next to her that I realize that I am not alone in the world. There are others who care for me and I can start to see that things will be all right. It’s these times that having a dog around helps you realize that the connection we have with other beings is what keeps us going in our lives.
- Be adaptable. For the more inflexible you are, in spirit and in body, the harder life will be on you.
Ever see a handicapped dog? Perhaps he lost his leg to disease, or his tail to injury. Or he’s blind in one eye from age or can’t hear. It doesn’t seem to matter. He will continue on with the same spirit and enthusiasm he had before, using whatever modifications available to him. But he won’t sit home, won’t sit out, will not sit down. If a dog is physically ill, it will slow him down, but that’s usually the only case. That’s why it’s so easy to tell when a dog is ill; it’s usually the only time he’s lethargic. Humans on the other hand hold steadfast to ‘what is.’ Whether it’s a job, a relationship a house or a way of life, we have great difficulty being flexible. “Going with the flow” we say in reference to how we strive to be, often amidst times of significant change. Yoga teaches us that the more flexible our mind is, as well as our body, the more we can bend and sway as life throws us curve balls. This brings to us a steadiness of spirit, regardless of the changing window of our life through which we see the world.
- Attachment to material goods prevents us from learning how to “let go.”
I recently was fortunate to hear the Dalai Lama speak in Boston. At the event, I purchased a bracelet of Tibetan Prayer Beads. I was pretty excited to have them, especially since they were in my hands when I was in the presence of this great spiritual leader. Even though he spoke of non-attachment to material things, I didn’t connect that concept to my immediate attachment to this bracelet. It was a week later when Bailey, left at home alone, jumped up on the dresser, retrieved the prayer beads and consumed them, that I realized how dangerous it is to get attached to anything material. Of course, we all know how the story turned out, and I eventually got the beads back but by that time, I really wasn’t attached to them anymore!
- You have to give love to get love.
Dogs are the best at giving love. As I’ve said before, their love is given freely, without condition. They share of themselves whole-heartedly and as such, are given ample opportunities to receive love. Ever see someone not at least crack a smile when seeing a dog? It’s just hard to resist their energy and spirit. Once we open our hearts and give of ourselves, the opportunities for love are countless. And it’s not just “romantic love” we’re talking about here. It’s the love of fellow mankind, shared when you chat in a friendly manner to the person next to you on the plane, allow someone to go in front of you in the supermarket check-out line, or make a donation to your favorite charity. These small acts of kindness, often overlooked, are ways we can show love to our fellow man.
And so, remember– there can be so many things we can learn from our furry friends. As you walk your dog today, keep an open heart, open ear and an open mind and see if the world doesn’t look a little bit brighter.