The other day, I was watching my dog roll around on her back, enjoying the warm sunshine on her belly. Even though she is in the final stage of life, with arthritis, partial blindness and deafness, she still seems to be enjoying life. She lies on the grass completely in the moment and living life to the fullest.
I thought, “I have a lot to learn from my dog.” I recall other times when my dog taught me lessons in enlightenment. For example, whenever she would get into a barking fight with another dog, her fur would stand up, making her look fiercer.
She would growl and show her teeth like a dominant, alpha wolf. No blood was ever shed of course; it was all just defensive posturing. My dog has never bitten anything other than dog food.
What really caught my interest was the quick way in which she shook it off—literally! As soon as the growling match was over and the two dogs went their separate ways, she shook her fur from nose to tail, as though she were releasing all the residual tension from the confrontation in one good body shake. And then, she was fine again, wagging her tail and trotting along merrily as if the whole incident was behind her—which it was.
That was the lesson—leave the anger behind. Live in the present moment. When the danger has passed, let it go. As soon as the threat is no longer present, leave the past in the past. It’s a message that most of us have heard before many times, yet do we really practice it?
The other day, I was treated in (what I thought was) a less-than-respectful manner by a customer service clerk. I do not know if she meant her comments to be disrespectful, but I felt offended and ruminated about it for the rest of the day. I thought, “Who does she think she is? Isn’t it her job to be courteous? Why, I have a good mind to go back there and speak to her supervisor!”
But is that what my dog would have done? No! She would have shaken it off just as soon as she left the store. The whole thing would have been forgotten within seconds, not days. Now, that’s the enlightenment of being fully in the present moment. I have to learn how to do that.
I have also noticed my dog is quick to forgive and does not harbor feelings of resentment. When I’ve scolded her, she may have looked sheepish, with her tail between her legs and her ears drooping. However, as soon as I changed my tone of voice to a more affectionate, baby-talk style, she would immediately come running up to me tail, wagging and prancing her paws on the ground in what looked like a doggie dance.
It’s that type of quick forgiveness that I need to learn. How many times have I allowed myself to be embarrassed and offended because someone else corrected me? Or how about the countless times I have felt resentful because my boss, family members, or romantic partner point out some flaw in my behavior? How much better it would have been for everyone if I could have forgiven as speedily as my enlightened pooch.
Now, I understand that there are brain differences between a dog and a human. A dog does not have a prefrontal cortex; we do. As a result, only humans are able to engage in moral reasoning, strategizing, and formulating long-term plans for the future. Those are some of the benefits of having frontal lobes.
The drawback is that we are also the only animals who worry about the future, hold a grudge, and plot revenge to even the score. Even with these brain differences, there is much we can learn from our pets.
Today’s Loving Suggestion: When you find yourself getting frustrated, angry, or otherwise upset, picture a lovable dog. Recall how a friendly pooch can shake off negative experiences and go about life without ruminating about the confrontation that just ended.
Allow yourself to forgive and forget. Let bygones be bygones. Once you have let go of past hurts, you are free to greet the people you love with the warm reception that a dog gives you when you come home.
And, if you can, take a moment to roll around on your back on the lawn and let the sunshine warm your belly. Who cares what the neighbors think?
If you have followed any of the suggestions in the Sir Rennity feature, I would love to hear your stories. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will keep your letters private unless you request that they be published.
The Sir Rennity feature is intended to provide gentle guidance for your life. These articles hold no intrinsic meaning. You give meaning to them based on the value you place on them, so the words here are meaningless unless you put them into practice.