I’ve been in this place before: 20 lbs lighter and getting winded after getting dressed. I cannot do much more than lay down. A few months prior, I was walking 3 miles a day from work to the NJ-bound PATH train station at 34th street. I was also working two jobs and chasing a handful of dreams that have survived the ravages of growing older.
What no one tells you when you suffer through bouts of intense pain, is how sharp your consciousness becomes. The pain eradicates all the background noise in your head. Only the strongest needs remain. In moments of respite it’s clear whether in your daily life you operate from a place of openness and transparency. This happens for me about four days under the duress of pain.
Are we at the place where we can admit that the only thing stopping us from experiencing life at the deepest level is ourselves. In my case, it takes a shock to turn my attention away from being a drone to notice how I impede myself. The greater the shock the more I have ventured off the path. We all seem to love the Rumi quote:
‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all
the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’
But have we ever counted how many walls we have erected? How often do we find ourselves unable to capitalize on new opportunities trapped in a self-made prison years ? How many times great things happen in our lives that we shy away from because we feel we do not deserve them?
In those moments of pain I have a laser focus. I know exactly where I am bullshitting myself. Today I look at all my things and they seem. I am no longer the same person I was before I entered this event in m life. The pain was the crucible and it burned away a lot of was not real about my self and outlook.
After each major event in my life, I make a promise to rededicate myself to something I have neglected. While I was sick, my dogs kept a vigil by my side. I realized then that I haven’t been as present with them as I could be. So my promise is to be present and interact with them more.
That’s difficult. To be with a dog requires that one is aware of the energy one is giving off and how that is affecting the people around us. Animals do not have the rational faculties that we do. They react to things in the moment. Most of us are so in our heads; we’re never in the moment. Because of our heedlessness we do not capitalize on the opportunities that cross our path. What no one tells you when you have a dog is that their obedience has to be earned. How you earn that obedience is by being present with in moments where you can provide them direction and guidance. Again, that is difficult for the majority of us.
Being present has a particular significance in Zen Buddhism in much the same way the image of a dog has for mysticism. In the Sufi mystical system the dog is symbol of the Commanding Self. The commanding self is that part of our ego comprised of primitive and conditioned responses. It inspires us to be greedy,to be arrogant, hard-hearted, envious and stubborn.
To bring it home, Diogenes of Sinope founder of the Cynic school of Philosophy
“believed human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog. Besides performing natural body functions in public with ease, a dog will eat anything, and make no fuss about where to sleep. Dogs live in the present without anxiety, and have no use for the pretensions of abstract philosophy. In addition to these virtues, dogs are thought to know instinctively who is friend and who is foe. Unlike human beings who either dupe others or are duped, dogs will give an honest bark at the truth.”
Even the word cynic, if you look at it’s Greek roots means dog-like. So I am in good company. Thinking about it further being more present with a dog, is synonymous to being more present with oneself. Watching over my dog means is to watch over myself. That means to not deny the existence of my self-destructive behavior patterns, and see how they affect the world around me.
So this is how I hit the reset button, how do you ?