Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bliss is in Your Nature

About 6 months ago I got a dog from the shelter. Her name is Grace. I love her insanely.

Now, I had grown up with dogs all my life, but I'd never been a dog "owner." My parents had always assumed the responsibility for feeding and otherwise taking care of the dogs.

I assumed when I got a dog it would be much the same--that I knew how to be a dog owner. No problem, I thought!

But not only had it been over 10 years since I lived in a house with a dog, but I also forgot about dog-nature.

I found myself frustrated that I couldn't tell the dog what I wanted from her, that she didn't understand me. I was so caught up in a verbal-intellectual mode of being that I couldn't see how I would ever understand this dog and she would ever understand me.

And then, lying in bed one night, worrying about this beast we had brought into our home, and how we would ever learn to live with her, I had a realization: that she was simply a dog. Not human. A dog. With a dog nature, and dog instincts. I was the human, and I could not expect her not to be a dog.

I must seem pretty slow to pick up on things, right? Well, as obvious as the fact that she is a dog seems to me now, it took a significant dawning of consciousness to wake up to that observation. And once I did, I realized that I had to flow with her dog nature, harness it, find out how to do what I could to understand how she was motivated so that we could come into harmony.

(I quickly discovered what motivated her: stuffed ducks and lots of snacks.)

Once I did that, and understood her as a dog instead of a non-verbal human, not only was I able to better control her, but when there was a mistake, I found I grew less frustrated. Whenever she made a mistake, I had to ask: Was it my mistake first? Usually, it was, and I found a way to prevent the behavior in the future, and motivate her to do what I wanted instead.

She is far from a perfect dog, partly because my husband and I are far from perfect dog trainers, but we have become much more in tune with her dog nature.

Ok, so you're wondering what this has to do with finding your bliss. Well, I'm labeling this post under "meditations" for a few reasons.

The first reason is that I believe it is very important to acknowledge the shape of your nature. That is hard to do unless you are able to first see it in something/someone else. So, part one:
  • Observe an animal. Bird, dog, cat, squirrel. It doesn't matter. Just focus all your powers of observation on that animal. What seems to interest it, drive it? What does it want to eat, where does it want to go? What does it seem to be afraid of? What can it do that no other animal can do? What does it have in common with all other animals? What role does this animal play in: your backyard? your life? your local ecosystem? the larger world?
Write this down, write whatever comes to you, and if you feel like writing beyond these questions that's fine. Just meditate on this vessel of life as you observe it. Now, part two:
  • Observe yourself as an animal. Ask the same questions of yourself, and try to view yourself as objectively as possible, just as though you were watching yourself and your behavior through a window. Write down the answers, exploring as many aspects of your nature as possible. Meditate on what I like to call the "shape" of your nature--in other words, the aspects that are inherent and unique to you as an individual and as a human.
OK, so that little exercise is over with. What do you do with it now? Let me ask you this: Do you get mad at a cat for grooming himself? Do you find yourself frustrated that a bird sings? Do you get annoyed when a dog wags its tail? I hope not. If you do, this is a pretty sure sign that there is anger and frustration within you that needs to be resolved. How can you be angry that the sky is blue? How can you hate the shape of bird's wing?

Just as it is foolish to be angry with the nature of the sky or the wag of a dog's tail, it is foolish to be angry or frustrated with your nature as an individual and as a human being.

Sure, there are some things about yourself you may not like. We all have flaws. But there is no benefit in spending emotional energy and thought on what we may not be capable of changing. Are there some things that can be changed? I believe there are. But I also believe you must find what is capable of change, and what you must accept as part of your nature.

Today, I cried at work. No one saw me (thank god!), but I cried because my boss was a little miffed and his tone was scolding and I took it all very personally. Years ago, I might have been very angry with myself for crying. Now, I realize that I am, have always been, and will always be, incredibly sensitive. I mean, seriously, I am basically just a giant exposed nerve. This can be terrible. But it can also be exquisite. So I have to accept that about myself, and find a way to get to the place where that sensitivity serves me best and gets in the way the least.

So find the shape of your nature, and you may find the space where that shape fits best.

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