Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dogs and the power of now

Eckhart Tolle is a modern day guru of spiritual enlightenment, best known for his book titled the "power of now". This best seller advises jaded yuppies to become more introspective and to realize that the only thing that is real, or within our control is the now. While we may live in the past and hold on to grudges or peg our hopes on a future yet to come, these are illusory and in many cases harmful as they are defined not by what is, but what we want. Our egos therefore are in charge of editorializing the history that was, and what will come.

Eckhart probably does not have a dog. If he had a dog, he would know that dogs are masters of the moment. When you take a dog for a walk, he or she does not check the weather forecast and say "see here, it is forecasting sun for tomorrow lets delay our picnic until tomorrow" No, they enjoy the time with you. They check out the grass, the trees and the air. Nor do they complain and say "NOT THIS WALK again...lets go somewhere fun..." They appreciate the small things, the dew on the grass, the new smell on the sidewalk, the breeze that blows their ears.

Dogs are masters of their bodies. I have yet to see a dog who refuses to go out and asks "Does my collar make me look fat?" Dogs accept who they are, and roll in the grass, or in the case of one of my dogs, nibble on the flowers in the garden.

Perhaps the most startling manifestation of the dogs appreciation of the now, is when you take them for a walk in an off leash dog park. At the dog park there are hundreds of dogs of all breeds, colours and sizes. The dogs accept each other. There is no "I am sorry you are really not in my class" or "You are too small for me, or too fat or skinny for me". The dogs don't even ask what neighbourhood you live in, or what type of job you do. A dog is a dog and accepted as such.

Now there will be those who protest and say that our divisions into tribes, groups, economic groups are necessary to avoid conflict and necessary steps in socio evolution. We need walls to protect ourselves and our values from the others. We need to define who we are in contrast to the other, in contrast to the stranger.

For a dog the definition of self comes from within. They know they are dogs, they know their place in our world. It is this keen awareness of self that enables a dog to understand in a very profound way the moment.

By the time we have finished defining ourselves in relation to others, we not only have lost the moment, we have forgotten who we are.

It is not that meditation and introspection is a bad thing for us homo sapiens, it is just that I believe we can learn much of what we need to know in terms of our acceptance of ourselves and more importantly of others from dogs.

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