On Dog and Man

This morning I jogged past an interesting dog couple. They got me thinking about the relationship between dog and man. He was a medium sized, grey terrier and the owner was a blond in her thirties. They were both sitting on a bench together. The dog was looking one way and she the other. She was on her phone chatting and he was observing the scene. As I got closer, the dog leaned further out and looked toward me. He was tracking me from afar, his deep set black eyes hounded me. As I passed, he jumped up on all fours and pulled hard on his leash. He clearly wanted to run, like me. His owner engrossed in her conversation, barely looked up when she gave his leash a hard pull to the effect that the dog cowered and sat back down instantly. His eyes, however, did not stop watching me. The last I saw was his head turned the other way, while seated and waiting.

Dogs are domesticated creatures but they are kin to wolves and coyotes. Although teachings vary from tribe to tribe, according to Native American tradition, each animal carries a special medicine energy (Sams & Carson, 1988). The dog is loyalty, a protector and a servant. Wolves, in contrast, are the pathfinders, the teachers of new ideas. The coyotes, are the tricksters with a keen sense of humor and a hidden wisdom that reminds us not to take life so seriously.

What is the true nature of dog without training? What can we learn from the relationship between dog and man to understand notions of love, loyalty and security?

Dog owners spend an inordinate amount of time and money training their dogs to be obedient. In this teaching, there’s something we can learn by thinking about this practice and the outcomes we seek. For example, to train a dog, you make them obey orders by way of reward and punishment. Orders like: Come here! Go! Lay down! Stop playing! Sit! Stand! Calm down! When they follow the rules, they get a treat and when they don’t, they get beaten or neglected. Over time, this process conquers their nature and reduces their ability to do anything without fear. In this relationship, the master justifies the beatings, touting the benefits. Dogs are given food, shelter and stability! In exchange, a good, domesticated dog bestows upon man unconditional love, protection and loyalty.

As I watched the behavior of the grey terrier this morning, I wondered if it’s possible to completely destroy one’s natural instinct, like the yearning to run and be free? I wondered about safety and stability. I even thought about government and how human beings pay a price for a sense of security and loyalty. What is the right balance, if any, between honoring our true nature and taming?

Where I live in New York City, there is a preponderance of dogs. Truth be told, from the outside looking in, they look happy. They are so clean! Their owners take them out for walks along the river, allow them to get some fresh air, poop and pee amongst trees. Sometimes, the owners keep them on very long leashes to get the illusion of space. It’s as if they own the city. Every so often, a van arrives on my corner that caters to dogs. They call it a ‘dog spa’ and they go in there and take breaks. In fact, sometimes I’m jealous that dogs can get spa treatments in the time of COVID so easily. On other days, I think it’s just a van, the apartments are quite small in the city and leashes are leashes no matter how far they reach.

Soles of our feet, soul of society

Our legs down to our feet mark where we stand and where we’re going. The sole is the bottom most layer of everything. It is the place where calluses grow. There is nothing wrong with a callus, only that it is there and it may mean it’s time to move differently.

Smooth the sole. Appreciate the leathery feel, worn over time. Then lift your feet high so blood runs through your body. Your soles are not to be left unattended because they are the foundation of every journey.

The soul of society is like hundreds of soles crossing a border, migrating to new territory, challenging one hundred selves to explore, to better things, for curiosity or to ward off adversity.

The soul of society will always be one hundred plus feet, standing or walking, running or skipping, dancing. The soles of our feet, like the soul of society, feel like a very private matter and yet, our intimate dance moves us universally. It’s like listening to a fine cello piece or contemplating a painting; each born out of one but touching everybody.

I sometimes dream of a body with amputated legs after some undefined war. I wonder how it is that we can learn to survive with such pain, the sole stripped away. Then I’m in awe at how human beings are so clever. We design makeshift feet, we invent technological devices that help us move ahead effortlessly. But what about the soles of our feet? What about the soul of society when the leathery wear and tear have been pulled off and we are left with metal frames, clever gadgets and send buttons? I wonder if we are fully aware of the purpose behind movement and speed and the role of the soles of feet.

Different parts of our mind-body are working. We’re finding that the soul is dispersed evenly. It’s a new revelation, perhaps, for many, that the soul is not bound by the soles of feet. It’s like magic, really. The ability of the soul to morph into anything, so free.

I’m becoming more accustomed to this floating feeling but it’s still scary. Here we are recreating life and our way of living. I do miss standing steadily, even if it is illusory. I massage my soles after running. I love that anchored feeling even now when I know that my feet are growing old and will die.

I will say that the soul of society needs our care and attention. We should treat it like a baby. Our new soles are so soft and supple, unable to stand. It needs nurturing, discipline and a lot of love. We are a hundred plus heart beats scattered about now, but we are one when we are listening.

When The Soul Moves

We tend to distrust these feelings and avoid them at all costs because we are scared of being uprooted. We need to lose this fear.

Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully

Whenever I think of you my soul moves. Not just one, but very few of you and I’m open to more coming.

Perhaps you know what I mean? Your soul can move with your mate or it can move suddenly and out of place.

In my experience, when the soul moves it’s startling.

I’ve heard parents say the soul moves for a son or daughter. Twins who say their souls move in tandem.

However it appears, know it’s the soul moving inside you.

Focus on form rather than time or speed.

Focus on the now rather than eternity.

The soul conditions you to surrender to your hunger for food.

On a much larger scale, the soul opens your eyes to truth.

I have feared the soul, its ebb and its flow. The soul is mischievous and breeds in darkness.

The soul is a sublime piece of cake in a world where we count calories.

The soul can feel sneaky and disarming and I worry about gluttony.

It’s not wrong to pay attention to the movement of your soul because  you will want more.

Become aware and you’ll be alright.

Choose the soul and you’ll be satisfied.

But know this. When the soul moves, tears fall. The life of calories ends.

That is why we need soul stretching exercises. Learn how restlessness and uneasiness are stages of the journey.

We need to practice leaning in to the soul’s yearnings and loving unconditionally.

We need schools that teach a course on the workings of the soul so we can track its course and discover the treasure.