A family gathers around after their dog passes away. They begin to discuss life and death and why animals have shorter lifespans than humans. The little boy, who loved his dog, speaks up to the others’ surprise. He says, “I know why.” They wait. “People have to learn to be kind and good people right? Dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”.
In the book store today, I came to a book which had the title, “By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead.” The book was entertaining and wise. It was a quick read, with a single picture of an animal on each page, from hippos to caterpillars and a speech or thought bubble from each one. Most phrases had recognizable self-doubts like,
“There’s no reason to speak, I have nothing to say.”
“Everything seems to be working, except me. I’m broken.”
“Don’t choose me, I’m not worth your time.”
The cleverness of this book is that it brings our perception to another level, beyond these words that we can sometimes feel in ourselves. We realize that an animal who might live only an hour wouldn’t possibly think of this. Why would we worry about things that, in the end, are completely useless? The perspective is that no matter how much we can worry about something, it’s not going to change what happens. So why worry?
Certainly, people have preferences over what animals are cuter, but we never think, “that dog could be doing better for himself.” There is no sense of perfectionism in how they live. They are self-accepting to the moment and they reflect that back to us. We are loved because we are, not because of what we are.
I have a dog. A loving, kind dog that jumps and plays and makes gurgling noises, much like a child might. What do dogs and children have in common? The playful attitude and the energy, which comes as a result of what?
When we hold on to a thought such as, “Why am I like this?” we are usually not accepting what is, but we are also activating the very thought that is causing us to be like this, (that which we don’t want.) To quote the wonderful Alan Watts, “The one who is trying to do the improving is the one who needs to be improved.” We are always changing, so to pin point what you are and then from that vantage point of what we think ask another part of ourselves, “Why am I like this? is a ridiculous way to improve.
To improve is to become different towards what is better. To become different is to change. Changing is the only way to make anything better. Learning quickly, we must be completely changing moment to moment. That is why animals and children learn so well. They expand their awareness to all the possibilities, and then go in to super deep samadhi over some piece of it, making that thing all that is in focus. Again, they come out into a broad spectrum of endless excitement, and then ground themselves into the details of one object, giving it their full attention. It is this contracting and expanding that guides their lives.
It is in allowing who we are from moment to moment that creates both learning and love. However, is allowing the action that causes dogs to love with so much gusto? I think not. They don’t need to focus on allowing, but they allow their focusing. That’s their playful intelligence. It is not that animals are less intelligent than humans, it’s just that they are more focused. It’s the dog who can chew a toy on the ground for five minutes, but as soon as you call it’s name, it forgets the way it was doing it. It might go back and chew the toy again a minute later, but the way it will be done is fresh. Never the same way twice. How does a cat look at the same thing and stay interested every day? Because life changes and it is aware! The moment their name was called, a new focus was born. The possibilities of life expanded into many before the focus reset on something new.
The love is innate in their learning. It doesn’t have to be a focus of its own. They are in the zone and that’s the best place to be. We all know that.
In Anapana meditation we often find peace in ourselves. There is no destination in mind and no focus of being something. Anything we can name, can only be an image of the past. The meditation is a being, not a ‘to be.’ It’s a new moment and when present with it, there is nothing to compare it to. Yet, the reason that we are brought to that love is not just because of focus, but because of focus that has a wholesome base. Only when we are doing something that is helping us and others can that love be a natural by-product of our attention. Children might initially have it, but it is when they start to compare themselves that they lose this. Animals don’t usually have that issue, because they have a limited to do list and a less complicated lifestyle.
1) See the possibilities.
2) Focus only on one.
3) See the possibilities.
4) Focus only one one.
All with a wholesome base.
*Bark. Bark. Bark.*