I have become that dog owner. You know, the one who takes selfies with her dog and posts them on social media. Yes, that one who raves about her dog endlessly and early in the morning, when no one is around to hear about her magnificence, texts friends snaps of the dog doing absolutely nothing. (In case you are wondering, the answer is yes. I am thinking about a social media account for my unique dog. Maybe even her own live broadcast. It takes special talent to do absolutely nothing and be fabulous. Also, her downward facing dog happens to be a yogic phenomenon.)
I am sure like me, you are aware of the studies that have shown that caring for a pet (especially a dog, says yours truly) is a transformative essential element of the wellness protocol. I remember a few years ago watching an 8-hour BBC documentary How to Stay Young that showed unequivocal evidence on how having a dog by one’s side actually lowered participants’ blood pressure and controlled their fight-or-flight stress reaction. If you are young and think this does not apply to you, think again. As a species, we are living in a chronic state of fight or flight. Our system is continually compromised. If you are lucky, you will get old. A dog will help you age gracefully and fabulously. If you are “old,” a dog will by default force you to become active, regulating and building structure and routine for the household. It is like having a baby in your fifties —minus the sleepless nights. If things are going right, it is the dogs that walk the owners. We all know that our bodies thrive on movement, structure, and routine. All in all, barring allergies and time constraints, caring for a pet has zero side effects and 100% benefits on all facets of existence. If you could put those in a pill, we would all be on it. But nothing that is of value comes without effort. You know that. There is a process. And that process involves experience.
But this blog is not about that, although I would be happy to sit and chat about this early in the morning —while my fabulous Shiva rests fabulously. This is about the unexpected lesson this sweet beauty has shown me in a few days. This blog is about what it is to live in flow.
If you have been following my blogs, I am sure you know I struggle with the concept of detachment. Everyday —not from books or theories— I am learning more about the depth of detachment and the profound effects it has on the quality and vibrational frequency of our life. Detachment, I have come to understand, is the very essence of true love and authentic living. It is also a life in flow. Detachment is an all-encompassing love that is free (detached) from outcome and simply present in the now.
In a nutshell, anything that is forced —be it work, a relationship, a yoga pose, or a new start-up— is an undertaking that is not authentic, one that is in fact attached to ego and consequence, and not in flow with the (sacred) vibration of the universe. (A case in point, forced extreme yoga poses for the social media post.)
You may be the kind of person who likes to plan and schedule. I know those personality types. Intimately. I am their founding member. Most often, the universe has other plans for us. They include very long detours to soften the sharp edges of ego, to shake us up to propel us forward. The change of direction comes in many forms, but ultimately it really comes. Without fail. Srimati (Julie Piatt) calls those days on our knees “sacred moments,” necessary stages for growth —detachment— so that when we are ready to rise, we rise from that place of flow with our sacred existence. I like to call it the place of neutrality, where everything is in delicate balance with the world around us.
Detachment is neutrality. That silent, peaceful organic space of trust. You cannot learn this from a book. You have to experience it in your body. All you can do is sharpen and optimize your connection to the physical body in order for you to open that gate. That “intuition” can only be awakened when we are “in our body”.
“My colleague Maria Julia Leone, a neuroscientist and international chess master, and I [Mariano Sigman] carried out this experiment on the chessboard, following the Borgesian concept of chess as a metaphor for life. Two masters face off. They have thirty minutes to make a series of decisions that will organize their armies. On the board, it is a battle to the death and emotions are running high. During the game we trace the players’ heartbeats. Heart rate —just like stress— increases over the course of the game, as time runs out and the end of the battle approaches. Their heart rates also spike when their opponent commits an error that will decide the outcome of the game.
But the most significant discovery we made was this: a few seconds before the players made a mistake, their heart rate changed. This means that in a situation with countless options, with a complexity that is similar to that of life itself, the heart panics before making a bad decision. If the players could recognize that, if they were able to listen to what their hearts were telling them, they could perhaps avoid many of their errors.”
—from “The Secret Life of the Mind”
Dogs listen to their hearts.
Practices like yoga are training grounds for listening to the heart.
I am not alone in my thinking. Turns out prophets and philosophers have been talking about this for thousands of years. Plato in his Republic addresses the virtue of true education —the kind that comes from experience, not theory. That comes later when the body is ready to receive the teachings because it has already experienced the fruits.
“Education must begin with music, gymnastics and other practical matters that train the virtues of a good citizen… . Only after having walked that long road is one ready to understand … true knowledge. … Knowledge is acquired through experiences lived during the day, and theory awakes only as dusk falls… education should be focused less on knowledge … and more on practice that promotes virtues such as motivation, control and creativity.”
— from The Secret Life of the Mind
A sweet dog has awakened these thoughts, a dog who lives in the present moment. Every second —every experience— is received as though for the first time.
I fully understand that nothing lasts forever. But you know what lasts forever? Sacred trust. And neutrality.
I have to go walk my dog, and smell the flowers. They have been here forever. I just haven’t noticed.