False Evidence Appearing Real

Last Thursday was haircut day… we have a wonderful, patient lady who, every four weeks, comes to the house for the morning and creates order out of chaos; leaving behind three tidy dogs and an enormous bag of fluff.  (The fluff is much appreciated by the local bird population in the spring, for nest-lining purposes… I would imagine that Lhasa fluff in particular must be very cosy – it certainly all disappears very rapidly.)

For Luna, who adores being brushed and loves meeting people, the arrival of Tracy is one of unrestrained joy and excitement.  Lily is slightly more circumspect, but happy to hang around as she knows there will be biscuits in the offing…  Theo, however, is horrified.  After joining Lily in a traditional (and noisy) Schnauzer greeting, he scurries off at high speed in order to find a hiding place where, he hopes, we will be unable to find him until after Tracy has left… under my office desk is his sanctuary of choice.  If he can’t see us, he reasons, there’s no way we’ll be able to see him.

Unfortunately for Theo, cowering behind the office chair, we somehow always manage to locate him and lift him, by now shivering piteously, onto the grooming table.  Half an hour or so later, when nothing very terrible has happened to him apart from the loss of some fluff amidst lots of cuddles, he’s ecstatic to receive his obligatory biscuit from Tracy and run off joyously into the garden, to forget his fears until the next time.

Our worries and stresses are subjective – it depends what we have going on inside our heads as to how we perceive, and therefore how we experience, any given situation.  When we are anticipating an event, we will have an internal representation of how we think the event will be.  If we are focusing on a positive outcome, then we might feel pleasure, or excitement.  But if we are focusing on what might go wrong, we are effectively playing out a scary movie inside our heads, which will result in us feeling stress and anxiety, even though our anticipated scenario may be far from real, or even likely.

Theo’s Teachings:

  • What we are focusing on has a direct effect on our state of mind.  If you are paying attention to negative things, try opening your mind to the possibility of the positive.  If you look for it, you will find it.
  • Our fears are often just False Evidence Appearing Real.  When you are worried or anxious, ask yourself what other possible outcomes might there be?
  • If you are facing something disagreeable, give yourself something to look forward to after the event, then imagine yourself out there in the future, looking back at the event.  From this perspective, there is no anxiety.
  • If you don’t want to be found, choosing the same place to hide each time is probably not the best strategy.

 

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Dogs will be Dogs…

So Luna caught a mole yesterday evening… I’ve no idea where she found it, as there are no evident mole hills in the garden, but she was exceptionally pleased with herself.  She refused to relinquish her prize in the garden, and carried it triumphantly into the house, where she was eventually persuaded to part with it in exchange for three biscuits – a deal which she subsequently regretted, if her disappointed searching was anything to go by…

The mole was, sadly, deceased by this point and was decently interred under the hedgerow across the lane.  Cat families will often be distressingly familiar with this scenario, but with our dogs it is not so frequent (although certainly not unheard of!).

We somehow forget, when we are throwing the fluffy, squeaky toy in a fun game of chase, fetch and throw-in-the-air before chasing again, that in addition to the joyful interaction we are both having, we are also assisting our little hairy friends to hone their hunting skills…

Dogs are natural predators – it is their essential nature to hunt small, squeaky, furry or feathered things.  Why should we expect them to be less dog, and more human, just because we choose to share our lives, our homes and our sofas with them?

Luna’s Teachings:

  • Accept others for who they are, rather than expecting them to be whom you think they ought to be.
  • Everyone is entitled to perceive the world in their own, unique way.  Others will do whatever they will do – what you do with that is all yours.
  • When you’ve just caught your first mole, hold out for the fourth biscuit before handing it over.

 

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The Magic of Discovery

Joy and Happiness - Luna Small

It’s just over three weeks since little Luna joined us, and we can’t believe how easily she has just taken everything in her stride…  Nothing seems to faze her, and she is abundantly curious about each new experience.  “What excitement can I discover here?” seems to be her motto.

She’s deeply fascinated by the numerous bumblebees that frequent the clover flowers in the lawn; having briefly experimented with eating one, she’s now decided that’s possibly a bit too exciting and is contenting herself with sniffing them, and then chasing after them when they fly busily off to the next flower…  The fat woodpigeons who sit, apparently in deep contemplation, on the lawn are also good fun to chase – flapping heavily away at the last minute, only to perch on the wall and look down at her in high dudgeon at being so rudely awakened from their meditative trance.

An early exploration of the pond has fortunately not been repeated – no doubt to the collective relief of the newt population – but everything within the garden and without has been subject to her close sensory scrutiny.  The paths and lanes we walk must smell astonishing to her; from her previous life in the suburbs of a city she is now surrounded by the sights and smells of horse and sheep, pheasant and partridge, hare, rabbit and deer…

And yet… every new experience is treated as a joyful discovery, enthusiastically widening her previous comfort zone of familiarity.

Luna’s Teachings:

  • Try everything once, and take feedback on board; it’s not a good idea to eat bees, and water lilies do not bear the weight of a Lhasa Apso.
  • Enthusiasm is contagious.
  • If outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens, then stepping outside your comfort zone on a frequent and ongoing basis is a recipe for adventure.
  • Miracles are all around you, if you only pay sufficient attention.

 

 

Eat, Play, Love… Part 2

Since the sudden loss of our beautiful Daisy at the end of May, we have been helped by a great many words of comfort and wisdom from friends and family, not least my niece who said that, “…somewhere out there is a little girl just waiting for you to go and pick her up…”, and she wasn’t wrong.  The Universe, as we know, abhors a vacuum – and our Lhasa Apso-shaped vacuum was way too deep to be ignored for very long.

It’s been said that the best way to honour the passing of a loved dog is to offer the love you gave them to another who is in need of it.  A particularly bad day last week led to a serendipitous meeting of souls…

So a measure of joy has returned to our household in the shape of little Luna – half-past puppyhood at just over a year old – and in need of a home just as much as we are in need of her.  She’s only been here a couple of days, and she seems to be a happy little soul – she’s settling in well with the Schnauzers and enjoying the opportunities that new walks and sofas have to offer…  They are still looking slightly askance at her attempts to play with them – they are not used to this kind of thing! – but I’m sure it won’t be long before Theo, at least, embraces his own inner puppy and decides to join in. 

The waves of sadness still come, but the raw grief is being tempered and I am beginning to find my thoughts and memories of Daisy moving away from the trauma of her final day and returning instead to her grace and elegance – her thousand sweetnesses – the way she used to stand out in the garden on a windy day; face into the breeze and her tail blowing out like a banner behind her… her ‘Daisy Leap’ from the lawn onto the path… her love of the fringes on the sofa throw in my office…  As I turn my face to the sun, the shadows are indeed beginning to fall behind me, as the proverb says.

As I was writing this blog, there was another meeting of souls – this time across the worlds… Who knows what passed between them?  I am certain something did.

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Eat, Play, Love…

This is a hard blog to write… last Tuesday morning we lost our beautiful, funny, fuzzy little Daisy, and I am desolate.  She was only 7, and she had leukaemia.  After nearly a week I still can’t believe that she’s gone, and that I will never hold her close to my heart and kiss her little velvet head again, and feel the softness of her fur…  Anyone who has ever loved and lost a dog – or indeed anyone they love – knows the deep, indescribable well of sadness and loss, especially when that loved soul leaves us suddenly, and too soon… there are no words.

My little Daisy was a very constant companion; she would curl up in her bed next to my desk in my office whilst I worked at the computer, every so often demanding that I lifted her onto my knee, which meant I had to type one-handed – a small price to pay for the feeling of holding her.  Whenever I sat down on the sofa she would be on my knee (even though she was the smallest, she would unhesitatingly shove a schnauzer out of the way if one of them was there first!), and if I lay down then she liked to sleep on my chest, with her head on my heart.  At night she slept between us – one or other of us would often wake to find her tucked up in the crook of our neck, with her little furry face pressed up against our cheek.  She was very special.

I have always been honored by, and grateful for, her love and attention – and I honored her in turn by giving her my own.  Whenever she asked, I gave (unless it was a request for more food – she did have a passion for roast chicken!).

My clients also enjoyed her presence as “therapy dog” in the room – the schnauzers, although gorgeous and very friendly with folks they know, are also extremely boisterous so they remain in the kitchen when I’m seeing clients, but Daisy presided over my therapy space with a welcoming grace and enthusiastic joyfulness that was appreciated by all who met her.

A dear friend and fellow fan of Carl Jung said to me that she believes that, “…the bond we have with our pets is archetypal and reaches a place deep, deep within us, where our conscious minds cannot fathom”, and I am sure she is right.

There is no short-cut to dealing with grief – for each of us, healing takes as long as it takes.  The important thing is to allow ourselves to feel whatever it is we are feeling in the moment, without trying to repress it, or telling ourselves we “ought to be over it by now”.  There is no ought; we are individuals, and the waves of grief that assail us after any bereavement are a testament to the love we feel for the soul who has moved on.  After a time, the waves may come less frequently, but they will still come; accepting that that is ok can be difficult if we subscribe to the belief that our grief should have a time limit.

It’s important that we give ourselves time to feel our pain – to own it and be with it.  If we are afraid to feel it, then it will shadow our life forever until we deal with it.  Spending time in our pain is hard – it’s the other side of Mindfulness – accepting what we are experiencing, without judgement, even when that experience is raw and painful beyond measure… and holding the space for our own soul to heal.

Emotions, whether joyful or deeply painful, are not meant for us to hold onto and keep… they are like the weather – they come and they go.  If we accept their presence in the moment, and the fact that this too will pass, we can then allow them to move on, and we can begin to discover that in between the waves, and the tempests of wind and rain, there is peace.

That place that my friend spoke about that lies deep, deep within us – that place where our conscious minds cannot fathom – is also a place of deep peace… it is the place that Jung refers to as our “collective unconscious”.  It is atemporal – within that place we are forever connected to those we love; past, present and future.  The answer to our ultimate solace, therefore, just like all of life’s problems, lies not outside us, but inside.  At the end of the day, there is only love.

Daisy’s Teachings:

  • However much pain I am feeling now, it is worth it for the love we shared.
  • I know that eventually the joy in the memories will eclipse the pain.
  • Dog cuddles are an essential part of the healing process, however long it takes.
  • Never take for granted the time that you spend with those you love.  Be with them in the moment – eat, play and love with joy and gratitude for their presence in your life.

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Boundaries…

We’ve got the builders in, and the canine members of staff are really not amused…  Even though they have been here over a week now, the dogs still go mad every time one of the builders walks across the courtyard.  It’s a boundary issue, and nobody likes it when someone keeps crossing their boundaries.  I’ve had to draw all the curtains on that side of the house so the builders can come and go without the attendant chaos.

What do we do when someone crosses (or tries to cross) one of our own personal boundaries?  Do we make it known (however lovingly) that this is not acceptable, or do we keep the little yapping voice to ourselves, drawing across the curtain in order to keep the peace?

If you are finding yourself saying “yes” to others at the expense of saying “no” to yourself, perhaps it’s time to start listening to your inner dog…

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Teachings of Dog: No 29 – The Journey is the Destination

I am fascinated by the different approaches that the dogs have to their walks. Theo is excited by everything – and if something excited him on the previous walk, then he will remember and get even more excited as we approach the same place in the walk, obviously hoping that the same pheasant, hare or whatever will leap out again at the same spot (and if it did, he would probably explode with joy). He has a constant air of anticipation – “what excitement will happen next?” seems to be his motto.

Lily is mainly concerned with keeping her eye on us; if we stop for any reason, she will hurry across, jumping up and putting a paw on our leg, gazing up in mute, gentle enquiry with her beautiful black eyes.

Daisy, on the other hand, is a keen student of nature and takes her research seriously. When she finds something worthy of study, it will occupy her entire attention so that she becomes completely deaf to our calls, or to the fact that we are now a considerable distance ahead. Eventually, one of us will be forced to hurry back and encourage her on her way – at which point she will look up at us in amazement that we are not sharing her fascination. She will then dance along the path until, a few yards further along, she comes across the next object worthy of study… To Daisy, the journey truly is the destination.

Daisy’s Teachings:

  • The present moment is all we have – our lives are just a series of present moments. Taking time to be in the moment is a true antidote to stress – we are not worrying about the past, or being anxious about the future, but just being with what is. Enjoy the journey.