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Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fur Babies

“Things, when magnified, are forgeries of happiness.”
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

            I have always written my blog about the things I have learned from being Joshua’s mom, but it strikes me that we can learn a lot from our furry family members. They do not strive for luxury or to accomplish anything. They never expect anything. They are never dramatic for drama’s sake. They never ignore their instincts. They never harbor resentments. Their peace is not dependent upon circumstances. They live fully and completely in this moment.

            Our dogs are probably the best example of living with hope but without expectation. When we are in the kitchen, they hope to get food. If we go out, they hope to go with us. If we walk in the door, they hope to get petted. If we are out, they hope for us to come back. They do not expect anything from us; they just hope for it. I am not even sure hope is the correct word for it. Anticipate would probably better describe it. Dogs are never concerned about looking needy when showing us affection. They bound up to us, throwing their bodies at us without reservation. Our cats usually do not display hope, anticipation, or excitement the way dogs do, unless they hear the can opener, or they smell the fish we are preparing. Cats are serene about showing love to us; calmly fluffing us up with their claws while purring contentedly when we are at rest, or slowly rubbing themselves against our legs while weaving their bodies around our ankles; gently thanking us for the meal we are about to give them.
            Our fur babies have very simple desires that revolve around physical survival and love. It does not matter to them if we buy them fancy food and water bowls or if we purchase diamond collars for them to wear. Our fur babies are not concerned with the price of our homes or vehicles. We could live in a rundown shack for all they care. They are not greedy creatures. All they want is to receive our love and to give us their love. And even that is an overstatement! If we did not show them  our love, they would still show us theirs. Even with such simple desires, they don’t sit around anguishing over what they want. Getting what they want are not conditions of their happiness and contentment. Our furry family members accept whatever we give to them or do for them, without expectation, and they do not punish us when we fail to give them what they desire.

“After two ducks get into a fight, they separate and float off in opposite directions. They each will flap their wings vigorously a few times. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing ever happened. If the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking, by story making.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

             Animals do not resent us when we do not take them to the mall with us and they do not plan to give us the cold shoulder when we return. We could be gone all day or for only ten minutes and receive the same excited attention when we return. They do not hold it against us when we are late with their meal. Their love is not conditioned on our beauty, the color of our skin, the career path we are on, or any other thing. They just love us, no matter what. We humans have many desires, expectations, and resentments. We desire luxuries and wealth. We think our lives will be better or happier if we have certain things, look a certain way, or have the right man or woman. We expect our lovers to do all of the things we love and refraining from doing things we don’t love. We expect them to love us the way we want them to love us and to accept our love the way we want to give it. We expect our family members to be happy in their lives in ways that do not make us uncomfortable; to make the same choices we would make. Many times, we expect people in our lives to live the lives we want them to live and be happy about it. There is resentment when things do not go as we wish. We place expectations on our society, as well. We humans even expect things from animals that they would never expect from us. We cage them and expect them to go against their nature to entertain us. Even after we mistreat them and hold them to our expectations they do not harbor resentments against us. At some point, they may lash out, but it’s never about revenge. It’s about their instinct towards freedom.
            You never see animals being dramatic because they are unhappy with their lives, when they do not get what they want, when their feelings are hurt, to manipulate someone, or to gain sympathy. When an animal is dramatic it is always due to a fear or an instinct.

“You have been attending your academy for years, and to pick up your diploma in predicting violence, there is just one truth you must accept: that there is no mystery of human behavior that cannot be solved inside your head or your heart. Listen to your intuition.” 
Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear

            Animals show displays of aggression when they are staking a claim on territory or sexual rights, when they are hungry, or when they are in a defense mode, but never because their ego was bruised. They are egoless. Granted, dogs are sometimes fearful of things that are not harmful to them, like the postal worker delivering the mail, but they never second guess themselves. Their instincts come first every time. They never talk themselves out of protecting themselves. When an animal is wrong about a fear, so what? It never bothers them later. They bark at the postal worker every day even though every day the postal worker does not lift a finger to harm them. It is their instinct driving them to do it. Women, children and sometimes men second guess their instincts and end up paying a price. In his book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker shows us the necessity of trusting our instincts. Sometimes it comes down to a trivial matter of inconvenience, but at other times, not obeying our instincts can lead us into bad relationships, sticky situations, or to being assaulted or even killed.
            We can talk ourselves into things, too. Our minds weave intricate stories for us to be able to do whatever we want without feeling bad about it, or to condone our actions, at the very least. We make excuses because we cannot be at peace with eating that donut, spending that money, or whatever it is we are trying to excuse. Our inner peace is much less simple than an animal’s. The phrase, It’s a dog’s life, makes us long for the simple life of a dog, with no responsibility or striving. Still we would not want to trade places with an animal, no matter how simple their lives appear. We would not want to give up the control we think we have!

Being human, we have great abilities to create in this world through our choices; although, our humanness comes with a price. That price is our ability to suffer. Mind gives us the ability to reason and assign motives to the actions of others. Our developed minds give us the ability to look back into the past, reliving our mistakes and heartaches, over and over again, and to project into the future our conditions for happiness and our worries of what may come. Many humans live in the past because they cannot stand where they are in the present. They don’t like their job or where they live. They don’t like the responsibilities they have and they want to go back to a time when things were simple and easy. They relive their youth in their minds, wishing they could be a child again, so life would not be as it is now. Even people who are content most of the time revisit the past, in their mind. This is an advantage for the animals. Animals let the past go. They live every moment right here, right now. They do not replay history in their minds over and over. They use the things they learned in the past to sharpen their instincts, but never as an excuse for suffering.
            Even with all the disadvantages our thinking minds can create for us, our minds are so impressive that we can control our suffering. We can stop living in the past, as well as worrying or hoping for things in the future by remembering that life is what is happening right now. There is no past – it is gone; there is no future – it is not promised or decided; there is only this moment and this moment is where you choose happiness or sadness, peace or anger, acceptance or resistance, surrender or worry, love or hate. This moment is the only moment where your life is lived, and you get to choose how you experience it.
            Our furry friends don’t have the luxury of choosing their experience, and so they live each moment with love and acceptance of whatever is happening right now. What better example of peace and contentment could we find? Will you follow their example?
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