Probably the best lesson dogs offer their human companions.
Having surfaced recently from being completely immersed in the writings of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake’s book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (start here and work backwards if you missed my musings on Sheldrake) I used the recent flight across to London to start into the book by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson Dogs Never Lie About Love.
While I might disagree with some minor aspects of the way that dogs relate to humans, the essential premise of the book is very powerful.
Indeed, the very last sentence of Chapter 2, Why We Cherish Dogs reads as follows:
Questers of the truth, that’s who dogs are; seekers after the invisible scent of another’s authentic core.
For me, any attempt to seek our own ‘authentic core’ can only come from understanding the power of remaining in the present. Dogs do this so naturally and instinctively. As Masson writes a little earlier in the above chapter,
A dog does not tremble at the thought of his own mortality; I doubt if a dog ever thinks about a time when he will no longer be alive. So when we are with a dog, we, too, enter a kind of timeless realm, where the future becomes irrelevant.
One could almost imagine this being the ancient wisdom of the teachings of Buddha!
Anyway, in a rather serendipitous manner, just before starting this essay, I read my weekly News and Notes from Terry Hershey. This is what he wrote about being in the present.
Did you see Mr. Holland’s Opus? About Glenn Holland’s lifetime of teaching music to a high school band. In one scene he is giving a private lesson to Gertrude. She is playing clarinet, making noises that can only be described as other-worldly. He is clearly frustrated. As is she. Finally Mr. Holland says, “Let me ask you a question. When you look in the mirror what do you like best about yourself?”
“My hair,” says Gertrude.
“Well, my father always says that it reminds him of the sunset.”
After a pause, Mr. Holland says, “Okay. Close your eyes this time. And play the sunset.”
And from her clarinet? Music. Sweet music.
Sometime today, I invite you to set aside the manual, or the list, or the prescription.
Take a Sabbath moment. . . close your eyes and play the sunset.
Mary Oliver describes such a moment this way, “. . .a seizure of happiness. Time seemed to vanish. Urgency vanished.”
Because, in such a moment, we are in, quite literally, a State of Grace. In other words, what we experience here is not as a means to anything else.
If I am to focused on evaluating, I cannot bask in the moment.
If I am measuring and weighing, I cannot marvel at little miracles.
If I am anticipating a payoff, I cannot give thanks for simple pleasures.
If I am feeling guilty about not hearing or living the music, I cannot luxuriate in the wonders of the day.
Living in the present is not specifically mentioned but how else could one interpret these beautiful concepts.