Be The Dog!
Many of my friends have been asking me how I am liking living in Florida. I tell them I love it, that it is not the place that makes one feel good (that’s internal work), and the most surprising thing about it is the enormous amount of animal interaction! I tell them I feel like a princess in an animated movie where the birds are flying around me and animals are crossing my path. I have seen more than a handful of snakes, a coyote, numerous squirrels, bunnies, a turtle, jumping fish, an incredible array of birds (hawks, vultures, cranes, pelicans, robins, blue birds, and more!), opossums, lizards, alligators (of course), and an amazing number of frogs.
The other night when I was leaving the house to walk the dog there was this amazing translucent green frog on our doorstep. I called to my daughter, “Come see the cute frog!” She said, “I’m good, I don’t need to see that.” She’s not a big fan of the frogs. The dog however, was very curious about the frog. She put her nose right up to it to smell it and it jumped 4 feet in the air. For a second the dog was startled then she went toward it again to sniff it and it jumped 4 feet in the air toward me. Needless to say, this made me scream, laugh, and jump out of the way, and I was not going in for more, not like the dog.
What I thought was so interesting about the interaction between the dog and the frog (writing that felt very Dr. Seuss!) was that even though the dog was startled by the jumping of the frog, she continued to go toward it and wonder what it was. The same thing happened when we happened on a snake, of which I did not let her get near, and lizards, for which she has an endless fascination.
The thought that crossed my mind was if the dog knew that snakes or other animals were to be feared she wouldn’t be so curious. Then my next thought was when did I stop being curious? Then, I started thinking, while it is important for survival to file away information like, that snake could bite me and may be poisonous and thus better to avoid, where else might I be filing information away as dangerous, when it really is not? What else did I shrink or move away from because it startled me or made me feel uncomfortable? Answer: most things!
We are physiologically programmed to avoid pain, physical and emotional. Physical pain is obvious, “Ouch, that hurts!!” Emotional pain, however, is a bit more challenging to navigate because we are so smart and evolved as humans we will find and have justifiable reasons to avoid experiencing it. We do things like overly stress, worry, or have anxiety, try to be perfect (not possible in the way you think) or make all the “right” decisions, all attempts to control the un-controllable, other people and circumstances. Or we distract ourselves with our children or pleasure (golf, art, games, vacation, Starbucks, food, social media, TV/movies, toys, etc.).
What to do about this? Be the dog! Address this life with a little startle, but mostly wonder and curiosity, like you did when you were a child. Watch children, they know how to do this so well, as well as being in the present moment! See, we gather up all this information from living and think if we get enough of it then life will no longer present challenges. The funny thing is that the challenges that are presented are within you, they have nothing to do with the person or circumstance you ascribe them to, and gone unaddressed will continue to show up.
Now, this might sound scary, hard, or painful, thus you want to shrink or move away from it. It is not, or it need not be. When I help clients discover how to “be the dog” it is exciting and fun and often funny, and if it wasn’t I wouldn’t do it. We are meant to be having a good time, enjoying our lives, on the daily! And, just because we are enjoying our lives does not mean that we don’t aspire for things. When we open up to wonder, curiosity, and joy there is freedom to accomplish all the things we were meant to. This life is not an either-or-game, it is an AND game. This means that you can have both aspirations AND work toward them AND enjoy yourself, all at the same time. If you want to learn how to do this lets chat.
Erin "childlike and proud of it" Mac