Practice Makes Something Other Than Perfect

Sometimes I know better, but I fail to do better. I’m probably not alone.

Whiskey highlights this. I swear she wants to bring out the worst in me.

Whiskey peeking over sofa back

Who, me?

This morning, she lit into me while I talked on the phone. I closed the door, so she barked while swiping at it. No problem figuring out the message—she was bored and restless. There just wasn’t anything I could do at that time. Except swallow my frustration.

And then there’s her love of digging, especially in the garden.

Whiskey running through garden

Now it’s a party!

There’s nothing planted in it. Yet.

Whiskey jumping out of garden

And she’s off …

Soon, this will have to stop.

If I’ve learned only one thing sharing my life with dogs it’s this—yelling is a surefire way to get the opposite response you want. Yell at them to come to you and they run. Yell at them to stop barking and they do it even more. Yell at them to get out of the garden and …

WHISkey hopping from one raised garden to another

So many gardens to dig in, so little time.

Responding from a place of compassion for their needs, not my own desires, gets a better response. Even though I know this, I still forget to practice it sometimes.

Whiskey flying through the air, burning energy

Clearly she needed to burn some energy

Doesn’t practice lead to perfect?

In his book, A Zen Wave: Basho’s Haiku and Zen, Robert Aitken offers this insight:

“Compassion takes practice, like any other kind of fulfillment. I am often told that compassion should flow naturally. This is true. Also, Mozart should flow naturally from your fingers when you sit at the piano. It is important and essential to understand that Zen is not simply a matter of spontaneity. It is also practice. By practicing zazen, you do zazen. By sitting with a half-smile, you practice enjoyment. By smiling at your friends, you practice the great compassionate heart. The act is the practice. The practice is the act. Sitting when you do not feel like it—that is zazen, that is the rare udumbara flower of Buddhahood. Smiling at your friends when you do not feel like it—that is compassion, annihilating greed, hatred, and folly, and giving life to the healing spirit of Kanzeon.

I have been told that practice of compassion is dishonest when one does not feel compassionate. This argument makes my blood boil. To what are you being honest? Nothing but a whim!”

Reading this makes me feel better.

Aitken was a lay-resident at a Zen monastery in Japan before being named a Zen roshi (master). He’s one of the first Americans to receive that honor—four years before he wrote this.

I’m no Zen master. And certainly no Mozart. I’m just a doggie momma.

If his blood boils over a debate about compassion, I can spit out a few choice words when Whiskey bites me. (Yeah, I thought we had licked that, but she forgets to make better choices sometimes, too.)

So maybe practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make things better for me and those around me. I’m grateful Whiskey gives me plenty of practice. Well, a little less now …

The newly fenced garden

Just helping her make better choices

Thanks for stopping by today.

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About Christie Green

A student of martial arts since 1995, a writer since 1999, and an animal-lover for all of time
This entry was posted in A Mindful Life with Dogs. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Practice Makes Something Other Than Perfect

  1. colinandray says:

    There is so much you can do, if you want to… but you must try and see the world from her perspective. Dogs are social creatures and so many problems are simply an expression of boredom. If you believe that she is bored and restless, then take her out for a long walk.
    If she enjoys digging in the garden, then you have some obvious choices: get some guidance in how to train her not to dig there – let her dig and don’t plant – plant and accept the fact that she will be digging.
    Shouting at a dog is rarely productive because, from the dog’s perspective… you are simply barking! If you dog is barking for a reason, then your barking simply supports her position! If you cannot see the world from your dog’s perspective, then it will likely become a very stressful relationship… for both of you!

    • Very true, Colin! I find that a nice, long walk in the morning usually keeps interruptions down during the day. And it is so interesting to pay attention to the different tones of barking. I noticed a subtle difference in how Rico and his late sister, Roxy, communicated. Whiskey uses barks several octaves different depending on whether she wants to play or warn visitors at the door. Or rush me off of a business call 🙂 But the whole point I hope to make is that our relationships with our pets can help us grow as people. When I started Dog and Dojo, and Roxy was still alive, she, Rico, and I were already in a Zen-like groove. It was easier to talk about how helpful dogs can be in that respect when we were already “there.” Now that Roxy has passed and Whiskey is in the family, that journey toward growth is fresh all over again. So glad you’re here to add some practical insights to doggie behavior!

  2. Jason says:

    I’m glad I have found your blog, it’s great when people realise that meditation can be so beneficial to a relationship with your dog. Have you tried http://www.trust-technique.com I think you might like that.

    • Hi Jason and thank you so much for finding me! I LOVE what you’re doing with the animal reiki and energy healing. I also looked at the Trust Technique website you recommended. What a relief to see kindred spirits. Animals and nature don’t just exist for our pleasure or exploit. They have so much value in helping us grow spiritually. We just have to slow down enough to open up to it. Because of this incredible value they give to us, I especially respect your desire to help animals heal, so thank you for what you’re doing!

  3. chunkshouse says:

    Your mix of mediation and dogs is unique and inspiring.
    Our dog is jealous of the phone and the attention it gets. It takes the focus from him so he brings in loud squeaky toys and makes a lot of noise if you’re on the phone. To help calm him we take him to the dog park 2 hours a day in addition to walks and playtime. He can be frustrating but we know as he gets older he will slow down and we will miss the mischief.

    • Aw, thank you. I love your dog’s antics! It’s so true that the things that drive us nuts now are the exact things we’ll miss most later. It’s almost like annoyance is a cue to stop, laugh, and appreciate. Looking forward to checking out your blog! 😊

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