The only puppy I have ever had was a beautiful Saint Bernard puppy whose name was Elsie. It was the worst possible time for me to learn how to train a puppy, especially one who would grow so big. I was a newly-wed and also in my first career as a middle school teacher, having finished college in August, I landed a great job and got married that autumn. I had so much to learn and an equal amount to do. I had very little time to be at home.
Meanwhile Elsie was adorable. She had a sweet temperament but we were ill-equipped to have the responsibility of a dog. Needless to say, there was very little training going on for Elsie. She was training us and not the other way around.
Within a couple of months, my husband and I could both see that neither of us were able to give her the kind of home that she needed. We were living in a two-bedroom duplex, fairly cramped quarters for what would become a very large dog. She would sit beside the coffee table and with one friendly wag of her tail everything would be swept onto the floor. She rarely had a walk never mind a run! We eventually found a farmer who said he would take her and look after her, that he had lots of room for her to run and play with his other dogs. All the guilt I had been feeling for not giving her the kind of home she needed evaporated when I thought of her running with the other dogs. That was the fantasy and it helped me cope with my feelings of inadequacy.
We use the metaphor of “training the puppy” to help us learn how to bring awareness to our minds in meditation. We know that a puppy that is loved and trained will grow up to be a wonderful companion. We also know that a dog who has been beaten, mistreated or neglected ends up being an anti-social, mean, unpredictable dog.
It is the same for your mind. If in meditation, you set impossible standards for yourself, scolding yourself for not attaining enlightenment in the first week of meditation you are simply delaying the benefits of meditation. If you can bring gentleness, kindness and love to your thoughts, your body and your feelings, you will see benefits in your life. And nothing is going to happen if you do not make a decision to “train the puppy.”
The whole point of meditation is to awaken to the truth of life. It is to see that all life is interconnected. We begin to see that the only love we can give to others, is the love that we first give to ourselves.
Many people find it difficult to accept and love themselves just the way they are. Our inner voices are often harsh and critical; we have an inner terrorist. What we really are longing for is acceptance and love.
Start today. Give yourself a modest goal, perhaps five minutes. Notice your thoughts, without judging them. Be kind to your thoughts. Be kind to yourself. It is a very good way to start.