In the pursuit of becoming a better person and learning how to be more present in my everyday life, I attended Tolle Eckhart’s talk last night at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. For those of you who do not know who Eckhart is, he is one of the most famous spiritual teachers of our time and the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “The Power of Now”.
Eckhart’s presentation was a very good overview of his book “The Power of Now” and I was even more enlightened when he referenced dogs and cats as an example that human beings can turn to in order to learn how to be more consciously present in our lives. One of the things that Eckhart stated that helps animals stay happy is that dogs and cats are not burdened by a problematic mentally created self. Humans, unlike dogs and cats, have an opinion about everything, especially our-selves. Sadly, most of what people think about tends to be negative and thus you affect your mood and become unhappy, anxious and stressed etc.
“Your dog doesn’t have an opinion of what he looks like…which is why most dogs are most joyful than humans. They are so happy to be alive and to be communicating with you. If your dog could speak he would say life is good. There is physical suffering (for them) but no mentally. Some have lived with problematic humans, but most dogs are still saner…and it is a miracle when you see who they live with…”
The crowd and I laughed at the above statement but boy does it hold a lot of deep truth. You have always heard the saying that a dog or cat looks like their owner, but Eckhart made me wonder if it is also very possible that they can behave like us as well? It is no secret that animals have the ability to pick up on emotions, so if you are constantly in a negative state of mind maybe this can easily be transmitted to your animal? Maybe a way to check to see if you are living in the present moment and are truly calm and happy is to turn to your pet and ask yourself: Is Fluffy stressed because I am stressed? Is he a bit unenergized lately because I am? What thoughts are affecting my mood? What can I do to feel better and be in control of my thoughts?
Eckhart also alluded that humans were like an animal in the Golden Age. He referenced cats and mentioned how still they are when they just rest. I loved when he said that “purring is the ooommm of the cat”, and at least for me a purring cat is one of the most soothing things to hear. Eckhart said that a cat is so present because “the cat is not thinking what is going to happen tomorrow or yesterday…the cat is rooted in a deep place of life peace.” He said that by observing an animal or a tree one can use it as a teaching tool to learn how to be. Humans through excessive thinking have lost this more and more.
As an over-thinker, with time and practice I have learned to slow down my mind and be more present. I’ve made it a habit to practice not thinking when walking my little dog Waly. I just observe Waly and how he relishes every sniff, tree, and dog we encounter. I try my best to be in his state of mind and take in everything I see and feel, and not think about anything else. The few times I have been successful, I feel a calmness take over me yet at the same time I feel so alive…so aware. It truly is incredible to be present, to be in the now, but it is still something I need to constantly remind myself of doing.
Another insight that Eckhart pointed out that people should try to do like animals is not to have an ego or compare themselves to others. The majority of people live in this cycle where they constantly compare themselves to others creating unnecessary suffering and negative emotions. Eckhart stated, “If you identify with something you are in for suffering. It is always a thought you are identified with. My car, my house, my that…or if your body is not as good as others you feel inferior to others. You feel unhappy about your body…Your dog is not unhappy about his or her body. No dog is ever unhappy…they never think they are ugly compared to others. He is, he is himself, there is no problem, he is not a problem to himself, I am a dog. The dog exists below thinking. It is conscious but the conceptual reality is not arisen in the dog”.
How liberating to reach a state of being where your mind no longer affects your mood or blocks you from seeing who you really are, and you can just be. I.AM.DOG. I wish there was a button on our phones for that…However, Eckhart does not mean that humans should not be thinkers, or have goals, or plan for the future as doing so he said would be regressing, but he does encourage us to learn how to be more conscious of our thoughts and realize that we are not always what we think. He said that sadly the majority of people believe they are what they think thus they experience a lot of unhappiness for most of their life. And instead of realizing that the answer to their problems is within they look for the answer externally in material things or in drugs.
After Eckhart’s talk, I better understand why animals are sometimes called “little buddhas”, Waly is for sure mine, and this made me smile…I think us pet owners are very lucky to have a living and breathing reminder of what it means to be free of ego and free from your controlling thoughts. If only we take the time to really observe and learn from them, our pets, like Eckhart teached us yesterday, can help us better live in the present, in the now and be a happier being…that is what I call “The Power of Paw”.