Every morning I walk my son to school, we both get to play the game of holding steady the forward facing dog.
That involves none other than our dear pal Bishop.
Bishop the black lab-inspired canine who cannot help but to walk ahead of us as if he knows where we are going. Bishop O' the energetic legs who creeps, creeps, creeps ahead. Bishop who is the constant receiver of our mantra "Get back, get back, get back."
About one year ago I was surveying the realm of episodic shows on Netflix. One in particular caught my interest. Cesar Millan's Leader of the Pack. What an interesting premise for a show. Here's a guy who's rehabilitating problem dogs left at shelters and people are coming to compete for ownership of said dogs? Some of these people are from out of the country. Wow. That not only intrigues me but just tugs at my heart-strings in so many ways. Restoration and renewal. What magic is this guy doing that makes these people really want these dogs with difficult and dirty pasts?
Our family adopted Bishop while we were living in Washington state. He was found wandering along a road and no one ever came to claim him. We were quite puzzled with the length of his stay at the shelter because he really was quite well-behaved plus already potty-trained. Physical health issue: diarrhea. No biggie compared to just losing a dog to cancer.
Bishop's digestive troubles soon resolved with the help of probiotics. But two things we learned about him that we did not know how to resolve were:
1) Pulling on the leash while walking. No, let's rephrase that. Dragging you behind while walking.
2) High excitability when seeing other dogs. Not aggression, just pure excitement.
Now, sitting in my living room watching Cesar it all made sense. "The leader of the pack" needed to exhibit calm, assertive energy for his/her dog. Short, loose leash. Walk with intention. Don't let the dog take the lead. So simple! But oh, so hard to actually do!
Practice, practice, practice.
Stumble, fall, trip.
Practice some more. Sigh with exasperation. Cry for help!
Then a blessing. Practice with the help of a trainer that is trained by Cesar Millan? What a difference. Guidance from someone - a live person! Art Ortiz of DogFit Dallas is an amazing dog trainer by the way. Let me know if you need his information.
When I walk with Bishop these days I think about this in my yoga teacher brain:
1) Rajas makes Bishop want to pull too far forward. That really high state of excitability that sometimes appears on our walk, usually due to stimulation such as the sight or smell of another dog is a rajasic one. High energy that makes Bishop jump up and down (for joy?) or dance around me like a maniac. "Look, look, do you see THAT over there?" It's like when I sit down for meditation but my mind cannot help but jump around and gravitate to what it thinks is "so important" at the time - something I need to get done for my family or something I really want my students to learn. Bark, bark, bark.
2) Sometimes there's something that Bishop smells along our walk and then. Yes, just. Halt. Stop. Stuck. Inert. Tamas. Nose pressed hard into the ground. I want to keep going forward but he's holding me back. A dullness drops over the situation (though I suppose whatever his nose has found is not so dull to him). But he's suddenly forgotten and lost sight of our purpose together. It's sort of what I liken to the tamasic state.
3) When I sense a connectivity between us that even gives me comfort to drop the leash - we have found the sattvic state. Distractions are there but do not distract. They are potential disruptions but Bishop stays focused and moves gently forward alongside me with a calm energy. Side by side with direction. He's aware of my movement and pace and I'm aware of his. No jumping ahead and no pulling back and down. Balance. Calm, assertive energy. Sattva.
I think it's so cool that Cesar yoga-speaks. Well, I've never heard him say the word sattva but the guy sure understands the idea in his own doggie-like way.
As I continue to practice walking with Mr. Bishop, I will keep thinking of ways to help my yoga students be more aware of rajasic, tamasic and sattvic states of mind. Today at lunchtime yoga in Garland we practiced some meditative walking in class together. I truly believe we all have the capacity to be more conscious of what we are doing in our lives, whether walking, sitting in front of a computer or learning something new in yoga class. Growing your awareness happens one breath at a time, one step at a time.
Hold steady the forward facing dog.