My daily Zen Master
My second Zen Master came to live with us in 2008 and he is still sharing our life. This is our 10 years old wonderful Shih Tzu called Zap. His mind, behavior and non-verbal teaching remind me some of our greatest Zen Masters over the last 2, 500 years. Yes, like all of us, Zap’s mind can be restless but only at specific times such as when it is time for food is or when he has to go out for is needs. Beside these important moments Zap is very quiet and even very happy. Most of the day Zap is looking at the garden for hours in the most serene way. So, out of curiosity, one day I asked him: “ Zap, tells me, how can you be serene almost all the time”?
Of course, Zap could not answer verbally but he looked at me intensively trying to fulfill my quest.
Reading his non-verbal answers thru his eyes, this is what he told me:
“Indeed, we, animals, are different and maybe smarter then humans. Here are the main reasons on my behavior”:
1 Regarding my dog ego:
Being a little dog, my ego is minuscule when compared with humans’ ego. Like for you, most of dog suffering is ego- driven but since our ego is small, our suffering is minimum. As you know, suffering comes from endless desires /craving, hatred and illusions that our ego is creating.
My desires are reduced to few basic stuff: getting love, food, chewing my bone, playing with my red ball,
going outside for a pee and a poop and having good sleep. Contrary to humans, no such things such as “I want this or I don’t want that …….all the time”.
Going to pee outside when it is very cold is not fun but I am not angry because there is nothing I can
do about it. Fighting a problem which has no solution, is like caring water in a bottomless bucket.
I don’t have aversion, hatred or any others “I don’t like this – I don’t want that ” even with our house cat.
Finally my dog mind does not carry too many dreams, illusions, delusions and irrational expectations like
humans do. These mind tricks are a great source of disappointment, dissatisfaction, anger, fear and many
2) I am living in the present moment and very mindful to each of its components:
Contrary to humans, my mind is always in the present moment. I don’t have too much memory of the past nor vision of the future even if it is time for food or for peeing. Humans have always their body doing something somewhere, on autopilot, whereas their mind is elsewhere doing something else. Zen calls it “ Waking sleep or “Day sleep walking”. This split of personality – body here and mind there- is a great source of restless mind and subconscious suffering. Like all living beings, you and I exist only in the present moment.
To be in the future all the time is absolute delusion unless for mandatory planning. To go back in the past is bringing only nostalgia of the good times and resentment of the bad ones. Remember this: you and I are alive only in the present moment. Learning to pay attention to the NOW is a good way in achieving serenity even if this NOW is perceived being routine, dull or not wanted and even painful.
Living in the present moment means to be mindful to its components, which includes: what I am currently doing, my environment using my 5 senses, scanning my body, observing thoughts and feelings and nature. By doing so, I am forcing my mind to focus on something I want rather than the opposite that is being under its control.
3) I am fully conscious that:
1- Everything is transient including you, the sun, flowers and me. An acorn must die to become an oak.
2- I am not a permanent, independent, unique, separate self-entity with a self-intrinsic existence but
rather a living entity totally dependent of my environment. Humans think they are unique, special, in control.
3- I do not control my life even if, sometimes, like you, I believe I do.
All of these are mind-made illusions and great sources of disappointments, unhappiness and suffering.
4- My thoughts and emotions are just products of the mind and have nothing to do with truth even if we are
creating them. So, I am always watching my thoughts & emotions with a grain of salt.
Remember that your mind is mostly ego-driven and will always try to control you to achieve what he wants.
5- I am also fully conscious that accumulating more material stuff has nothing to do with happiness and serenity.
4) I am accepting things as they are rather than resisting and fighting because resisting is an ego trip.
Fighting this and that enhances misery. It does not mean to be coward and defeatist but to be smarter.
5) I am always trying to express love, compassion, understanding, patience and generosity to others living
beings and this is why I am a therapy dog in Oakville going to different places.
6) Finally, I do practice daily mindfulness meditation by looking at the garden without trying to analyze what
I see. By focusing of the view or the sounds of Nature, my mind is almost frozen. It has lost its control and this is serenity, this is awakening. No divine skill here.