Living Beyond Fear, Anxiety, Anger, and Addiction
By Dean Sluyter
Copyright © 2018 by Dean Sluyter
All Rights Reserved
The Sweetest Dog in the World
When your fear kicks in—or your grief, or craving, or anxiety, or rage, or whatever you’ve got—there are two basic ways to mishandle it. You’ve probably tried both.
One way is to suppress it. As the word implies, that’s a matter of pressing it down. Unfortunately, when you pretend it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t go away. You’ve just temporarily pressed it somewhere out of sight, like sweeping dust under a rug. Often it gets pressed down into the body, where it may manifest as back pain, stomach problems, hypertension, or other stress-related ailments.
The other way, essentially the opposite of the first, is to indulge the feeling. Having perhaps tried to suppress the fear or anger or anxiety and failed, we swing in the other direction and let it take over. We sit smack in the middle of it as it becomes our whole reality, both the feeling and the story around it: this thing happened, and then that thing happened, and what if this other thing happens, and oh no oh no oh no oh no . . .
Clearly we need a more skillful way to navigate, one that steers between these two big rocks into the clear waters beyond. Who can help us out here?
Cue the dog!
Please imagine that the sweetest, most loving, most faithful, most empathetic dog in the world is sitting with you right now. You may be so fortunate as to have the sweetest dog in the world, in which case you don’t have to imagine. (If you’re a cat person . . . well, despite the stereotype of aloof disdain, I’ve met some deeply empathetic cats . . . but not many. Your call.) So here you sit, with the sweetest (let’s say) dog in the world. Wow, look at those beautiful eyes—the softest, clearest, most loving eyes imaginable. You can see that he (let’s say) is all heart. Go ahead, then, and tell him your story. Hard things happen in this life, and this is your chance to declare them. Pour out your feelings. Go all the way with it, totally spill your guts: all-out indulgence, the indulgier the better. The dog never cuts you off, never questions, never judges, and never loses interest. He pays rapt, loving attention.
Keep pouring out your story and all the feelings connected with it till there’s nothing left to pour. Then take a little breather, maybe walk around the block.
And now sit down and go through the story again, but with one big difference. This time, first close your eyes and imagine that you’re the dog. Feel what it feels like to be under all that doggie fur, inside that doggie metabolism, picking up the subtle aromas of your environment with your sharp doggie nose, looking around the room with your sweet doggie eyes.
And then—oh, here’s your dear human friend, the one you love so much. And now your friend is making those funny sounds with the mouth again. They’re not Sit! or Stay!, so they’re completely incomprehensible, but that doesn’t keep you from listening with unfailing attention and total, unquestioning love. In fact, that makes you the perfect listener. You don’t judge or disagree or agree, you don’t interpret or try to interject your own stories. You’re just wide open to all that wocka wocka wocka and to the feelings that it conveys. You can understand feelings, bighearted pooch that you are. So much upsetness! But it doesn’t stick anywhere inside you. It all goes straight to your heart, where it instantly dissolves into perfect, loving, open space.
In this way, just keep listening to the whole story, happily absorbing all those meaningless words, each of them gone and forgotten the moment you hear them, and keep lovingly receiving the feelings as they instantly dissolve in your doggie heart, till it’s all been once again told and poured out. And looking out through your eyes of doggie love, really see your human friend—so vulnerable, so sincere, just trying to get through life, just wanting to relax and be OK. Fortunately, you’re an expert. You can show your friend how it’s done, by doing nothing in particular but being as you are.