The other night an old friend asked me if I was happy. Such a core question, and I knew I had a core answer, but my thoughts went to the anxiety I have been experiencing. Dog training continues to lead me outside my comfort zone.
What continues to lead you outside your comfort zone/into new territory? Becoming a parent? A relationship or marriage? A new job or a new business? A health issue?
Inde and I have accomplished a lot but there are areas where he ignores me that frustrate me. I know he’s got it in him to respond to my commands because sometimes he’s right on with them. He’s also only 1 ½ years old. And I am a contributing factor. The frustrating part is that my side is not always so clear to me and the added anxiety over having a Therapy Dog test coming up isn’t helping matters.
My friend’s question reminded me that I have a core answer to what happiness is that I have neglected to apply here. I was grateful to be able to look it up in my list of "Trishdoms" because the ‘me’ who has been driving this stress-fueled car in this new territory doesn't have the answer. She's been barking up the wrong tree in pursuit of happiness.
Happiness is not about the fulfillment of desires; it is about honoring your heart along the way.
I've been giving the car keys to the 'self' who thinks that I will be happy when Inde's fully trained yet in reality, Inde's performance does not determine my happiness. It makes me impatient to think it does and it takes me out of the moment of enjoying him and the journey. Not only is that too much pressure from my end of the leash, but Inde lives in the moment. My shoulders relaxed the minute I remembered what I know to be true.
When I apply this understanding of happiness, I can see everything I strive for (versus already have) as an opportunity to get to know where I honor my heart and where I struggle with that honoring. Where there is no struggle happiness is instantaneous. Where there is struggle, happiness begins the moment we become aware of it and continues as that struggle is reconciled in our own heart. When honoring our heart eludes us, it may be indicating that we have learned something dysfunctional that is best to be unlearned.
I see it clearly with my dog training. Inde reads my energy. (kids do too) When I put too much pressure on him I'm in fear and when I'm apologetic I'm in fear too. When I ask him apologetically to do something he ignores me, but when my command is non-negotiable—clean and clear—he’s all ears. It’s not even so much that he ignores me; I don't think he even hears me. When I come across as a weak leader he feels a need to take over. He doesn’t necessarily want to take over nor is he capable, it’s just that in the dog world somebody’s got to be the pack leader and it’s defaulting to him when my energy is weaker than his. Sometimes it takes me a little while to figure out that my requests are tainted with fear but I'm so happy for the realization. It is a happiness that comes from within.
Have you ever felt ignored or not heard and thought the other person needed to change for you to be happy? It can be maddening.
I don’t want Inde to behave because he fears me, or have to isolate him or make others deal with the unruliness I can't figure out how to tame rather than get the training I need to be the alpha. I want him to respect me. Where he already does shows me where I am already honoring my heart and where he doesn’t or is inconsistent is showing me where I have some work to do. I’m sure you would rather have your kids, your peers, or your spouse respect you than fear you. Getting there can be challenging but the effort makes your heart and everyone else's very happy.
When I focus on the goal as the fulfillment of my happiness I get in a power struggle with it because a goal was never meant to have that kind of power. Figuring out how to honor my heart involves identifying where I go astray, why and getting back into my power. It can take a little longer up front but the rewards are much farther reaching than merely pushing for a goal. They can even be life-altering. To follow is an example of how it works.
Inde is learning to be off leash. I live in a wooded area so traffic is not an issue, but being respectful of our neighbors, wildlife and the leash law is, at least to me. I have a 30-foot lead to keep him from straying too far but I feel guilty putting it on him because he seems so much happier when running free without it. He’s mostly great but then I’m mad when he ignores me to chase the neighbor’s car or to follow a scent. And I’m most mad when he comes back stinking like you-know-what because he has rolled in something nasty. I do have to give him credit for always coming back though.
When I get mad at Inde my heart feels terrible afterwards. I’ve considered a fence in my moments of despair, but I’m holding out for honoring my heart which means to figure out why I believe the 30-foot lead is mean because it’s not. It’s just an age appropriate training tool while I teach him what I want from him when he’s off leash. Admitting to my feelings around this with curiosity brought up my past history of being controlled. When I know that what I’m doing is the most loving thing I’m relaxed about it. When I feel like I’m taking Inde's freedom away from him I’m apologetic. But in truth, I’m not taking anything away. That's just my old story which needs reconciling in my heart so that I don't project it onto Inde. In truth, we are training so that Inde can have that freedom I desire for him and so he can be safe, responsive and responsible with it. And in the meantime I'm giving him a freedom he can handle. In this way we can both relax and he’ll respect me because I am respecting him as a dog, my neighbors and passers by, and me as his human. That’s what leaders do! Now that I’m aware of my struggle I can’t wait to reconcile it in my heart and then be clean and clear with Inde.
This is some of my reconciling: I’m not honoring my heart when I’m giving Inde more freedom than he can handle because it’s not what’s best for him or me and now I know why. I’m fearful when I do this because I'm expecting him to feel toward me the way I felt toward my parents when they controlled me. Giving Inde too much freedom is overcompensating; it's the passive version of control—my way of getting him to like me. And now that I'm aware of it... not only YUK! But it doesn't work. My "madness" was from the "madness" of my own dysfunctional thinking. Operating out of fear saddens my heart and creates frustration rather than relaxation. My heart is happy when my love is clean and clear and my outer world is merely a reflection of that happiness. Honoring my heart in this way never creates frustration.
I have a new level of compassion toward my clients these days because just as I am learning to look at life in new ways brought about by adopting a rescue pup, so are they due to whatever circumstances brought us together. From this perspective we are all "rescue pups!" "Puppies" because we are in new territory, having new awareness's, new at owning where we have failed to honor our hearts and learning how to find our power within—a power we can thrive on. And "rescues" because we are rescuing and rehabilitating our hearts from the messes we’ve made when we dishonored them and getting untangled from the past where we were dishonored by someone else's dysfunctional thinking. Just like I have a trainer to show me what is effective and to watch me and listen to my struggles so that she can tell me what I am doing that isn’t working with Inde and how to correct it, I am that trainer of sorts for my clients.
Happiness itself is very simple. It’s the unlearning it takes to get there that can sometimes be complex but so worth it. When someone compliments me on Inde’s behavior it’s just frosting on the cake. I thought I was doing all these training classes because I wanted to have a good dog, and I do, but just as importantly I want to be a good human and for us to have a relationship my heart feels good about. I am grateful that life brought me this little 4-legged teacher to go the distance with.
- Who is your teacher—the one who pushes your buttons the most?
- Have you been attempting to control this teacher? Punish this teacher?
- Or are you exploring your contribution to why you aren’t currently feeling respected?
Enjoy the journey! It's meant to be enjoyed. Connecting the dots to the happiness within is adult fun for me! If you desire assistance you know where to find me.
Friends in this Love,
(Credit for the photo of me and Inde goes to my neighbor, Jenn Forrest. Thank you!)