Mungo came to us in February... he was rescued from a Welsh puppy farm, where he had spent the first five years of his life. Probably his only experience of love in all that time, since being taken from his mother, until he came to us, was the eight weeks he spent in a wonderful foster-home (you can read more about his early journey here).
As human beings, it's easy for us to get stuck in the story we are telling ourselves each day... we will continue to do a particular behaviour, or think particular thoughts, because we've always done it that way. We interact with the world because of the labels we give ourselves - or accept from other people - "Anxious", "Introverted", "Extroverted", "Victim", "Intelligent", "Stupid"... When labels give us permission to limit ourselves, then we don't have to take responsibility - instead we can blame the label, because the label gives us our story... without realising that it's also the story that is "proving" the label. Those "knots of our own making" that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about.
There's a wonderful poem by Marianne Williamson, called "Our Deepest Fear" (I have it on the wall in my office), and in it she explains that it's our light, not our darkness that frightens us... our deepest fear, she says, is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure...
In my work as a therapist and a trainer, I see many people who do change the stories they have been telling themselves, often for decades - it requires courage, and insight, and self-awareness, and self-compassion to do that, and I'm in awe every single time, because it proves the truth of Marianne's words...
And then I look at this beautiful little soul who has joined our family... every "first time" he does something new - like jumping up next to us on the sofa, or climbing up four steps instead of three, or allowing Luna to share his bed - he is releasing and re-writing a little bit of that old story and it makes my heart melt, because he's letting a little bit more of his light shine.
If he is not afraid to re-write his old story, why should any of us be? In Marianne's words, again, "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same..." If we are bringing that kind of inspiration into the world, then what can happen? That's another story - what if we were to write it?
The difference between a bad day and a good day is down to your own inner world of thoughts and feelings... Here I describe a short technique for interrupting negative thinking patterns so that you can begin to have fewer "bad" days and more "good" ones...
“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me’. Look what happens with a love like that – it lights the whole sky.” – Hafiz of Persia
Lily and her canine colleagues are all masters of the art of unconditional giving – and of receiving. Lily will happily spend long periods of time patiently cleaning Poppy’s eyes, or Theo’s ears – and they, in their turn, will happily let her. As a puppy, when teething, Theo would chew enthusiastically on his mother, Lily’s, ears, while she lay patiently, not seeming to mind the soggy outcome, or the subsequent crispiness of dried, licked fur.
What happens when we give somebody a gift, or an offer of help… Do we expect something in return? Are we offended if the person receiving it doesn’t like our gift, or chooses to give it away again to somebody else? The Aborigines would say, if we have that sort of attachment to a gift, then it is not a gift at all, it is something else. If it is a true gift then it is given unconditionally; we should not mind at all what the other person chooses to do with it, and certainly have no expectation of receiving anything in exchange.
And when somebody offers us a gift, do we receive it graciously and with gratitude – or do we feel beholden to the giver and consider that we have to reciprocate in some way? When we accept a gift with genuine gratitude we are already giving something back to the giver – the gift of true appreciation.
It’s that time of year again… enticing cooking smells drift from the Aga, the postman brings parcels to the door (much barking required from the canine members of staff), friends call in for a visit (more barking required – the dogs do take their jobs very seriously), fairy lights abound in the house and, to Daisy’s complete enchantment, a large tree has once again appeared in the living room.
Daisy absolutely adores the Christmas Tree – she wanders slowly around underneath the lower branches so that the pine needles scratch her back; an expression of bliss on her little face. Last year’s tree had an abundance of low branches, allowing her to disappear completely underneath and into the realm of The Presents (to our occasional consternation, as we wondered where she was). Her disappointment when the tree disappeared after Christmas was tempered by her eventual discovery that the two cypress trees at the top of the garden provided a similar effect, with the advantage of year-round accessibility.
This year, however, our tree’s lower branches tend more toward the upright and I was initially worried that with Daisy’s diminutive stature it might prove disappointing. However, immediately after its installation, Daisy discovered that she could still get the full Christmas Tree effect by executing a close circuit of the trunk. As far as Daisy is concerned, her Christmas is already complete.
...and the Canine Members of Staff