I have been meditating for 20 years and recently I graduated myself to the “every moment of my life is a meditation” level which, apart from being irritating to other people (Ho Ho), is obviously a self-serving delusional rationalisation enabling release from the frankly boring business of sitting still for 45 minutes every day. Of course, as a practised meditator, I have learnt to recognise and accept such frailties without judging myself. And then I let them go. Poof! Done. But I still need to be re-minded and Hector leads the way.
Often I will be busying about in my usual speed-of-light way when I will notice Hector suddenly stop whatever he is doing and freeze. He seems to be listening intently; to a footfall in our alleyway, perhaps, a distant bird, or, if I were to be fanciful, to the angelic harmonics of the universe, inaudible to human ears. Anyway, he is, in these moments, Attention personified. So I stop and listen too.
When we go out, his uncomplicated enjoyment of everything he encounters, his absolute ‘hereness’, is infectious. I begin to relax into my stride, my shoulders drop, I take deep breaths, consciously feeling every muscle working. And soon the dull mist of banal mental list-making and bothersome tax returns clears to reveal the morning, the satisfying shape of Bothen Hill, the various shades of the sunrise, (and, this morning, Celia, in mismatched wellies on the wrong feet!) Result!
Dogs, they say, live in the moment all the time. And given the zeitgeisty fashion for Mindfulness these days it may explain why dogs and all things doggy are gathering momentum in the media by the minute. I bet if I started looking on the internet I would unearthe some weird conspiracy theorist type nerd who thinks that aliens are planting more and more dogs in our midst to teach us lessons in compassion, forgiveness, presence and what have you, in preparation for the coming of the Age of Aquarius or something. I will not be a bit surprised if Ekhart Tolle produces ‘A Little Book of Dogs’ by the end of the year.
I have to say, I am not entirely convinced that Hector does live in the present. For a start, he spends at least two hours of every day in an anticipatory fever for the future; that is, half an hour before walkies twice a day when he appears with a lead in his mouth, and half an hour before mealtimes when he sits by the kitchen door wagging his tail hopefully. Not very Zen, if I may say so, Heccy.
Leaving that quibble aside though, The Zeitgeist certainly moves in mysterious ways. I never imagined when I got Hector that I was part of some mass cultural Dogs R Us moment. But it is becoming clear that I am. And it is surprisingly comforting too, now that I am old and alone, to see that I am not, after all, An Individual, as I hoped when I was young, but, happily, swooping about like a starling in formation with a lot of other people of my ilk or generation.
And if people believe that dogs have something to teach us, apart from being loyal footwarmers, I am happy to go along with it. God knows, every guru I ever fancied following has turned out to be clay-footed if not an out-and-out abuser. I might as well follow a muddy dog. Hector has taught me how to put something before myself again. And not before time. Ding! Saved by the bell!
I’m an old dog on the rough road, with a puppy on the path to some kind of enlightenment, I hope.