A New Leash on Life

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love dogs. It doesn’t matter what breed, size or age – they make me feel blissfully content and never fail to elevate my mood. I’m convinced that those male dating coaches who advise men on how to pick up women by walking cute dogs in the park, had women like me in mind. I’ll approach a complete stranger at a cafe, or on the street, just to engage their canine companions. I’m an equal opportunity animal lover, but if I’m being 100% honest, cats just don’t do it for me like dogs do. Cats always seem so aloof, so emotionally unavailable, that they

Jimmy Chew, my faithful protector and full-time family rejector.
“I like lil’ mutts and I cannot lie….”

represent men that I’d never date or friends that I wouldn’t mind losing. Dogs, on the other hand…well, there’s just something so pure about the raw expression of their needs, that they just seem so…honest to me. They’re often loyal to a fault, and the majority that I’ve come across, just love being loved. Luke Skybarker*, my German Shepard/Lab mix, lives to please and protect my family. He’s a “working dog.” One that’s been bred with a distinct purpose in mind, whether that’s herding animals or protecting its home and family. I cherish him, and, also, Jimmy Chew*, my chihuahua/terrier mix, although, he serves a completely different emotional purpose. His canine footprint is tiny, but his presence is large. I adopted him from a shelter, and lore has it that he was abandoned with his litter mates in a dirty barn somewhere in Modesto, California. I fostered this feral little dog, and he imprinted upon me like a newborn duckling, totally at the expense of loyalty and affection for the rest of my family, and feels no shame in his lack of familial warmth for everyone else. They could move out of the house tomorrow, and he wouldn’t miss a bark or experience the feeling of loss for the very people who keep him alive. Out of all the things that he’s expressed, he’s made one thing quiet clear: he’s a one woman dog. I guess this makes sense: The Maya used to view the ancient predecessor of the Chihuahua as guardians of the afterlife, and would often kill dogs after their owner’s death, and bury them alongside their masters, so that they could accompany them into the next world.  Frankly, I think this ritual wasn’t spiritually based, but, rather, recognition that no one else could command respect from these mercurial, little buggers and deal with them after their owners had passed. It was more of a mob clean up job, than an act of spiritual elevation. If nothing else, the chihuahua is a “ride or die” companion.  If I was bedridden with an illness, or stricken with a life threatening disease, I know that I would never be left alone with little Jimmy Chew in my life. Whichever the dog, or strange peculiarity of the breed, I am so grateful that they play such a selflessly pivotal role in my happiness and well-being. I hope that I do the same for them.

*I’ve changed the names of my dogs in order to protect the guilty.

additional articles on the health benefits of dog ownership:

10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Dog Owner, Mental Floss: http://bit.ly/MentalFlossDoggydog

The Ten Health Benefits of Dogs (And One Health Risk), Huffpost, http://bit.ly/huffpodoggydogs

More Evidence that Owning a Dog is Really Good for You, Time, http://bit.ly/Doggydogs

Mindfulness & Planting the Seeds of Compassion

woman-yoga
Prayer Position

Spring traditionally represents the season of birth and renewal. Although, this is usually associated with nature, you’ll find that life also operates in similar cycles. It turns out that Spring isn’t just a great time to reorganize and clean, but to also take inventory of one’s spiritual life. No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs, Run Stella Run wanted to share The Five Mindfulness Trainings observed and practiced in Buddhism, which operates on the basic precept that it’s critical that one lives in a state of compassion and self-awareness, given that all life is inextricably “intra-connected” or as expressed in Buddhism, a state of “interbeing.” The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the Buddhist’s vision of spiritual and ethical behavior, and to cultivate a level of self-awareness about oneself and others is believed to help remove the presence of discrimination, fear, anger, intolerance, pain and despair.  Perhaps, you’ll find something in these teachings that resonates with you, your belief system, or religion. Whatever the case, no one has claimed that acting with compassion and love for others has ever hurt anyone. These five principals have been condensed in complexity, but they provide great guidelines for a healthy physical and spiritual life. Upon reading the five teachings, what are some of the ways that you can apply these teachings to your every day life? Perhaps, volunteer with an environmental organization? Behave with greater love, patience and understanding with a spouse or loved one? Refrain from gossipy, demeaning or mean-spirited behavior? Sorry, that means anonymous online trolling, too! Feel free to share practical ways that people can apply these principals in the comments section below, and good luck on your personal, spiritual journey this Spring and beyond.

  1. Reverence for Life –  Acknowledge the suffering caused by the destruction of life and commit to expressing compassion by being a loving and responsible steward and protector of people, animals, plants and living things. Understand that harmful and damaging behavior arises out of  greed, anger, intolerance and fear-based emotions, so try to be open-minded and unattached to ideas in order to live without the cloud of bias and discrimination.
  2. True Happiness – Commit to practicing generosity in thought and deed and understand that true happiness is only possible with understanding and compassion. Suffering is universally shared, and not separate from your own, so reducing other peoples’ pain, also reduces yours. Live in mindfulness that pursuing wealth, fame, power and physical pleasure can lead to negative, unintended consequences and suffering. Also, understand that true happiness is a state of mind and can be achieved in one’s current state of being, and is not dependent on external conditions and material possessions.
  3. Loving Speech and Deep Listening – Listen to others with respect and compassion to help eliminate division, suffering and pain, and to help promote healing and reconciliation. Words can create happiness or suffering, so be conscious of the words that that you use and refrain from speaking in anger, pain and untruth. Words have the ability to spread happiness, joy, encouragement and inclusiveness, and, also create the opposite; so refrain from using words as weapons of individual or mass destruction. If you feel that you’re tempted to speak in anger; breathe, take stock of your emotions and refrain from speaking until you’re in a more positive frame of mind.
  4. Nourishment & Healing – Commit to cultivating good physical and spiritual health for yourself, your family and society; and be conscious of engaging in needless consumption, which can cause pain and suffering. Seek and consume mentally and physically nourishing things and eliminate those things that are toxic to the body, mind or spirit (food, drinks, drugs, websites, electronic games, magazines, etc…). Establishing a greater level of mental and physical peace, happiness and joy, will have a positive impact on oneself, other individuals and society at large.