I love a good quote. That may be part of the reason I faithfully read a bit of my favorite book Meditations from the Mat every single day. In the book, author Rolf Gates infuses volumes of tangible wisdom in a manageable day-to-day format. Each day begins with a quote and is followed by a short essay exploring an applicable aspect of the eight limbs of yoga. Every page inspires me to grow, love, and cultivate peace. I highly recommend this book to anyone who’d like to deepen their yoga practice, take their yoga off the mat and into their lives, or just enjoy a daily push in a positive direction. I think day 312 might just be my favorite. I love the sentiment, and it seems to rattle around in my head whenever I need it. The quote for Day 312 is:
I recently ran across a story about a Native American tribal leader describing his own inner struggles. He said, “There are two dogs inside of me. One dog is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” Someone asked him which dog usually wins, and after a moment’s reflection, he answered, “The one I feed the most.” ~Rabbi Harold S. Kushner
In the essay that follows, Rolf shares that he’s found that “…the greatest motivator for consistent application of spiritual principles is pain. The memory of some recent failure, embarrassment, or anxiety supports me in my efforts to to apply some forgotten truth to my life.” Unfortunately, it often takes feeding the evil dog for most of us to remember when we’ve been neglecting the good dog. Luckily, if we’re paying attention, there is always a lesson to be found in our mistakes. Maintaining our spiritual health and tapping into the peace and happiness that exists within ourselves requires us not to be afraid of the evil dog, but to consistently and consciously love and nurture the good dog. Over time, the practice of avoiding pain becomes a habit of cultivating happiness.
So how do you feed the good dog? Well, I think every individual has to look inward to find the answer that feels true to them, but I can share at least one golden opportunity to toss the old good dog a juicy bone.
I don’t know about you, but for me, rush hour traffic is a prime time to practice patience, restraint, and love. Hey, I didn’t say it was an easy practice, just a readily available opportunity to practice. The evil dog in me begins to invent new and more effective swear words and gestures to direct through glass, across lanes, and at the back of the head of whatever idiotic driver has obviously purposely decided to make my commute unpleasant. While this ugly form of venting may offer me momentary satisfaction, it doesn’t change my level anxiety or pull me into a positive direction. The good dog, when I choose to call upon her, turns up the radio, starts breathing calmly and rhythmically, and begins to list all of the things I am grateful for. It’s hard to be angry and grateful at the same time. Before I know it, I remember that we are all just trying to get to a better place, and if I can just relax and accept that I can’t change the pace, I might even get to enjoy the ride. Bingo. Score one for the good dog, and as an added bonus I have taught my kids (the ever observant sponges in the back seat) to react to a stressful situation with love and gratitude.
How else can you feed the good dog? If you’re looking for an opportunity, you can always contribute to my yoga teacher training fund by making a donation via PayPal, shopping in my boutique, buying my prints, or booking a photo session with me! See you next time. Namaste!