Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

My Dog Leash Aha Moment

I was walking my dog yesterday. I have a chocolate lab named Lucy. At four years old, she is still full of energy. The start of our walks usually involve her yanking and pulling, trying to go fast while simultaneously sniffing everything in sight. So I was using the technique the dog trainer taught us… saying the word, “steady,” as I gave a quick tug on the leash. Repeating… and repeating… and repeating and repeating… as needed. Usually at the beginning of our walk there is a lot of yanking and correcting going on. By the end, there is much less.

For some reason, I started thinking about how this technique could… and probably should… be applied to my kids. First of all, one of the first things you learn in dog training is… it’s not about the dog! In reality, the dog trainer is teaching the dog owner to behave in a way that is consistent and clear. So, if sometimes getting on the couch is ok… and sometimes it’s not… that is neither consistent nor clear. Similarly, as we try to implement house rules and guidelines for our children, we should focus on consistency and clarity. Much easier with dogs than children, I find! Is it really possible to have an exact bedtime that you enforce every night? If so, that skill has eluded me!  But the fact remains… if sometimes it’s ok to stay up until 10pm, watch TV for more than 90 minutes (Is that seriously the recommendation?) or have a sugary, caffeinated drink… then it makes sense that suddenly saying it’s not ok is going to be met with resistance!

As I was thinking about all of this, while continuously giving quick yanks on the leash and repeating the “steady” command, another analogy presented itself. It was right then that I had my dog leash aha moment. The dog trainer was very clear on the mechanics of this technique. It’s important not to allow the dog to pull you… if you do, the leash stays tight the whole time and the dog gets accustomed to the tugging and begins to ignore it. Right?!! Instead, you need to leave the leash loose… almost making it seem as though the dog is not on a leash at all… until the dog starts to pull (or get out of line) and then you provide a quick tug on the leash to provide some guidance and allow the leash to go loose again.

It made me realize that holding the leash too tight, whether it’s your dog (literally) or your kids (figuratively), does not allow for teaching. You have to allow the dog/kids to mess up, within reason, and then provide the quick and immediate guidance. If you just say the command, “steady” but don’t apply the quick leash yank, the connection is never made between the word and the action. On the other hand, if you hold the leash tight the whole time, again there is no connection between the misbehavior and the tightness on the leash. Now please don’t misunderstand… I’m not saying you should put a collar on your child, although I do think I may have seen that during a Disneyland trip once!. Nor am I implying that you should be physically inflicting pain in any way. What I’m saying is that providing quick and immediate feedback, with both verbal command and action (natural consequences of some kind) is a good technique to help your child learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

I’m imagining that, just like in dog training, the sooner you begin the process and the more consistently you apply it, the quicker you get results. I don’t actually believe that old adage, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks… so I’m hoping that it’s never too late to start this process. I have found with Lucy that I have to apply the steady/yank more in the beginning of the walk than towards the end. In fact, sometimes by the end of the walk, the verbal command is all that’s needed to settle her down and get her to stop pulling! Imagine that!!

So my hope is that this analogy is helpful to you, as I’m hoping it will be for me. Of course, it’s often (always?) much easier to learn than to apply. But alas, we can thank our amazing children for offering the ongoing opportunity to practice!

Love and light!!  ~Rashel

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Your One Wild and Precious Life

You may know Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day, where she asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. After having a health scare recently, the precious part is standing out more than ever! So much of our daily grind lends itself to forgetting the preciousness of every moment. Heads buried in cell phones 24/7… rushing from one important task to the next. Slowing down is no longer seen as something we deserve at the end of the day… it is seen as a precious luxury that somehow we just can’t afford. Shouldn’t all of our gadgets and gizmos be giving us more time rather than shrinking the line between work and play? What happened… and how do we get our time back?

And it’s not just the precious part that seems to be slipping away… it’s the wild part as well. The wild part… gives me pause. What does it mean to have a wild life, anyway? I don’t think Mary Oliver was referring to boozing and brawls. I think she was urging us to notice the daily opportunity we have to live on the edge. To push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and explore the wild adventure that is calling for us. Most of the time we’re too busy to notice… too caught up in daily chores and chaos to hear the calling. This busyness is hurting us. It’s cutting us off from the very nature that fills our soul… that makes us remember where we came from… and what we’re here to do.

I urge you to stop… right now… and take a deep breath. It is these moments that we must hold on to… and return to again and again. I’m ending with a nested poem that I wrote recently…

This moment.

What I have is this moment.
What I have is this moment and nothing more.
What I have is this moment and nothing more is needed.
What I have is this moment and nothing more is needed for my one wild and precious life.

love and light to you!  ~Rashel

 

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