What Peaches Taught Me
I have a new neighbor. Her name is Peaches. I met her last spring and we got along; since I’ve been back our friendship has deepened. She comes over and visits me at home almost every day.
She’s my neighbor’s hound dog, and he is adamant about not restricting her freedom. I have a couple of neighbors with dogs who roam free, so I’m starting to think more seriously about what kind of fence I want, and putting it up sooner rather than later. I might be able to train the dogs to stay out of my garden beds, but I don’t think I can train them not to poop in my yard or walk on my pretty lava formations, so a fence it is. The dog owners tell their neighbors that if they don’t want the dogs to come over, yell at them to go away, and for goodness sake don’t feed them. I love dogs, and I love plants, and I love my lava formations, so for now I’m petting the dogs and telling them what good dogs they are, and letting the plants and lava suffer, and planning the fence that will protect my yard.
I didn’t intend to feed Peaches. Then I was cooking steak, and she showed up SO excited. I found that I didn’t have the heart to deny her the thing she so desperately wanted. Caring is sharing. So I decided if I was going to feed her, at least I wanted her to lay down, rather than stick her nose in my face, wiggling all over.
“Lay down,” I told her. No response. “Sit.” She sat. “Lay down.” No response. I pointed my finger at the ground by her head, and she stood up and started smelling the ground by my finger, searching for the food she thought I was pointing out, hitting everything with her wagging tail. Oh geez. We repeated that cycle several times, and I realized I didn’t have the body language to communicate what I wanted. So I tried ignoring her. Bingo! After a while of me eating while ignoring her, she laid down and I could feed her some tasty tidbits.
Last night I was eating chicken skewers and she came over again. She still understood sit, and she still didn’t understand the finger pointed at the ground. When I ignored her, she laid down a couple of feet away, and when I grabbed a tidbit for her, she immediately stood up and starting wiggling in my face. I decided to try something new, and told her to sit, then pushed on her shoulders a bit when I told her to lay down, rather than pointing my finger at the ground. Bingo! She laid down, got her tidbit, and stayed laying down for the rest of the meal. I’m confident that she’s starting to get it, and each time we share food she’ll get faster at figuring out that she has to lay down in order to get fed.
It reminded me of all those times in my life when I’ve been struggling and straining to achieve some goal to no avail, so I give up, and in the moment of giving up, or shortly thereafter, what I was struggling to get falls in my lap. It’s a common belief in my circle of friends that wanting something too much can actually push it away. It’s easy to see this principle at work in relationships. I recently watched a movie where two people were on their first date and had been having a great time for several hours. Then the guy told the woman he wanted to marry her and support her while she raised their children in a villa in Mexico. She fled the scene and there was never a second date. The dude’s desperate grasping for a mate was sabotaging his chances of finding one.
Historically, I’ve compared this to trying to pick up something small and light floating in water. I had noticed that some objects in water are very hard to get. When I would move my hand towards them in the water, the water I was pushing with my hand would also push the object; if I tried to move faster, the water would just push it away faster. If I tried cupping my hands around the object, and bringing them to the surface, more often than not the object would escape right as my hands got close to the surface, sliding over the edge of my trap with the water that was getting displaced by the movement of my hands. I found I couldn’t just go straight for the object, I had to coax it towards me by creating water currents that would bring it to me, rather than the water currents that were pushing it away.
Me experience with Peaches gave me a new idea. I believe in higher selves and spirit helpers; what if they train me in the same way I train Peaches? When I am struggling and straining for something, maybe that’s the equivalent of me begging in their face while wiggling and waggling all over the place, and when I give up, that’s the equivalent of me laying down. Whenever Peaches laid down, I tried to give her food as soon as possible, so she could make the connection between the two. I have experienced the moment of success following the moment of giving up so often, I feel that I am being trained as well.
The other thing I did to help Peaches lay down, pushing on her shoulders, also has a parallel in my life. Sometimes I’m going at something one way, pushing and pushing, and life constrains me or pushes me in another direction. I often don’t like it or don’t understand it at first, yet so often unforeseen benefits result. One year I was headed back to Hawaii, then discovered it would be better to push back my trip a couple of months for personal reasons. I was forlorn, until my friend invited me to come live in Beijing with her. I still missed Hawaii, yet I still got there eventually, and meanwhile I got to experience China first-hand, which I felt especially grateful for given its superpower status (since the 90s, I had been reading in The Economist that China would eventually overtake the U.S. as the biggest superpower; when I arrived in Beijing, my gut feeling was, “Oh, it already happened, U.S. citizens just don’t know about it yet.”)
I like comparing my relationship to animals and children to my relationship with spiritual beings, because it lets me understand how there are things that I can’t understand. There are certain things I can communicate to animals and children, and other things are impossible. A dog won’t ever understand calculus; a baby doesn’t understand just about anything. If I take either one to get vaccinated, they’ll only feel the pain of the moment; they won’t understand the good motivation behind the pain. I believe that benevolent and unseen forces are helping me out; I also believe that their help is sometimes incomprehensible to me. I accept that when I feel thwarted, or in pain, there’s a chance that it’s all in my best interest. I also accept that my allies in the spiritual world might find me just as entertaining and adorable as I find Peaches, even though I still need some training.