The path of the heart
Back when I was in university I attended a class on Carlos Castaneda’s books, The Teachings of Don Juan series. Ah, those were the days. For the uninitiated, the books, written as a recounting of Carlos’ experience with the shaman Don Juan, are full of magical experiences and lessons for living what some might call, an enlightened life. They were, and still are by many, believed to be a non-fiction account of Carlos’ adventures both spiritual and physical in the deserts of Mexico with his teacher and guide Don Juan.
Written in the late 1960’s they were perfect for the introspection and questioning of the status quo of the decade and the age of the readers, college students faced with the challenges of entering a soul-sucking world. Don Juan was a ‘facing your fear and doing it anyway’ kind of guy. It’s not necessarily bad advice for people, except maybe teenagers who are contemplating doing something really stupid and would be better off listening to what their fear is telling them. But Don Juan was all about potential. And there was the peyote.
I’ve had a saying in my head for years which I attributed to one of the Castaneda’s books but now wonder if perhaps it was Lao Tsu who penned it, “A warrior is able to advance or retreat from any position.” I can’t find it, so let me know if you do. I like it. I think of it often in regard to fearful dogs. They too need to be able to advance OR retreat from any position. Too often the option to retreat is removed. It was Lao Tsu who said, “I would rather retreat a foot than advance an inch.” Probably another good one for fearful dog owners to keep in mind, though I’m not sure what it means in regard to war strategy.
The following quote comes from one of Castaneda’s books, it’s one of Don Juan’s lessons for Carlos. And per usual I think about it in the context of dogs. Dogs who, when given the chance, seem to always choose the path of the heart.
“Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”
One of the most fulfilling aspects of spending time with dogs has been paying attention to each individual and discovering what path their heart was on and being invited along for the journey.