The path of the heart

indian shaman womanBack 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.

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12 comments so far

  1. Uf on

    I’m not sure, but I think it could be from Paulo Coelho’s Manual of the Warrior of the light. Since it mentions a warrior.

  2. Brianne Villano on

    I love that quote. I was watching Glee last night, sitting on the floor crying like a baby (it was a super sad episode) and Raina came over to sit with me. She licked my tears from my cheeks and nuzzled my neck. The people who say she’s hyper or crazy don’t get to see what I see because those same people make her nervous and uncomfortable. But the truth is that she’s all heart.

    • fearfuldogs on

      I think there’s something to be said for having a finely tuned limbic system 😉

    • fearfuldogs on

      Plus- I can’t wait til more Glee is available on Netflix download.

  3. Amy@GoPetFriendly on

    Thank you for sharing that quote. I’m lucky enough to be one of the people that deliberated and traded the path with no heart for one that has. It’s still a lot of work, but I definitely don’t have to work at liking it.

    • fearfuldogs on

      You sure did Amy and my cup is raised to you. Don Juan never told Carlos it was gonna be easy 😉

  4. Kristine on

    Thank you very much for sharing this. I think I’ve always tried to live this way, to be true to who I am, even if I hadn’t thought about it consciously. When I think over all the mistakes I’ve made my only regrets come from the times I’ve left the right path – the path with the heart.

    • fearfuldogs on

      And thank you for reading and commenting Kristine. I know when I’ve been on the wrong path when I feel so much relief when I’ve strayed off of it.

  5. Karleen and AnxietyFreeZoey on

    Debbie, thank you for the quote.

    And what you said -“Dogs who, when given the chance, seem to always choose the path of the heart.” – is so true. Those dogs who turn out fearful, aggressive, anxious and withdrawn have most likely not been given the chance to choose their own path. Their paths are chosen for them by people who are also walking the path without a heart. These people drag the dogs along with them until the path is ready to kill them all.

    My Zoey (great dane/lab mix) was drug down that path by someone in her past before I met her and it did almost kill her. But with patience and allowing her to find the path of the heart on her terms and in her time, she has blossomed. She now gives me the unconditional love she had always wanted to give her previous person, if that person had only had the heart to see and accept it.

    Dogs are so genuine. We can learn so much from them.

  6. Louisa manning on

    Lovely 🙂 x

  7. Donna and the Dogs on

    Thank you for sharing that quote. It was inspiring!


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