“Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control”
When I worry about the fate of the human race (and who doesn’t?), I remind myself of the lessons I have learned from my dog, Kokomo. In Kokomo’s world, extremes of any kind are not relevant. He prefers the Middle Way.
This Buddhist philosophy has served us both well, especially me, since I have a tendency to ride the roller coaster of life from the heights of joy to the depths of despair. Through Kokomo’s teachings, I have learned to be more moderate in the demands I make on myself and others.
Let me show you the Middle Way through the eyes of my Golden Retriever (English Cream), Kokomo.
Lesson 1: Be authentic
I adopted Kokomo just after he left the puppy mill, where he had one job… stud. Yes, he is a very good-looking dog. Everyone tells me so.
People give me credit for his sweet temperament and cooperative nature, but I always explain that this is just how he is. Because he was six when adopted, I can hardly be responsible for his personality.
He was a stud on the farm because he has desirable qualities inside and out. I like to think that living with me may enhance these qualities, but I am probably being egocentric.
Rather, Kokomo is the one who helped me find a way to calm my nervous energy by accepting who I am. Not everyone can be beautiful and smart like Kokomo, but we all have our gifts and purpose.
Lesson 2: Choose your friends wisely
Being true to yourself is all well and good, but we also need to be surrounded by folks who we get along with, who are respectful, and who love us beyond measure.
There are very few people that Kokomo takes to right away. I think this is wise. Why trust people just because they offer you a treat or a scratch behind your ears? I have learned to choose my friends wisely so that I don’t get drained by people who are out of synch with themselves.
Lesson 3: Don’t give bullies the time of day
Kokomo has been attacked a couple of times out of nowhere by other dogs with such fierceness that most dog owners would expect a dog fight. Not Kokomo though.
He fell to the ground with the first head butt and lay motionless until I stepped in. The first time Kokomo was attacked, I worried he had been injured and that he would be shaken emotionally. Nope. Once the offending dog backed off, Kokomo got up off the ground and stood by unfazed, waiting to continue our walk.
Does he know that bullies want a fight and that if you don’t fight back they cave? This is a darned good lesson for me. If I am going to be true to myself, take on my responsibilities, and live out my mission, I need to be brave enough to face the bullies but not fight back. Never give a bully the time of day—not one little bit of satisfaction for their attacks.
Lesson 4: Don’t rush into anything
If Kokomo determines that things just don’t feel, sound, look, or smell right, I can’t get him to budge. He plants his little paws so firmly I would have to carry all 62 pounds of him. What’s the fun in that for either of us?
I have learned to let him have his way when he feels this strongly about something. Who am I to contradict how he feels?
This is one of those complex lessons, isn’t it? This lesson requires being respectful of the other person even when you can’t understand what’s going on with them. They have their reasons and that’s good enough.
As for me, I have my reasons too and don’t need to explain them to anyone. I could be wrong, but if I don’t get the go ahead from my own inner knowing I have learned to take my time.
Lesson 5: Be charming and persistent
My grandfather used to say, “You get a lot more with honey than you will with vinegar.” Kokomo exudes this principle, especially when his goal is getting me to go for a walk. He is exceedingly charming and persistent.
But there’s more than just being charming or persistent. Kokomo and I are a team. We belong to each other. We trust each other. We share the walk.
He delights me with his cheerful doggy antics as we walk the neighborhood or the beach. He accepts the limitations that I impose, such as when he reaches the end of his 24-foot retractable leash. He stops and waits for me to signal that he can go on again. He waits patiently when I stop to talk to humans along the way.
At the end of a long day, when my work is done, dinner is cleared from the table, and we’ve had our evening stroll, Kokomo contentedly snuggles me while I read or watch TV. Charming.
There are many more lessons I have learned from Kokomo over the last two years we have shared together, but underlying all of them is the lesson to fully recognize that the only way to a peaceful life is to give up the illusion of control. If you want to have abundant love and peace, you don’t need that illusion anyway. All you need is to:
- Be authentically you
- Surround yourself with trusted friends
- Quietly ignore bullies
- Be respectful of your own and others’ inner knowing
- Charmingly persist toward your goals