On an unseasonably warm and humid February morning, a frizzy haired girl and a frizzy furred dog head out on a hike. Oliver, the dog, hops up onto the front seat of my car with a wagging tail and complete trust. As I begin to drive, I wonder what he’s thinking - does he get nervous in the car, does he gaze at me lovingly because he’s excited, or does he feel carsick? We crash over one of the many potholes in my area and Ollie’s ears quickly perch as his head snaps to look at me -- “It’s okay” I reassure.
The simple words: “it’s okay” are said in that special tone you save for your favorite animal friend -- that sing-songy calming voice allows him to feel that we are indeed okay, and safe. Animals are sensitive beings and pick up on energy, so I am always fascinated about how his actions and behaviors correlate to mine. I have been dog-sitting Ollie for the past few days, so as Auntie, I am a hyper-vigilant sitter that provides him with plenty of treats and mindless chatter. As he lays in his dog bed and lets out an ujjaii* breath, I’m reminded of just how sattvic* a dog's life is and how animals teach us so many lessons. Here’s the lesson from today: It’s okay, really.
We arrive at our destination, a hiking path called Boneyard, and are ready to get moving. The path is slightly steeper than I remember and with the melted snow, it’s muddy and slippery. This of course is not a barrier for Ollie, and when we are hiking just the two of us, it is always nice to see how he knows to wait for me, looking back occasionally to check-in, versus chasing after our companion ahead of us. He doesn’t need much encouragement and as we get up the steepest climb his tail is wagging, tongue flapping, and we both are happy to be outside!
Then, the gun shots begin. One after another, a complete firing brigade breaks out. Ollie’s tail turns down to the ground, he crouches slightly, and looks at me -- frozen. I again, offer the only consolation I can: “It’s okay.” He stays relatively calm, most likely because I’m not alarmed. We are hiking along a path behind the police academy and shooting practice just happens to be when we are there. I reassure him until it’s over, explain to him what’s happening, and after the banging stops, we carry on our merry way. The second time the shooting begins, he looks a little more curious; he still looks at me for safety, but then he climbs a little faster to see if he can see where it’s coming from. By the third round, we have reached the apex and both watch the line of cops' target practice down below.
When you truly love an animal, I think it’s nearly impossible to not narrate their thoughts or to talk to them like they can understand our words. They definitely understand tone, energy, and expression. If I were to scream and start running as the gunshots began, Ollie would have responded very differently. To me, I see this all as an analogy of how God looks after us. We may not always, or perhaps ever, hear the words “it’s okay” from the divine spirit or God, but we can certainly feel that things are okay. We may see a sign through nature, numbers or words on license plates, songs on the radio, or even that little voice from within that provides us that calm, soothing almost sing-songy tone to know everything is okay.
As Ollie, and all animals, have (or should always have) complete trust, loyalty, and 100% confidence in their human companion, we must have that same trust, loyalty, and confidence in God, in the universe, in spirit, or whatever else you want to name the all that is. The reassuring voice that lets us know everything really is OK comes from within, and when fear strikes, we can freeze, just like Ollie, and wait to hear, listen, and sense that all is truly well.
Ujjaii is a breathing technique that is often explained as a Darth Vader breath. As you inhale and exhale you slightly contract the back of your throat, which results in a soft, baby snore. This breath helps to lower blood pressure and gain focus.
Sattvic is a state of mind or attitude that is balanced, harmonious, and serene.