Last week I talked about how I stumbled into joy and how strange it was to be so happy for no reason. It shouldn’t be strange because joy is my true nature. But as anyone who has suffered with depression will know, that’s not an easy thing to remember. Especially on a bad day. Depression is a black hole that sucks in everything else. The darkness can seem so real and solid, like it will never change. But that’s a lie.
Everything changes. All you have to do is stop listening to the lie. You can turn it around, use the lie against itself and it implodes. You transmute the poison of darkness into the medicine of awakening. On a good day.
On a bad day, you need a little help.
In an earlier post about Bluebeard I said that your true nature was the ultimate weapon against the predator in the psyche. To free yourself from its power you need to see how you collude with your own unconsciousness, how you wilfully make yourself suffer. That’s not an easy thing to do because it can make you feel worse for a while.
But your true nature – your deep soul wisdom – knows what you need and is constantly reaching out to guide you along the way. If you know where to look and how to listen, you will catch her whispers on the breeze and her sharp elbow to the ribs. When you’re really stuck, she’ll come at you from outside. From the Bluebeard post:
“She’s the bird that sings when you need cheering up, the sun that comes out at just the right moment, and on the day you decide to give up for good, she’s the dog that appears on your path and makes you laugh and change your mind. But that’s another story for another time…”
And that (finally) brings me to the point of this post. I want to tell you the story of the happy dog.
On a good day I can remember who I am. But sometimes I can’t. On this particular day, I was determined to be miserable. Thankfully, my true nature wasn’t about to let me get away with it and sent an angel disguised as a black and white greyhound with eyes the colour of a clear summer day to bounce me out of my foul mood.
It was a freezing winter day. I had trudged up to the shop and was now returning, weighed down by two plastic bags stuffed with oats, veg and tins of soup. The air was clear and crisp, but my gaze was fixed on the frozen mud under my boots. The path runs through the trees in Ouseburn, and normally I would be watching for birds in the branches, but not on this day.
On this day I was depressed. All the usual thoughts were spinning through my head: what’s the point in anything, why do I even bother, what would it matter if I wasn’t here, and so on. I was heavily fixated and brooding, but at the same time another part of me was putting up a feeble resistance. I knew I was being stupid, thinking these thoughts, and that I had a choice to stop, but I didn’t care. I was basically sulking and throwing an almighty ego shit fit over nothing.
And then further down the path something moved. I raised my eyes from the mud and saw the greyhound. In that moment, she also saw me and froze, mid bound, ears skew-whiff and blue eyes fixed on me.
Her demeanour suggested extreme exuberance. If she could speak, she would have shouted:
“Hooray! A new person to be friends with!!!!!”
And with that (imaginary) shout, she bounded towards me up the path and ran in circles around me, several times, tail going bananas.
By this time, I was laughing and saying hello to the dog and grinning at her owner like I had just been let out of the asylum for the day.
Off they went up the path behind me and I continued to the steps that would take me down to the path below and through the valley. Halfway down the steps I stopped, still chuckling to myself about the dog, and thought: Where’s my bad mood gone?
It had vanished as if it had never been. Then along came the next thought:
If it was that easy for the black mood to be utterly wiped out, and so fast, then it can’t have been real.
I had known it wasn’t real from the start, of course, but was being wilfully ignorant for reasons best known to my beleaguered ego and its minions: fear, pride and (more) fear.
I stood on the steps, my shopping bags cutting into my freezing hands, and marvelled at the transformation triggered by the happy dog. And then I realised this:
I want to be like that dog. I want to be that happy, that joyful, that alive – all the time.
Is that possible? In theory, perhaps.
Dogs don’t have egos. There’s no front with a dog, no bullshit. They’re not trying to sell you anything. A dog is totally present and can only tell the truth.
If nothing else, this gives me the perfect excuse to quote a brilliant homage to a dog by Wei Wu Wei:
He is a better dog that I am a man,
and sometimes a better man also.
I do not pat him, I bow to him.
I called him my dog, now I wonder if I am not his man?
I reckon we could all learn a few things from dogs. They certainly know how to enjoy life!