“‘To be’ is to be inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing.”
––Thich Nhat-Hanh *
Ever since I can remember I wanted to have a dog. As a kid, I used to dream I would get one for Christmas or my birthday every year, then be disappointed at seeing it was my friends instead of me the ones getting the cherished puppy… A couple of weeks ago that childhood dream of mine came true as we adopted a one-and-a-half-year-old Bali dog somebody raised here as a puppy, then abandoned in the streets of Canggu. This happens a lot over here. It’s not a new story, nor exclusive to Indonesia; and of course, there is nothing heroic in our taking him in. We found it thanks to the magic of social media and since we had been thinking of getting a rescue dog for a while, we just jumped on it.
There wasn’t much time to think about the logistics, though; and so, I was not really aware life would change so much with such a seemingly simple decision. I mean, this is my first dog ever and, let me tell you, think same-species sharing can be tough? Then add all the limitations of not being able to speak bark-language to this equation... There’s a lot to be learnt from sharing your days and space with a significant other of a different species! The upside, however, is not merely that ‘Buddhi’ –that’s the name we’ve chosen and for a reason– just happens to be about the sweetest dog you’d ever dream of having. All he wants is to be around you 24/7 and chill and explore like most dogs! But instead, that having him by our side is teaching me a lot about myself, my boundaries, my habits and needs, about the unconditional and reciprocal nature of giving and receiving, and also about what it really means to be present and live a life of connection with everything that is.
We have written about similar things in the past in this blog, but this time my own thinking has been greatly informed by the innate way with which this four-legged creature goes about doing life every day. There is a certain immediacy to how dogs do things and something not short of mesmerizing in seeing him just pass out on the floor of the porch after enjoying a walk on the beach followed by the day’s meal. Life seems very straightforward uncomplicated from the perspective of a dog –perhaps because they’re not caught up in their own head-stories for the best part of their lives… And in fact, it is this ability of dogs to bring us from our headspace and into our heart that is most amazing. One look from Buddhi –never mind the context– and my heart melts. I'm disarmed. It takes a lot more for that to happen with non-dog entities!
One of the other things that I’ve noticed since we got him, is the amount of time I am now spending outdoors (walking or running) as opposed to sitting in front of the computer or a book to work or prepare stuff. I still work, but getting Buddhi has forced me to prioritize meaningful time outdoors in a way that was perhaps easier to procrastinate or avoid before. It hasn’t even been a conscious thing; I mean, Buddhi needs to go out to run and play with other furred maniacs, and so, I go with him. But such a matter-of-fact little change has transformed the quality and structure of my days entirely. Suddenly, I have to think about someone other than me and my partner –who, anyways, can take perfect care of herself– and look for places to explore and walk through with him, preferably far from big flocks of geese!
Suddenly, I’m discovering new spots I had never thought of going to, just to walk the dog, and noticing how in so doing my stress levels decrease and I feel a bit more grounded and part of everything around me. I feel fuller, happier. I knew that a life of connection had to begin in the first person, but I wasn’t aware of how second-nature it could all be. This made me think a lot of Thich Nhat-Hanh’s notion of ‘the interbeing’ and how everything in the universe –a piece of paper, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, yourself– is not just a thing unto itself, in isolation, but actually a series of relations we often fail to recognize, used to thinking in a much simpler and individual way. Everything is ‘a something’ in connection and in relation to everything that is. And thanks to Buddhi, I am now remembering to acknowledge those relations more often and how doing so positively affects my mood.
On top of this, there’s of course all the playfulness inherent in having a young dog; and I gotta say it’s quite amazing to see how the most mundane of things can become a super exciting toy or adventure in the eyes of a dog! It’s been another of those subtle reminders for me to take things less seriously on the regular. Because life is also about playing and reconnecting with the child within and our ‘interbeing’ does not not just have to take place on the outside, but must also take place deep within.
* Preface to Teach Breathe Learn by Meena Srinivasan.