Monday, March 4, 2013


This weekend I went on a spiritual retreat. We spent much of our time in meditation when we weren't receiving teachings. The retreat was restorative for a number of reasons. For one thing, it brought me back to a peaceful space I haven't experienced in some time. For another, it inspired me to return to practices that I once followed daily but which I have let slide for the last couple of years.

Most importantly, though, the weekend brought me back to the most fundamental of all spiritual "knowings", and that is the sacredness of existence in all its forms and permutations. For at the heart of all existence is a compassionate awareness which some call God, others call Buddha nature, and still others call atman. And, no matter how life may beat us down, turn us ugly, or make us callous, that shining, sacred, unchangeable heart of love and compassion can be aroused under the right circumstances.

Coincidentally, Rufus and I had adopted a rescue dog the day before, a Siberian husky named Spike.

Spike is two years old, the same age as Sunny and Storm, our existing Siberian huskies. He had lived his whole life chained to a post in his owner's yard. He had never been inside a house, never received any training or socialization, never been groomed. He had lived without companionship, for his owners mostly ignored him while they went about their lives.

We took him with the understanding that we could return him if he couldn't adapt to our household.

Almost immediately, Spike showed himself willing and able to adapt. He understood right away that eliminating in the house was inappropriate. He followed the other boys out to the yard to find an acceptable bathroom. He also adapted enthusiastically to indoor living--so much so that he showed himself unwilling to spend any time outside. He'd had enough of that! Best of all, he bonded with Sunny and Storm and with us. We were amazed at how affectionate and sweet-tempered he turned out to be.

The most astonishing to me, though, was how easily he learned to walk on a leash without pulling. The day after we got him, he was already walking with the pack as if he'd always done it.

We changed his name to Chance. He's not a Spike, an aggressive, threatening powerhouse. He is a wonderful dog that had never had a chance at life.

But now he does.
Chance in his new home

Here's the point:  the label Chance carried in his old home had no bearing on who he really is. He was not a fierce dog who needed to be chained so that animals and humans would be safe. Instead, he is an easy, companionable dog willing to learn the rules, desperate to follow and to please anyone who would take the time to teach him how to live with humans.

Maybe we can learn something from Chance. Maybe the labels we put on others are projections of our own fears and biasses. Maybe if we remove the labels we will experience what they really are underneath.

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