I recently heard the renowned religious scholar and spiritual author Karen Armstrong define what I think is a very lazy and loving approach to discovering God. She suggested looking in nature, in other creatures, and in other people. She then added something that touched my heart, because in this last year I have found myself practicing something I call doggie meditation: "Look into the eyes of an animal and you can see the divine there, something absolutely sacred. Just keep your mind open and look for God."
Every day I spend some time simply focusing on giving love to my two dogs, Lucy and Tallulah. I always start by focusing on them, and then it becomes this beautiful flow of giving and receiving love, back and forth. It never fails to create stillness in me. While this is a pretty instinctive thing that people do with their animals, giving and receiving, and using them as the blood pressure lowering devices that they happily offer to us, I have made it a regular practice over these last months as I have been contemplating the concept of love as I write my new book. It makes me feel as calm and whole as my meditation practice. These little fur-covered Buddhas teach me every day. But now that I am focused daily on their gifts, I am even more deeply grateful for their presence.
Recently, I heard another teacher say that dogs never forget their mission on this planet, while we humans do. The implication was that we are all put on this Earth to love, and yet we consistently forget and lose sight of our assignment. Our canine comrades never forget their love duties though.
It turns out that some of our greatest teachers on the subject of love are the little monks in dog's clothing. If we can grab a fleeting moment of knowing something greater than ourselves, whether labeled love or God, we are better for knowing and honoring that which touches our hearts. I think they deserve those treats more than we even know.
I used to struggle with the concept of God and know many people who still do, so it struck me that Karen Armstrong's words are such a sweet simple suggestion for seekers. Start with nature, dip into the love of an animal, or wherever you see the divine, sit there for a moment with it, and let it touch your heart.
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