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How a Stray Dog Taught Me the Value of Inner Peace

02/02/2015 01:35 pm ET | Updated Apr 04, 2015

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When I was a boy in small town Minnesota, there was a small dog living in my neighborhood. The pup, named Snapper, belonged to no one, but the entire neighborhood adopted the little guy as our own. The streets were safe, so Snapper was able to roam free, visiting the neighborhood homes at his leisure and enjoying scraps of food wherever they were given. During the adventures of our young neighborhood brigade, Snapper was our unofficial mascot. He led us bravely into imaginary battles, time and time again.

Snapper's nice demeanor, however, changed drastically in the presence of other dogs, especially bigger dogs (and most dogs were bigger than Snapper). He suddenly became nervous. His legs became stiff and his shaggy eyebrows curved downward. His tail, which usually spun with the velocity of a friendly helicopter propeller, stopped wagging mid-spin. Out came the teeth. It's not that Snapper didn't like other dogs. He did. But he had a sneaky suspicion that other dogs didn't like him. The poor fella, small and wrangly as he was, had an inferiority complex that came out in the presence of his fellow canines, even nice ones. Little Snapper barked and barked, trying to prove to all dogs within earshot that he was not, in spite of his size, to be taken lightly.

While it was hard not to admire his tenacity, we all felt bad seeing Snapper in this condition. He was clearly not in danger, yet he would go into a frenzy trying to defend 1) his turf, and 2) himself, when, in fact, neither of the two needed defending.

Making enemies out of shadows.

Our Ego is a lot like Snapper (but less cute and playful). It lives in a world of perceived danger. Even in times of perfect safety, the Ego has a tendency to invent a narrative where it is under attack, causing our thoughts and actions to become defensive. "My environment is not safe," the Ego says. "That person is trying to attack me. I need to defend myself. I need to fight." Because of its limited ability to perceive the underlying wholeness of the Universe, the Ego falsely interprets everything in your life to be under attack -- your finances, career, significant other, your peace of mind -- and therefore launches a preemptive strike, barking at the world to prove its bite.

In the Ego's mind, like Snapper's, this is the smart thing to do. "I need to protect myself so I don't get hurt," the Ego thinks. Acting defensively gives the Ego a momentary sense of safety. It takes security in fear. But, because fear is self-destructive, that security is quickly broken. What the Ego does not understand is that our reality is a mirror reflection of ourselves. We receive back from the Universe the same energy we project. Emotions like fear and insecurity, which cause us to act defensively, perpetuate even more emotions of fear and insecurity. Acting defensive, therefore, is a cycle that sustains our fear rather than eliminating it.

Your reality is consistently a reflection of your inner state. When you live with an inner knowledge of your own security and safety, the emotions of security and safety will be perpetuated and reflected back like a mirror into your life. In other words, the only way to truly defend yourself from emotional danger is to live and act from a place of security and wholeness.

What we project into the world is the reality we experience. When we become emotionally defensive, we are making enemies out of shadows. When we elevate our emotional and mental vibration to a place of wholeness, we discover the inherent security of life. Keep in mind -- you are safe. You are protected, not by acting defensive, but by holding steadfast to your own inner sense of security, independent of external circumstances. Despite what the Ego thinks, the world is not designed to threaten you. We live in a supportive Universe. If only Snapper had known, the bigger dogs just wanted to be his friend.

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