It’s 10:30 p.m. A dog barks incessantly. “What dog is it?” I wonder. “Whose dog is it? Who would allow their dog to carry on for so long?” I return my awareness to my tiredness and the dog’s barking fades into the sounds of the night.
It’s 1:00 a.m. The dog is still barking. Someone must have gone away, left their dog outside. The dog is frightened, helpless, terrified of the night, terrified in abandonment. Perhaps I should go and find the dog, find out its situation, reassure it. Perhaps I need to rescue this poor dog in need. I’m sad. The image of the shivering victim dog is haunting.
I breathe. Thoughts tell me I have an obligation to care for, to take responsibility for, this trapped, scared, frightened animal. I notice my thoughts and my feelings. I return my awareness to my tiredness. The barking is absorbed into the sounds of the night.
Now it’s 3:00 a.m. The dog barks on, without pause, an incessant, monotonous bark. Someone must be hurt. Its owners. Perhaps they’ve died. This is a loyal dog. This is Lassie calling for, demanding, help. Those barks may be a deep cry for needed attention, for someone in need. How can I possibly not respond?
I’m anxious, worried, sad. What kind of person would close their eyes to such need, such tragedy? What kind of person puts their own needs and comforts above the suffering around them? Shouldn’t I do something?
I breathe, releasing the mobilizing energy that accompanies my thoughts. The sounds of the night, deafening, once again absorb the barking.
It’s 4:00 a.m. Same rhythm, same intensity of barking. I isolate the barking cry of what must be a dog being punished by being left outside. It must be an owner that has an idea about training his dog. It’s necessary to give a dog firm consequences. Perhaps it soiled in the house or chewed the couch. A righteous owner is teaching the dog a lesson, I surmise. It will never forget this lesson for disobedience. This owner has cut off any feeling for this frightened dog in pain. This owner is proud of its ability to be firm and consistent. I’m angry at this owner. But then I find compassion, reminded of my own ignorance, once having humiliated a dog, feeling it necessary in training. I remember my father training a dog of my youth in the same manner. It’s what men do, cut off feeling, do the necessary deed.
My body is tense. I breathe. I release the tension. My awareness melts once again into the sounds of the night.
It’s 5:00 a.m. We sit and drink our coffee. We ponder the barking dog, still active as we sip. Jan suggests that it’s the sheep dog at the sheep farm down the road, protecting its flock from the coyotes that roam at night. I hadn’t considered that possibility.
I ponder my journey through the night, the sleep I lost and found. I notice my heart. Calm, unstirred. I turn to my spirit. No impetus to act. It’s my mind that has conjured the horrors of the night. The mind, with its thoughts, seeking to stir agitated feelings, draining my energy, commanding my awareness.
The shamans call the mind the foreign installation, an entity that feeds on worry and agitation, an entity that conjures and projects without substance. In the night, I noticed its wonderings, but never fully took the bait. The feelings stirred were never true messages from the heart. They were feelings triggered by projections of the mind, not feelings triggered by my real perceiving self.
The shamans teach that we are perceivers, that is our true nature. We perceive—we know—with our whole being. Then we know what’s truly there and we can act with certainty. The mind, on the other hand, has become a symbiotic appendage that has gained ascendancy over our perceiving being, draining us of our energy, of our perceptual certainty.
Last night, as I drove up the hill to my home, I encountered the young female fox that roams the neighborhood. I stopped. She stopped. Head moving side to side, sniffing, perceiving, she showed no interest in spending energy on connecting with me. She knew immediately that I wasn’t a threat. She perceived rightly, her energy being spent only on what was real and necessary. My own perceiving self, I’ve learned—like the fox—will alert me when it’s truly time to act, when there is a real danger at hand, a real concern.
After the night of the barking dog, I left for work early. I drove slowly past the homes of the suspects of the night. I doubted that I’d see anything, but asked the universe to please reveal the source of the mystery. My last pause was in front of the farmhouse of the sheep farm. I sat. Nothing. Then suddenly, the large white sheep dog appeared by the side of the house. Staring at me, it barked the now familiar bark. I continued to sit and stare. It started to advance toward me, ready to chase me off, perceiving me as a threat. It was time to leave.
Jan was right. It was a guardian dog, with unrelenting persistence, protecting its flock from predators. As I drove off, I thanked it for my nightlong training in mindful meditation.
Perceiving more, thinking less,