Meet Sammy. She’s the newest addition to our family. It has been a very long time since I’ve trained a puppy, longer than I’ve been practicing meditation so I was surprised how training a puppy is very much like training the mind and not only because of how they energetically bounce from one thing to the next.
The untrained puppy/mind when left unattended will dig things up, or choose anything nearby, and chew on it until it is an unrecognizable mess. They won’t drop it, come or stay when you tell them to and go running off at the slightest provocation creating all sorts of trouble.
When training the puppy/mind it’s helpful to get the assistance of people who’ve had success in understanding and applying the practices. Reading and watching YouTube only takes you so far and then you have to put the theories and techniques into action. Attitude makes all the difference. Approaching the training with a calm assertive demeanor will go much further than a critical heavy-handed approach. Consistency is key! The training will take a lot longer if you only apply it intermittently. Remember, it isn’t a linear process and a momentary lapse in behavior isn’t a sign of failure but a need for correction.
There is one significant difference between training a puppy and the mind, as humans, the most important reason to undergo training of the mind is addressed in Ayya Khema’s book Being Nobody, Going Nowhere. Keep in mind that in the east they use a single word citta for the heart/mind since they perceive it as one thing, she says, “The heart needs training because by nature it isn’t constituted to always feel loving-kindness. By nature it contains both love and hate. It contains ill will, rejection, resentment and fear, and also lovingness. But unless we diminish the hate and enlarge the love by doing something about it in our daily life, we have no chance of experiencing that peaceful feeling that loving-kindness generates in the heart.”
This training begins with the seeds of thoughts that are planted in our minds.
The Buddha said there is no worse enemy than an untrained mind and no better friend than a well-trained mind. This includes man’s best friend, the dog.
by Denise Barclay
Really nice analogy Denise. Thank you for sharing your experience. I can totally relate to puppy mind!