Whenever I need a reminder of how to live (...finding myself cranky, focusing on what's not "right," or forgetting about all the wonderful things in life), I look at the photo at the top of this page.
This is my amazing dog Teaser; we had 16 joyful years together. Though he transitioned to "happy-dog" afterlife more than a year ago, his spirit lives on in me. Like all animals, Teaser didn't need reminders on how to live; he was simply always present, demonstrating the art of acceptance at every turn. When he felt disappointment (I could actually hear him sigh)...that I didn't have time for a long meander outdoors, that I wouldn't leave the car window open when it was pouring rain, or when he failed to convince me with those gorgeous, longing eyes that another serving of cooked chicken was in order, before too long, he would just settle in peacefully to the "next" reality, which was usually a nap. Any lingering disappointment washed away, and he awoke just as happy to see me as before.
But we humans seem to not be able to do this as easily as our furry friends. We lament, we linger, and we simmer, and even sometimes settle into a state of near-permanent discontent, as I found several years ago. What if, on the other hand, we could be more like our dogs; that is, sigh, take a short nap, and move on? We can; we just need to practice it.
Instead of spending time focused on what is going on in our heads, which most of us do, and according to the spiritual teacher and author of The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle, is a form of insanity, we can practice being present. What does this mean? It means doing what we do in life while deeply rooted in the sensory experience of it but also deeply rooted in our observer. The observer is that aspect of us that can see more of what is happening in us and around us, including the thoughts that are moving through us. Resting our beingness in our observer allows us to access much more in life: We feel the cool air on our cheeks, the crisp crunch of the cucumber in our mouths, and the fading mist over the mountaintop, Our experiences become visceral; we are no longer thinking about what we are seeing, we are experiencing it, connecting to the life in us and around us. This is the practice that will help us break our addiction to thinking, which is a direct cause of unhappiness.
To experience any kind of joy in life, we need to break our addiction to thinking and become firmly rooted in our experience in the present moment. To begin, whatever it is that you do today, see if you can give your full attention to it. When you are petting your dog, feel the texture of your dog's hair, observe his or her response to your touches, feel the life force that is moving through them, and feel the relaxation in your body that comes from this loving connection with your dog. Do this in everything you do today, and you are on your way to living the good life!