Daisy came into my life as a pup four years ago from the SPCA, three weeks after losing my mixed-breed chow-chow to cancer. I had not planned on getting a puppy, but as we all know, things rarely work out how we first envision them to. Over the past four years we have been on many crazy adventures together. And Daisy, like any good teacher, never ceases to amaze, motivate, and challenge me. Even though I am sometimes a bit of a slow learner, Daisy is more patient with me than I tend to be with her, and this perhaps is her greatest lesson of all to me.
Many of the things I try to teach my students about Yoga beyond the poses, I see so easily taught by my Guru Daisy. If you’ve read the article “The Irreverent Yogi” in the January to March, 2009 issue of The Yogic Way® Magazine, you will already know that Daisy performs Down-Dog better than any ‘human’ student I have. And that even though my students turn to me for direction and answers, I freely admit that I too am a student, learning as they are. I encourage my students to look for answers in all that surrounds them and remind them that teachers are everywhere (the idea behind “Namaste”). And yes, these teachers may even be in animal form.
I often share Daisy’s wisdom with my students, and for anything they have learnt through Daisy’s sharing with me, and my with them, I am grateful. Now I will share with you some of the lessons I have learnt from my dog Daisy.
Lesson Number 1: Do Down-Dog and do it often!
I have observed and learned that Down-Dog is as much a great stretch, as it is a friendly greeting or salutation, or as it is a way of physically reveling in joy. It is how Daisy greets the day, it is her response to her favorite words such as “park” or “run”, and it is how she finds her length again after a long curled up nap. The central inclusion of Down-Dog in the Salutation sequence makes so much sense to me now.
Lesson Number 2: Follow Down-Dog with Up-Dog!
Yes, Daisy’s perfect Down-Dog is usually followed by a wonderful Up-Dog as well. The lesson here? Balance.
Lesson Number 3: Meditate
Daisy has the amazing ability to tune out anything and everything when completely focused on say, a squirrel,
bird, mosquito, or whatever else it may be. Virtually nothing can break her ‘meditative state’. Such focus is something I yearn for when trying to meditate, or even when just sitting quietly. The lesson? Be engaged, and empty your mind of all things except for that which you seek.
Lesson Number 4: Play
Daisy has chased a ball, stick, mosquito, or whatever it is that moves and catches her fancy, thousands of times, but never seems to take it for granted. Every time is as exciting as the first to her. I believe she truly appreciates the opportunity to play, exercise, breathe deeply, and have fun. Take time every day to enjoy yourself. Greet the people you meet with genuine love and appreciation. Play with the kind of enthusiasm you felt the first time you ever participated in the activity. You will be surprised at how much more enjoyable it is.
Lesson Number 5: Drink water
First thing in the morning and throughout the day. Especially after ‘play’, ‘meditation’, and ‘Down-Dog-Up-Dog’ vinyasas. Don’t worry if it spills all down your face or dribbles across the floor in long spindles from your lips when you walk away from your bowl…I mean sink. Didn’t it taste amazing?
Lesson Number 6: Have regular bowel movements and observe them
Sounds gross right? But being on a regular schedule (also called “being regular”) and having some awareness around shape, consistency and smell are important indicators of your overall health. Dog owners KNOW when their companions are ill because they are ‘up close and personal’ with their faeces on a daily basis. The same should apply to you!
Lesson Number 7: Listen
To the world and people around you. Hang on their every word like they are going to tell you something incredible (like ‘do you want to go to the park?’). You’ll be amazed at how much more engaged and alive you are in the world. Try however to keep your head from tilting to one side or the other when the person talking says a word you are unfamiliar with. Actually, on second thought, DO IT!
Lesson Number 8: Know your limits
Work on releasing the ego and clearly know what you are able or unable to do. Daisy never goes beyond her abilities in exercise or within pack dynamics. Most call that instinct, but I see it as Yogic grace. I try to be vigilant in my own actions when we are out exercising together to be sure that my ego is not pushing us both beyond what we should be doing. There have been times when Daisy has looked at me like “c’mon, you’ve got to be kidding”, and I’ve looked back at her with “do I look like I’m kidding?”….then got injured. Silly student.
Lesson Number 9: Eat fresh green foods
I don’t know what grass tastes like, but I’m seriously thinking about trying it. Every spring, all dogs, including Daisy, graze on the fresh new young grass. In Chinese medicine, spring time in particular is associated with the liver energy and green foods. And as animals are more connected to the natural world than we tend to be, I say, ‘salad anyone?’
Lesson Number 10: Rest
Possibly the hardest of all of Daisy’s lessons for me to learn. Rest is essential to repair and rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. How will you have the energy to truly appreciate and enjoy everything all over again tomorrow without it? The errand list can wait. Have a nap and re-evaluate in a few hours.
This article was originally published in the October – December 2009 issue of The Yogic Way® Magazine and is a prequel to Dr. Kim Graham’s upcoming article “Lessons from Daisy (Part 2)”.