You may know this quote by spiritual teacher, Jack Kornfield, but I only heard it for the first time during a retreat this past week. Maybe like me, you thought he was referring to the ideal for a human being, only to be startled and amused by the last line. I burst out laughing, realizing in an instant how we are conditioned to feel we need to be perfect as human beings, or else we are somehow deficient. Actually, we are as we are, “warts and all” as another saying goes. And certainly not consistently able to be what a dog can be. As a dog cannot be what a human can manifest.
On my Camino, I consistently realized how I was not living up to my ideal of what a pilgrim should be; in one way, it was good to see my ego and to confess my inability to live up to it. Yet in another way, it was still the ego that was criticizing–the part of us that judges ourselves and others so harshly. I wish I could see then as I see now that there is no one right way to walk the Camino or to live our lives. And the way I did it was simply what it was. And if then, I could have simply recognized that I was being human, let myself alone, and enjoyed the journey, even with all its ups and downs. This becoming more human means to me a coming to allow all of life and not rejecting what is. As one of my fellow students on this retreat said, “It’s kind of ridiculous to reject Reality.”
I can laugh now thinking back on how not only did I want to be something like Kornfield’s description of a dog–faithful, unflappable, accepting, calm, happy–but I also wanted my Camino experience to be like that–sunny weather, welcoming and available places to sleep, perfect health, kind fellow pilgrims. In brief, I was being human, giving in to my instincts of wanting only pleasure and safety. I don’t judge that now, as it taught me so much about myself. But there was much more to learn in these years that have followed about just being with whatever is happening–sun or mud, kind or arrogant people that pass me on my journey, things that come easily or things I would never write into my script. Can I allow them all, trusting they are ALL part of what is unfolding, and even if not entirely sure, just be curious?
Now that the retreat is over and I am left with all this wisdom in my lap, I want to remember a quote by one of my teachers, John Davis: “We don’t come to this work to be different. We come to this work to be who we are.” And that takes years to slowly uncover and reclaim from all the hurts and wounds that cause us to hide behind ego. But with love, it is possible to find that freedom to just be ourselves, and how ordinarily extraordinary that can be. Something not separate from the Divine.
(When in doubt or wavering, let a dog lay its head in your lap, and remember.)