How to Walk Your Beast
by Ruwan Meepagala Jul 30, 2014
My butt sits in on a beach chair in the sun in my backyard. My cell phone is on "Do Not Disturb." My glass of Pellegrino is perched over to my left. My book, This Is It by Alan Watts, is open to an essay which I am hoping will inspire me to write.
I hear a whine.
My family's dog, Knuckles, a black boxer-lab with white paws appears in front of me. I'm taking care of him for the weekend while my parents are away. We've been at my apartment for over an hour and he hasn't stopped whining.
Ironically, he was picked at the rescue two years ago primarily because he was the quietest and best behaved. Spoiled from years of domestication, he now feels entitled to human attention.
I look at him and tell him to stop. He does... till my eyes return to my book and he starts again. "Knock it off!" I yell.
My sphincter tightens. My aggravation meter rises with every canine utterance. Damn it! Doesn't he realize how important it is that I finish reading?
He looks at me with puppy dog eyes, which are his normal eyes because he's a puppy dog. Dogs don't speak English, but they certainly speak sensation. My heart melts. What a jerk I am to yell at beast for having basic animal needs.
I decide the right thing to do would be to walk him and walk him hard. I run him around the block basically dragging him behind me. By running him quickly, I can tire him out so he'll be quiet without me wasting too much of my time.
We return to my apartment both panting.
I sit down to read again.
I hear a whine.
Goddammit! Why is this happening to me right now? I just want to read my friggin' book, not waste time dog-sitting. I fed the dog, gave him water, walked him. Can't he just be grateful and leave me alone?!? This dog needs obedience training. That's the problem. He lacks discipline.
I try to drown out Knuckles' whine and keep reading. At the bottom of the page is a quotation by Master Hsiang-yen:
There's no use for artificial discipline. For, move as I will, I will manifest the ancient Tao.Wait a minute...Perhaps I'm overlooking something. Here I am forcing my will on an innocent dog, a beast, whose desires come from reptilian and mammalian brain complexes not much different that my own. Actually, it's not my will per se. It's the will of my ego that so righteously has decided I must read Alan Watts, who writes:
Why do we say "I think" but not "I am beating my heart"?Somehow involuntary functions get dismissed or taken for granted in the same way I find myself dismissing Knuckles' desire for attention. My ego doesn't want to acknowledge the value of his unproductive unreasonable needs. There are two ways to walk a dog:
- Work him. Run his energy quickly so he's wiped and you an get the stable outcome of a tired dog that doesn't complain.
- Play with him. Co-create the walk so you also follow him with curiosity and appreciate the walk for the walks sake.
We get back to my apartment after only a few minutes and Knuckles has finally stopped whining. He didn't care about the duration or intensity of the walk. He just wanted to be felt. It only took a few minutes of focused attention to satisfy him enough to leave me to read.
If you haven't caught on by now, we're not really talking about dogs here. How I was treating Knuckles was how we treat our inner beast--that part of us that wants to feel and play and connect and cares very little for rational production. We tend to ignore our beast especially when it says something like "drink water" or "call Mom." We tend to dismiss simple intuitions because they seem inconsequential and our ego can come up alternatives that would "make more sense."
Like a dog, the beast within us cares not for what your ego judges as more useful. It wants what it wants, and if you don't listen, it will start barking. It would behoove you to listen.
But you can't just go through the motions to force the result of tranquility. If you just try to put a check in the box, the beast will only get more uptight. The beast is a feeling being. It needs you to feel it. The great thing is that once you do, the barking stops and it becomes docile and pleasant very quickly.
The beast is the voice of your intuition at the level of sensory desire. It actually knows best for you, even if what it's telling you doesn't seem to make sense in the moment. The more you listen the more you realize "hey, I really did want to go for a walk." Take care of your beast and it will take care of you.
Oh, and be nice to dogs.