When not center stage, questions about life purpose and life meaning
still seem to hover in the background, don’t they?
Unbidden, they come into sharper focus during major transitions,
or when decisions press for resolution. Sometimes during
moments of crisis, tragedy, or loss these questions
burn with renewed vigor. We want to figure it out … once and for all.
We want to “know” … for sure, don’t we?
Welcome back to SunnyRoomStudio as we return to the focus of our 2015 journal: Exploring Meaning. I have a special topic this week …
Facing the inevitable loss of this wonderful guy, our Noah, questions of life meaning and purpose inevitably surface. He’s nearly 13 and once inspired a blog post called the Zen of Noah. Only 8 then, endings were not in focus, not like they are now.
I don’t think dogs worry much about life purpose. They are fortunate in that regard. They are pretty content with sunshine, long walks, a treat now and then, and someone who loves them.
We probably can learn a lot from out pets … if we stand still long enough to see what great role models they are. Rarely do they get rattled. Rarely do they fail to greet us at the door like they haven’t seen us in years. It’s amazing really how much contentment they exhibit. Noah loves to go outside; tilting his head skyward, he sniffs the air. It’s the first thing he does when he goes out in the morning. Sort of like testing the waters … he wants to know, hmm, what is the day like … it’s a greeting it seems.
But now Noah spends his days resting mostly. His back legs are giving out; he can’t jump up or down, so we lift him, carry him … gladly. I wonder how many times he has carried us through a day with his eager, joyful gait (Noah sort of prances when he goes for a walk; I’ve never seen a dog do this), with his gladness over our return from running errands or whatever. So thank you, Noah, for your consistently inspired presence. It has meant a great deal over the years. During times of loss, he sensed our deep sadness, and would sit and stare at me with concerned eyes. Or snuggle up close. He gave us a reason to keep going — to get up and care for him.
Noah even made friends with our 14-year-old cat, Lola. At first, when they were both very young, he played a bit too rough with her, but she set him straight. They love to find a sunny spot to doze in … and then we added Orion, our now 3-year-old schnauzer. He’s a handful, but while he has annoyed Noah at times, he also kept him moving. If one barks, the other must immediately explore the cause so they can join forces … barking in unison. I’m sure our neighbors think … “oh, there they go again.”
Here’s a summer training session … I believe we had mixed results! Our dogs, though similar, have distinctly different personalities. Orion has a high-pitched bark; Noah’s bark is deep and purposeful. Orion is a bit shy; Noah leads the way. Orion doesn’t care for snow or rain or cold weather; Noah leads the way. Noah wants to sit in the shade and contemplate his life; Orion nudges him … “let’s play.” With 10 years difference between them, they do pretty well. Always touching noses when greeting each other, always sharing food or treats when they must. Rarely have we heard a growl from either.
I don’t know what spring will bring, nor tomorrow for that matter. But for now I’m trying to focus on lessons learned along the way when it comes to loss.
- Don’t back away from the endings, fall into them … become them … they are us; we are them. It helps a little. I remember writing in the Matt memoir how I had to become the loss to survive it. And we do. He’s such a bright little light and seeing it dim has brought suffering, but this time, with a greater awareness of the deeper reality of nature. Noah’s had so many nicknames over the years … I’ll be smiling about those for many years to come. In some translations Noah means “comfort,” and indeed, he has brought me comfort.
Life will be different with one dog.
Orion will wonder where Noah went — he will look at us with dark, questioning eyes. And we won’t be able to explain to him, in human terms, why suddenly his buddy is gone. So we’ll just grab a leash and go for another walk. ~ dh
< end: journal entry 4 >
- What have you learned along the way about life meaning and purpose that is connected to lessons gleaned from family pets?
- This is something Eckhart advises, but it’s quite challenging, isn’t it?
Whatever the present moment contains,
accept it as if you had chosen it. – Eckhart Tolle
Guardians of Being is a book we’ve loved. Written by Eckhart Tolle with illustrations by Patrick McDonnell (creator of the MUTTS comic strip), Eckhart focuses on spiritual teachings from our cats and dogs.
Journal Focus Question:
When life presents us with twists and turns, does meaning and purpose change, or only intensify?
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