Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mental Training

If you're talking about changing your thinking strategies, I think you have to approach the "transformation" of your brain much like you approach the transformation of you physique: with baby steps applied daily and consistently over time. Some of the things that have helped me:
  • reading to gain an intellectual understanding of self-awareness and higher consciousness
  • acting "mindfully;" that is, applying a strategy like counting to ten, waiting to make important decisions until the emotions around them have abated, keeping my mouth shut if what I'm about to say is an emotional "blurt" rather than a loving, helpful response
  • quieting my mind, emptying my mind, thinking of nothing (this practice is meditation or "prayer" to some, and you can buy, download, whatever all sorts of guided meditations to help you learn this skill, which like anything requires practice); when I really empty my mind, I'm rewarded with a clarity of thought that helps me make better decisions, makes me more effective in my job, helps me communicate better regardless of medium
  • spying on the tracks my mind runs on, stopping the train if the tracks are leading to old rationalizations and victim thinking; yes, this mental exercise requires you to step outside yourself and act as much as possible the objective observer
  • of course, exercising and eating right as all these things are connected

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sugar Pie

So I'd like to provide an update on how things are going with Sugar. Bear with me; this post could head in a few different directions! LOL

To put it mildly, things are going better than I'd hoped they would. Honestly, I had a lot of anxiety about not only rescuing a dog (What if this is a mistake? What if I don't have the skills to help this animal? God forbid, what if something happens with my children and I have to return this animal to the shelter? Gawd, that would be awful.) but rescuing a breed with a "reputation." But if "luck" is opportunity meeting preparation, we have been very lucky indeed with our girl.

Am I ever glad I did not let fear stop me. Am I ever glad I trusted my instincts and my experience with animals and made the leap of faith to adopting a rescued Pittie. Am I ever glad my ability (something I worked very hard hard at years ago) to "chill" around animals kicked in. Yes I have picked the brains of others and yes I am now an avid Dog Whisperer fan, but mostly what is guiding me now is instinct, past experience, and--of course--Sugar.

My dog has been assessed by the shelter folks as "reactive," meaning unsafe around other dogs. But this was not an assessment I had any part of, and I just had a nagging feeling that what the shelter folks saw was a distressed dog in and unfamiliar situation reacting out of anxiety and fear. I knew I had to complete my own assessment. Yes, I have worked with the dog for two months before moving ahead with this real-world assessment, but I have been taking her to off-leash parks this week to see for myself what she is like. Am I ever glad I trusted my instincts and past experience. The first trip, to one of the busiest off-leash areas in Calgary, we stayed on leash in the parking lot. We stood there for an hour and a half, just watching and moving from one vantage point to another every so often. If a dog approached us, we dealt with it calmly. By the end of that time, Sugar stopped "reacting" and started taking things in stride.

The next trip we ventured into the park at a less busy off-leash park, again letting things unfold. Sometimes I had her snugged up tight and sometimes she was on a loose leash. I let her response to the dogs who approached guide me. Based on the other dogs, she would act one way or another. To be honest, she is much less dog-aggressive on leash than my heeler was. So in a sense she is "reactive," but only to the energy of the other dog(s). What she is not is dangerous, uncontrollable, or aggressive. She is just a Pit Bull. She will not start a fight, but because I know she will rise to the challenge if another dog starts a fight, I simply intervene if need be so nothing excalates. It's a lot like being at the playground with your kids where some kids play nice and others are just there to start *hit, requiring Mom to step in and control the interaction!

So, yes, to those of you who are familiar with the type of dog psychology and dominance/submission type interactions seen on The Dog Whisperer, I am a fan of this way of working with animals. This is the "way" I learned from all the best dog people I knew who worked with cattle dogs and other working/herding dogs. The whole approach makes sense to me.

To me, Cesar Millan is the Scott Abel of the dog world. And What I discovered poking around in cyber world is that people are just as vocal and just as critical of Cesar Millan as they are of Scott, usually anonymously and on the Internet in the form of forum posts. And, like it is with Scott, the people most threatened by Cesar are dog trainers who advocate other ways of doing things. Can these dog trainers rehabilitate "red zone" dogs the way Cesar can? No. Can these other less-skilled trainers in the fitness industry rehabilitate those with metabolic damage the way Scott can? No. The difference between people who are the REAL DEAL, who actually have something worthwhile to share with the world, something that actually makes dog's and people's lives better is crystal clear to me when seeing the parallels between Cesar and Scott.

So the question begs: why are people so threatened by something so wonderful, so fearful of people who obviously possess incredible gifts?? It doesn't scare me or threaten me to bask in the glow of these gifts. It humbles me. And it elevates me. It brings me incredible joy to bear witness to the miraculous things human beings are capable of when they are in touch with their higher Selves, as people like Scott and Cesar are. And to see the parallels between two human beings doing such dissimiliar things so similarly, from a common place and with a common energy and spirit, is exciting! Because it is not the methods or the systems or the actions that are miraculous, it is the SPIRIT driving the methods, systems, and actions that is miraculous and also available to each of us when we're ready to tap into our true nature and our true power.

So out of all of this, this exciting journey with my new furry kid, comes more awareness, more insight, more understanding. How all this came out of a simple decision to open up my heart to another animal is beyond me, but it doesn't matter. For this experience and everything it is opening up to me, I am profoundly grateful.