the art of being human
It’s a brisk and sunny day, and I’m walking in the local park. Up ahead of me an older gentleman is sitting on a bench, holding a leash tethered to his small dog. The dog is just standing still, seemingly not terribly interested in anything. The man keeps turning around to look at me, somewhat apprehensively, as I come nearer. Just as I come abreast of him, the dog begins barking. The man comments aloud in response, “I was afraid of that.” I smile, keep walking, and once I have passed beyond the dog’s territorial zone it stops barking.
And I wonder, does the man’s apprehension induce the dog’s response—or does the dog’s predictable behavior of barking when someone passes induce the man’s apprehension?
More than just a psychological curiosity, I wonder if the man himself has any realization that he and the dog are in an energetic field of relating. That the dog senses his emotional energies, and that his emotions affect the dog’s senses; and that by the very nature of their being in “relationship,” this dynamic is always in play.
And I wonder what might happen if the man could be more aware of this larger relational context. I imagine that at the very least he might likely “loosen” the emotional pattern he experiences as “uneasiness.” Maybe a shift in his perception to the larger context would change his dog’s behavior as well, maybe not, but his apprehension could shift. And what an ideal, benign opportunity for him to observe his inner thought processes, and even do some experimentation with his thoughts to see what inner and outer changes might occur.
What is his apprehension based on? I’m guessing he feels mildly embarrassed that his dog “misbehaves” in public. He may be unconsciously projecting that people might have some kind of passing judgment about the dog’s barking and/or the owner’s lack of “control” over the dog. And quite possibly, he is concerned that park-goers might feel slightly uncomfortable or fearful of the dog (although it wasn’t a terribly ferocious doggy!).
This is such an insignificant episode in the scheme of things that you may be thinking it doesn’t deserve much attention. But this is precisely the point of applied conscious awareness: the opportunity for self-realizing presents itself to us in every moment. And since we are uniquely blind to our own inner workings, it can be useful to notice other people’s behaviors and how they are being self-aware or not, as a mirror and reminder for us to be mindful of our personal inner environment.
So, what is being reflected for me, for my own process of self-awareness in this park scene?
Firstly: just being observant of this situation from a larger context reminds me to notice my own behavior and thoughts from a larger context—to deepen my practice of larger context self-awareness.
Secondly: it reminds me to notice that—and how—I am in relationship with everything around me. How do I choose to respond: with fear or with love?
Thirdly: it invites me to take my focus off what is in the distance and be present in the moment. To see the truth of what is. All change occurs in the now.
Finally: as a psychological “mirror” it asks me to notice the ways that I might be apprehensive about something in my own life, or how apprehension is showing up for me, and how I am affecting both the experience of apprehension and the manifested outcome.
The point is not to go digging around in the muck of my psyche to find out “what’s wrong,” but simply to notice. The point is not to dissect and possibly judge others for their behavior, but to embody conscious awareness—to meditate on my own mind—so that any moment can be a learning moment. The point is not to lose myself in the labyrinths of my mental gyrations, but to be fully present with myself: to be mindful of my thoughts and feelings. To simply allow the possibility to experience each moment from a new perspective. That’s conscious awareness.
Just a walk in the park, really.