“All knowledge, the totality of all questions and answers,
is contained in the dog.”
– Kafka –

Belle has been “mentoring” a lot of puppies these days.

Last week, it was Chester, a mini Australian sheepdog.

(Chester’s owner actually thanked me after taking them both out for a walk while I was at a wedding, noting the calming, role model effect Belle had on her pup.)

Earlier in the month, it was this guy…
In fact, just like Chester, as you can see in this video, he is almost embarrassingly in love with Belle:
Belle and Stuart
This “mentoring” has been going on for years, including this rascal of a Siberian Husky.  (Note: Belle may have a thing for “bad boys.”)
Belle even calmed him down enough that he could sit and pose for a photo op on their first official playdate.
(To be completely honest, we were in LA at the time, and only after taking a 100 photos of both dogs did I notice that her owner–the French movie/TV star pictured below–had clearly spent a considerable amount of time teaching his pup how to perfect a sultry, ice-blue stare into the camera:)
Beyond being delighted (and sometimes overwhelmed) by puppy cuteness, I’m always reminded of Jack Kornfield’s writing about meditation in A Path With Heart.
Meditation is very much like training a puppy. You put the puppy down and say, “Stay.” Does the puppy listen? It gets up and it runs away. You sit the puppy back down again. “Stay.” And the puppy runs away over and over again. Sometimes the puppy jumps up, runs over, and pees in the corner or makes some other mess.
Our minds are much the same as the puppy, only they create even bigger messes. In training the mind, or the puppy, we have to start over and over again.”
I love the mind/puppy meditation analogy because it acknowledges just how restless our minds are and at the same time encourages us to be gentle in our approach to disciplining our thoughts.

We all know how it feels to have a rampage of ideas scampering around our brains. Just as we must train the puppy by constant practice and repetition, so we have to be disciplined yet compassionate towards ourselves as we approach a meditation or any other spiritual practice.

Knowing that every well-trained, perfectly-behaved dog started out as a rambunctious pup can give us hope that however unruly our minds are, we might just gain some ground in our quest for serenity. Through the practice of meditation, our minds can be transformed from unruly rascals to loving friends.
That’s why, since my birthday is exactly 40 days away and I started a new, very specific morning meditation/visualization practice, I took some comfort in being OK with how wavering I was.
Just like Belle’s taught me with all her other mentoring, the only secret is that some mornings it’s going to take a little time and a lot of persistence before my puppy-like mind settles down.

In the end, however, practicing that kind of discipline is a very small price to pay to create a harmonious relationship with man’s best friend… or for making friends with one’s thoughts.