If you’ve been into yoga for a while, or any kind of spiritual path, you’ve probably come across quotes and teachings by people like Ramana Maharishi, Krishnamurti, Rumi, Ram Dass, and of course, the Buddha.
But maybe looking for answers and guidance from these renowned, dead sages is one way that we subtly distance ourselves from the living, direct experience of waking up. I see the appeal.
Everyone on this list, and many more, have a mystic aura, an “otherness,” and profound wisdom to share. And I’ve gained much from their teachings myself. But is it that otherness that keeps waking up as something “apart” from us, not something that we live, breathe, and realise directly? Perhaps we miss the teachings available to us personally, the ones given directly by life?
It took me a while, but I slowly started to realise that I had three little miniature teachers available to me, on a one-on-one basis, every single day. They each have four legs, their names are Bodhi, Lila, and Dashan, and they are Chihuahuas.
Pretty much every lesson about living a more yogic, awakened life is there, encapsulated in their furry, pointy-eared, snub-nosed bodies. The universe couldn’t have pointed it out more clearly when I chose their (obviously) yoga-inspired names. Bodhi means “enlightenment,” Lila means “the play of consciousness,” and Dashan means “one with spiritual sight.” I thought I was choosing those names as reminders, but now I’m thinking the universe had more direct plans than that.
Have you ever known a dog to hold a grudge? No, me neither. They live life completely in the moment. You’ve only got to see how they resolve their differences—one minute it’s lots of growling and show-boating, and the next they’re cleaning each other and all cuddled up. The fight they just had literally doesn’t exist anymore, and of course, in truth, it doesn’t.
How often do we humans make an event last longer than the time it took to actually occur by carrying it around in our heads? Crazy to think that an event that maybe took five minutes can have an impact for so much longer than that, sometimes even years, just because we can’t let it go.
Basically, if we want to know what a fully self-realised being looks like, then just take a look at a dog.
That greeting when we get home? They’re not upset that we left—they’re just bursting full of joy that we’re back. Dogs forgive instantly and love unconditionally.
And what can we not learn about happiness and having a simple joy for life from a dog? We remind ourselves to “go with the flow,” but they just live like that. No reminder necessary. They play when they feel playful, sleep when they’re tired, and take as many treats as you’ll give them, but they won’t hold it against you if you don’t.
Dogs don’t care what we look like, what we own, or how much we earn—it’s all about what’s going on inside, the kind of people we are. And they do this selflessly. If we simply offer them love, then they’ll return that love a thousandfold.
I can’t help but feel that we, as human beings, work in the same way too. We all know that relationships and family life can be challenging sometimes; sharp words spoken, misunderstandings, irritations, and disagreements arise. But, in those moments when I feel myself holding onto something, I look at my dogs. They are grateful for what they have, they let things go, they choose to be happy and those are all choices that I have too.
In those moments, I look at my husband, my children, and my friends and remember how grateful I am to have them in my life and how much emptier my life would be without them. The way that Bodhi, Lila, and Dashan live in the moment never fails to remind me of the unconditional love and joy that can, and should, underpin everything.
They teach me that in every moment I can choose to be happy too.
So, maybe the most important teacher isn’t in a book. Maybe it’s life itself. Take a look for yourself! There are teachers all around if we’re just willing to see them. And maybe, right now, life is showing up just how we need it to in that four-legged friend across the street or curled up next to you.
A dog might just be the greatest spiritual teacher you never knew you had.