I've come a long road since picking up that homely puppy at Twin Oaks Ranch more than eight years ago. It's my nature to investigate every corner of whatever new interest I acquire, turn over every rock, and intensely evaluate not only my own actions but the underlying belief system that informs and moves the whole. I am always reshaping my ideas.
Everyone is trying to learn, of course, but generally they stick to the level of the personal. They look at how to succeed, whether they are growing exhibition tulips, selling real estate, or nailing up sheetrock. They aren't examining what sheetrock has done to our cultural experience of interior surfaces, or what part it has played in the industrialization of home-building. But I would be. I can't help myself.
This is, frankly, a trait with a lot of downside to it. To begin with, big-picture reality often has an entirely different set of qualities than small-picture reality, and those qualities can be suprisingly negative. Since the forces that created that big picture are, well, big, it is unlikely that my actions are going to have much effect on it. Essentially, by looking beyond the immediate details, I continually see ugly stuff I can do nothing about. How fun is that?
Another downside is that nobody wants their parade rained on. People tend to create belief systems to support their activities, and the less anchored those activities are in basic human needs like food, love and shelter, the more mythical and passionately-held those beliefs become. Just look at football, or fashion design. Pointing out that certain convenient or personally rewarding activities, engaged in habitually by many people, are resulting in large-scale bad news, is a time-tested way to make oneself unpopular at best. The more I learn, the less I can say out loud.
On the positive side, I get to see things in whole new ways, over and over, moving through stages of awareness as I shed old ideas for ones that work better, explain more deeply, are more congruent with my observations. In other words, I move toward becoming more aligned with the truth.
One reason I stopped adding to my diary is that I am tired of the railing-against-belief-systems thing I find myself repeatedly doing. Is this helpful to anyone? To my own peace of mind? Not seeing that.
Instead, I want to focus on what best creates harmony, balance, awareness, fairness, softness, empathy, patience, leadership, kindness, responsibility, trust — in myself, in my dogs, in my livestock, and in how we all move together. Being able to see that there is no difference between the divine and the ordinary. Opening, and slowing, and in this space allowing the universe to be on my side. This is the direction towards which I want to be pointed.
I started out with crude and rather brutal ideas about stockdog training and livestock handling. A lot of punishment (except it's called 'correction'), forcing, shouting, and chasing. Frightened or numbed, unthinking livestock were normal livestock. Galloping livestock and overexcited, running dogs were normal. The livestock was the enemy, and the dog was an untrustworthy employee helping me defeat it. Yes, an exaggeration, but at times, it's been hardly more than that.
It doesn't have to be that way. Your dog wants to be in harmony with you, to feel he is doing the right thing for you. That's why we can use dogs to work for us. But that's not all. Every living thing wants to be in harmony with their surroundings. Those sheep aren't racing to the end of the field when your dog shows up because they are feeling the joy of movement. Those cattle don't slam into gate posts because they are trying to be destructive to your equipment. And your predatory best friend doesn't actually find panic-stricken livestock a joy to try to manipulate. They want to be calm too.
Watch a responsible, experienced stockdog moving their own livestock on familiar ground. Observe how the animals lower their heads and mosey along. The dog is relaxed and confident, the stock is relaxed and stress-free. And you are smiling. That's the goal. That feeling. A peaceful heart in everyone.