I first learned of Clark’s speed and strength just hours after we brought him home at 12 weeks old. I nearly injured myself trying to wrangle him in the icy driveway as he shot in a blur from one end to the other. When I finally caught him, it felt like I was hauling something slippery and unwieldy from the bottom of the sea. Why didn’t I notice his lead weight, bullet-like body in our first just going to meet him visit? And what was up with his waddle? Were his gluteus muscles already as alarmingly developed as his paws? In this moment of clarity, it seemed to me that we just taken on a lifetime of large, fast and strong. Having been dog parents two times already, especially since one of those dogs was a golden retriever, I assumed that we’d just have more of the same with Clark. Large but gentle, silly but calm, under control and of course, the beloved gift, nondestructive. But there was something about that evening in the driveway that told me that my human mind of recollection was hanging on to an experience that would not serve true in the case of Clark.
Almost one year later, here’s what I’ve learned. Clark lives loud, he lives large and he is large. He puts demands on my time as exercise is always a priority and most days are filled with uninterrupted bouts of sock eating, cat humping and bed desecration. Clark knows no difference between hurling a tennis ball or a five pound dumbbell into the air and onto our 100+ year old wood floors. Boisterous is an understatement, he is the strongest dog I’ve ever had and there is nothing Clark’s massive masseters won’t destroy. With the promise of months of preoccupation, we purchased a deer antler from the local pet shop only to return four days later in need of another, leaving the store clerk in utter disbelief. There is no kong on the market that he has not demolished. He has embarrassed me in the park, pummeled me in the middle of the street and pushed me to my ultimate limits with his unbridled enthusiasm for life. But there is another side of Clark that is supported, thankfully, by the law of universal balance.
He rests as hard as he plays. He regularly brings me to my knees and cracks my heart open with his unconditional love, kung fu style cuddles and undying loyalty as he lies by my side while I write, meditate and create. Clark is grateful and has an affinity for apples. He resides in a constant state of wonder. He is fearless and powerful. He is imperfect and sloppy. He lives life through the lens of presence and embodies so much of what I love. He consistently acts as a catalyst in unearthing treasures within me that have yet to be realized. The kind that I’ve been hiding, not wanting to deal with, the kind that really need to be dealt with. He has shown me that my blood can still boil, my temper can be tempted and my heart can melt, like in the mornings when he rests his fluffy body in my arms and lies in complete stillness as I feel his sweet energy merge with mine.
When my meditation teacher sent an email last month entitled, Who is the Guru?, I had a visceral response. “It’s Clark!”, I yelled, “Clark is the guru!”. Then I remembered back to the first time I told my teacher that we unexpectedly brought home a new member of the family. As if he knew something I did not, which is usually the case, he replied, “Oh yes, this is going to be good”. This reply added to what I was already gaining knowledge of, Clark was going to be yet another learning experience for me, another opportunity for me to be in service and to grow. He was quickly proving to be another guru for my teachings.
In my experience, a guru is the one who brings you to the edge and the one who brings you back. It’s the one that teaches you more about yourself than you ever wanted to know. The one who shows you the limitations that form the cage of your life and what it feels like to break those limits and navigate the unknown. It’s the one who tears you down to the core so you can truly take a look inside and decide if this is the person you believe yourself to be, if this is the person you were always meant to be.
Several years ago a being of the guru kind came into my life. This was at the same time that I was embarking on a new direction in my life. This time of excitement, change and newness was being overshadowed with frustration, pain and downright anger via this new human connection. I went to my teacher in despair. Had I chosen the wrong path? Should I abandon it all and go back to the comfortable way things used to be? How would I continue to move forward with this energetic vampire standing on the corner of my every move? He looked at me straight on and firmly directed me to stay the course. This person, he explained, had come into my life to show me how to love more.
With regular resistance from my ego, I embraced this being. Every time I felt a charge inside, you know, the kind that could burn a hole through metal, I sat with it until the discomfort dissipated. I resisted adding to the energy of our engagements and had a whole new understanding to Ekhart Tolle’s pain body references. I started to become curious about what I was seeing in this person and I looked for the essence of that emotion in me. If it was anger because I thought this person was a jerk, I would ask myself if I had room to be more kind. If I felt this person was controlling, I asked myself if I had room to be more flexible. On and on, the inquiry became my way of interacting and it was through this practice that I was able to see my reflection in the mirror of this person’s face which showed me what I needed to heal. With time something started to shift inside, I developed a soft spot in my heart and began to appreciate this person. I gained unprecedented wisdom from this experience and most importantly, as simply a byproduct of the practice, I learned how to love more. Through the divinely gifted placement of this being, I cultivated compassion, not just for this person but for all.
Gurus come in all forms and you never know when one will enter your life. They will come and go, sometimes just for an instant. They don’t always come in the form of a person, sometimes an event, a diagnosis or in my case, a very handsome canine. I believe, if you’re really lucky, that you can have more than one at a time. Although my sarcasm may be evident, I do believe that the presence of a guru is of a serendipitous nature because a true guru will show you where your mastery in this life lies dormant. They will wake the sleeping tiger deep inside of you and reveal the blind spots of growth that await your embrace. These are the elements of change that you will rely on in the future as you ride the waves of life a little more to center each time. And for me, I look to that person with deep thanks for helping me remove my blocks to love and compassion so that I may rear the new life of my rough and tumble four-legged guru of now.