The Barking Guru

It’s 3am and your neighbor’s dog is barking incessantly. Again. You know the dog has separation anxiety, but your compassion is nowhere to be found. You shout, “Shut uuuuuuuup!” and pull a pillow over your head. Is this a spiritual opportunity? You bet!

Puppy 1

He Could Be Your Spiritual Teacher

You don’t necessarily need to travel to the Himalayas or join an ashram to find a spiritual teacher. They are really all around us.

One of the earliest examples of this that I experienced was with a landlord. We just rubbed each other the wrong way. If I put my garbage can on the north side of the house, he’d move it to the south side. If I planted petunias, he’d say I should have put in geraniums. He become the source of much stress in my life. Or so I thought.

Around that time I started practicing loving-kindness meditation, or metta meditation. After establishing a sense of loving-kindness toward those that you love, some metta instructions will suggest you call to mind someone with whom you are having a difficulty. Well, I didn’t have to search far. Old Mr. Landlord was always right there in my consciousness. The next step is to include that person in your expanding loving awareness, and to extend to them the same loving-kindness that you would give your family and friends.

At first it was really difficult. How could I love this guy when I didn’t even like him? But over time I began to see him less as a personality and more as a soul. I could see that he, too, was on the human journey, just like me. I began to soften my attitude. On the outside, he was the same person with the same habits, but I felt less bothered by his actions. I realized that I had a choice about my emotions, and that no one could make me suffer.

When my neighbor first moved in and his dog barked for literally hours non-stop, I could feel my body reacting to the stress. Inside my head was a rant: “This is driving me crazy. Shut up shut up shut up. God, when will he stop? Please stop! I’m so irritated,” etc. etc. etc. But when I realized I really had no control over the dog, I started to turn it around. I sat and did mindfulness meditation, concentrating on the breath, gently feeling my belly rise and fall while the barking continued. The outer circumstances didn’t change, but my attitude did. I simply shifted my focus. The soundtrack in my head changed: “I’m breathing. In and out. A dog is barking. Breathing, breathing, breathing. Noticing I’m more relaxed. A dog is barking.”

Another neighbor came over one day to say he had a donation of some carrots at his school and they couldn’t keep them over the weekend. Would I like some for the rabbits? Sure, I said, envisioning a couple of carrots. He came back with about 50 pounds of carrots, the bag handles breaking as he handed them to me. This was on a day when I was struggling with feelings of lack, wondering how to make ends meet. And then there it was, one of those little nudges from the Universe saying, “Wake up! Abundance is all around you.” I had more carrots than I, my neighbor, and the buns could possibly eat. I set aside a few for Molly and Gilligan and took the rest to the Humane Society for the rabbits there.

So you see, spiritual teachers come in many different forms. You may find them at the supermarket or post office, in your co-workers and neighbors. They are probably in the person you rush to judge, or the ones you find most different from you. When we can take a moment to recognize the soul in everyone and everything, then we get the ego out of the way and remember our inherent wholeness. It is in these moments that real spiritual growth is possible.



  1. Judith said,

    May 21, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. It does remind one that we all are part of this one big universe; souls reunited. This mindfulness could also work well in rest abolishing old friendships that have gone by the way due to circumstances past. An opportunity to welcome those souls back into our lives.

  2. Judith said,

    May 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Sorry for typo. I meant. “Re-establishing” old friendships. Your friends miss you.

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