ONE RUG AT A TIME, A Dogs Journey To Inner Peace…John Page Burton

A year ago this month Diana and I adopted a dog from The Humane Society of The White Mountains. Our new “fur buddy” had been significantly abused and for Mr. Deeks (his new name) the world was an extremely dangerous place where the next kick, punch or worse could come at any moment. He had been found roaming the woods with his brother. Both dogs were extremely malnourished, scarred and understandably mistrusting of humans. Upon arriving at our home, Mr. Deeks instantly found a specific place in the living room that he deemed safe, curled up in a ball and spent the majority of his first week anchored to this “comfort zone”. We fed him by hand. A week later we adopted a companion for him, a little puppy who we named Kensi. From the moment Kensi arrived in our home she and Mr. Deeks hit it off and we can’t help but credit her whimsical nature for bringing out the “inner puppy” in Mr. Deeks.

This past weekend Diana and I paid a visit to our friends Tom and Judy. Our dogs love to interact with their dogs and it quickly becomes a circus atmosphere as all of the dogs are rescues, with each dog exhibiting their own unique set of challenges and triggers. For example, Mr. Deeks is very cautious when he encounters sliding glass patio doors. On Saturday morning, “the humans” and all of the other dogs were in the living room area, that is except for Mr. Deeks who was standing in front of the sliding glass patio door making a familiar squeaking sound that lets us know he is afraid. I encouraged him to come to me. Initially, he put one paw across the door frame and quickly pulled it back. This process went on for several minutes. I continued to encourage him. Eventually, he stuck his head and two paws through the door frame but quickly withdrew to the safety of the patio. I continued to speak words of encouragement to my buddy. A few minutes later the squeaking sounds began in earnest and much to my amazement Mr. Deeks was standing on the first of three throw rugs placed between the patio door and the opening to the living room. He looked at me and again “bolted back to the safety of the patio but this time he quickly returned to the first throw rug. With his squeaker in full force he reached his paw toward the second throw rug, closed his eyes and launched onto rug #2. By now all of “the humans” were cheering him on. He quickly bolted back to the safety of the patio. Kensi began making her own unique little squeaking sounds and before we knew what had happened Mr. Deeks was now standing on rug #3. This time instead of racing back to the patio he began to extend his paw across the door frame leading into the living room. After about 30 seconds, he bolted back to the safety of rug #2. Yes, I said rug #2. Deeks had established a new safety zone. Finally, he looked at all of his raving fans, turned his squeaker up full volume, closed his eyes and made a dead run for the couch. Mr. Deeks was safely in my lap. Cheers went up and his sister Kensi began licking his face. Mr. Deeks had just experienced a major BREAKTHROUGH in Tom and Judy’s living room. For the rest of our visit Mr. Deeks cruised around the house, stood in line for treats and bascially acted like he owned the place. His courage combined with a great deal of encouragement and acceptance from Kensi and “the humans” had led Mr. Deeks to finally leave his comfort zone and enter a brave new world of endless possibilities. He had built new muscles of courage.

How many of us “humans” live in a world of fear and doubt? Our life experiences have left us feeling frightened and alone. We don’t know who to trust and so we cling tightly to our comfort zones. Much like Mr. Deeks, we desire to expand our world and experience what lies on the other side of the “patio door” but we end up giving in to our fears and we return to the patio feeling even more frustrated and defeated. All of us can learn a great deal from the journey of Mr. Deeks. Here are a few of my takeaways from the BREAKTHROUGH I witnessed on Saturday.

*We ALL need a companion, someone who is there to pick us up when we are down. (They may not lick our face but we know they love us unconditionally and accept us for who and where we are) We ALL need to know that we have “raving fans”, people who cheer us on as we build our muscles of courage. IF YOU DO NOT NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW PLEASE FIND SOMEONE WHO DOES AND BE THIS PERSON FOR THEM.

*We are not our past. People can be cruel. They can do very unconscious things to us. We must show ourselves grace and keep moving toward the light. There a far more amazing, loving, caring, understanding, supportive people than there are cruel people. We must give ourselves permission to trust again, albeit one validation at a time. This is often a very slow process but one we must engage in if we desire to find inner peace. We must be willing to approach our desires and goals ONE RUG AT A TIME. Once we experience this BREAKTHROUGH our patio doors will never hold us hostage again. We now know what lies on the other side and IT IS GOOD!

*We must show grace to ourselves and others. Saturday was not the first attempt by Mr. Deeks to cross through a sliding glass patio door. Prior to Saturday he had never done it before. We have encouraged him to join us on our deck at both our mountain and city homes and although he has stood at the door and squeaked he has always retreated back to the safety of the living room couch. With every failed attempt we have shown him grace and let him know that the patio was his to enjoy as well as ours. We never placed him out there against his will because we knew that this would keep him from ever having a patio BREAKTHROUGH. We showed him grace and didn’t make him feel bad because he was afraid. This continued grace allowed him to finally experience his BREAKTHROUGH on Saturday.

We were ALL born into a different set of circumstances. None of us are any better than anyone else! We are ALL children of God who have traveled down different, sometimes painful paths. Our challenge is to live our lives in a manner that prioritizes grace and unconditional love. Strength doesn’t come from inflicting pain, strength is born from compassion. BTW….Since returning back to our mountain home, Mr. Deeks has routinely traveled back and forth through the sliding glass patio door and now spends much of his time lounging in a patio chair. Go figure, he has expanded his world!

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

Loving The HATERS…John Page Burton

Hate has always been present in my life. I wish this was not the case but unfortunately it’s true. All of us are exposed to a certain degree of hate and many of us have been victimized far more than others. The hater targets people who they classify as being different and who don’t fit into their view of how the world should look. Differences may include, sexual orientation, religious views, politics and ethnicity. Hate shows up in different forms and is often covertly displayed. For example, covert hate in the workplace may cause qualified people to be passed up for promotions, re-assigned or may lead to alienation by co-workers. YES this still goes on in 2014. As of late, hate seems to be inspiring certain religious organizations to boycott businesses owned by people who are not in alignment with their world view. In essence, certain religious leaders are saying…because you don’t agree with our point of view we will do everything in our power to destroy your business. This sounds pretty HATEFUL to me! This scenario is currently being played out as it pertains to Michael Sam, an openly gay, African American football player who was recently drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Visa is among the companies one particular religious organization is “demanding” that it’s “flock” boycott in order to “punish” Visa for sponsoring/supporting an openly gay athlete. In all fairness, there are numerous high profile gay celebrities requesting that their followers “punish” any business owner who opposes same sex marriage. Again this is sounding a bit HATEFUL all the way around. I am traveling to San Diego this weekend to celebrate the marriage of a same sex couple. Their marital choice is different from my marital choice yet I can still RESPECT, ENJOY and CELEBRATE them for being the amazing people they are. I have an African American friend who has published two books on the challenges of infertility. Everyday she speaks an uplifting message of hope for couples struggling with infertility. I RESPECT her for embracing Gods word and sharing her life experiences with those in need of understanding, grace and hope. If I had allowed sexual orientation or race to keep me from engaging with these amazing people I would have missed out on a truly enriching experience.

UNDERSTANDING…

Once we understand why someone CHOOSES to engage in a hateful behavior it becomes easier to understand how we can learn to LOVE and accept them for who and where they currently reside. The key word is currently… it is their CHOICE to remain there. LOVE may not be an easy assignment but one we must be willing to embrace if we truly desire to make a difference in the world. It is imperative that we teach our children to show grace and have compassion. Hate must never be an option!

HATERS…

Hurting. Haters live in pain. Their model of the world is based on a me against you mindset. Because you are different, you pose a direct threat to my way of life. I will get you before you get me. When a person is confined to this type of mindset they are never at peace. Angst, anger and fear are the dominant emotions that rule their life. Most haters have spent their lifetime living in pain.

OUR CHALLENGE is to view the hater with compassionate understanding. Recognizing that none of us were born to hate is the first step in this process. Hate is a learned behavior.

Attention. All of us crave attention and most of us will do whatever it takes to fit into a specific social group. This insatiable need to fit in will often lead the most gullible members of our society down a very dark road. We were ALL born into the light but shortly thereafter many of us were exposed to and remain in a very bleak emotional place. Haters seek out other haters because it is a way to bond and continue to feed their internal anger. Like Vampires, haters resist the light.

OUR CHALLENGE is to not play into the “haters trap”. When we practice “reverse hate” we are adding fuel to an ugly fire, one that if not extinguished has the potential to burn forever.

Taught. Hate is taught. The tenets of hate are passed down from generation to generation in much the same way as Great Grandmother’s fine China.

OUR CHALLENGE is to remember that we are offered two choices… LOVE or Hate. Our experience of the world will be shaped by which emotion we feed!

Ego. The chief function of the Ego is to create separation from others. This occurs most commonly in the form of jealousy, fear, envy and anger. On the other hand, LOVE encourages us to co-exist unconditionally.

OUR CHALLENGE is to ask the question…what would LOVE do? When we come from a place of LOVE we can show grace to even the most hateful people.

Resistance. Haters are resistant to anything new or different because it means they will have to give up control. Haters engage in this behavior because they view it (however dysfunctional it seems) as a way of exerting control in a world that for them has always been out of control.

OUR CHALLENGE is to release OUR desire that members of society behave a certain way. OUR personal power comes from knowing that we can control OUR response to another person’s behavior.

Stuck. Haters are emotionally stuck at a specific point in time (normally childhood). They have failed or are unwilling to move past this point. Haters will fight tooth and nail to keep from expanding or growing into a new point of view. Their hateful behavior will often accelerate in order to solidify their misguided beliefs.

OUR CHALLENGE is to bless the hater and realize that this is their chosen path. It may not make sense to us, however, it is where they currently reside. We can choose to step out of their energy.

We are free to choose our response to hate. We can return hate or we can bless the hater and be on our way. I tend to view a person spewing hate from the perspective of an extremely wounded child. This is their response to fear, change and uncertainty. Some of the most profound directives found in the Christian Bible encourage us to stay away from judgement, treat everyone with respect and dignity and we are reminded that we are NOT our brothers keeper. The Christian Bible is also very clear that any type of revenge or corrective action should be left in the capable hands of our creator, not man. Many religions and their revered spiritual teachers also encourage us to love our enemies. I admit that this can be very challenging to say the least. In the end the ball is left in our court…Love or Hate?

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.