Dogs and Spiritual Direction?
I just finished watching the movie “A Dog’s Purpose.” I know, it’s been out for a while, so long in fact that I watched it on one of the premium movie channels. I kept putting it off because I knew it would be a tear jerker, and in parts it was. I held my dog, Forte´, in my lap the entire movie. He comforted me during the sad parts and made the happy parts even better. The movie reminded me that he won’t be with me forever and what a special relationship we have.
Attention: ***Spoiler Alert***
For those who haven’t read the book by W. Bruce Cameron or seen the movie, it tells the story of a dog who keeps getting reincarnated and living with different people. This leads the dog to wonder “why am I here?” “What is my purpose?”
As a person on the path to becoming a spiritual director, I know that many of us humans ask the same questions over and over and over. (You don’t have to be a spiritual anything to know that!) It seems that as soon as we think we have discovered our “purpose” we’re back in the throes of a spiritual crisis wondering what it’s all about. Why am I on this earth and what am I supposed to be doing? How can I make a difference, after all, I’m just one person?
One of the benefits of spiritual practice is to find that you may have the same overall purpose regardless of what else is happening in your personal world or the big, global world. How you embody that purpose can, and will most likely, change throughout your life.
As for myself, I have found that my overall, guiding purpose is to try to make my encounters with others such that I make their day better. My mom taught me as a little girl that I’m responsible for making my little corner of the world a better place. My mom lived this principle all her life. What a great legacy for me to hold in my heart for the rest of mine! I’m talking about very simple things such as smiling at strangers, offering genuine compliments, and looking for the good in people. Things that enrich my community such as having pretty flowers on my patio, and letting people pet Forte´ are also ways to bring a moment of happiness to others. No matter what I’m doing at work or personal projects I may be working on, I can always hold this purpose as a North Star to guide me.
Wait, I know what you are thinking! This is an unrealistic purpose. I didn’t say that I’m always successful, none of us are. But when I’m fully in the present moment I have a much better chance of keeping my purpose at the forefront of my mind. Spiritual practices such as the Daily Examen can help with this.
The Daily Examen was created by St. Ignatius to reflect on the day and discern where you are being led spiritually.
- First, take a few deep breaths to quiet your mind and become aware of the presence of God, or Spirit.
- Next, review your day and be grateful for it, remembering the happiness of the day. Notice how you feel as you relive the moments. You may also realize times when you weren’t able to stick to your overall purpose. Perhaps you are led to realize that what you did at some point wasn’t in tune with your overall purpose. Maybe there are other things you would be better off doing with your time and talents that would be more fulfilling and on target with your purpose.
- Then, pray on some part or moment of the day. Maybe there is a message or something to learn from that experience.
- Lastly, move on and consider tomorrow. What is in store for you? Breathe, pray and let yourself learn from the day past while you prepare your heart and soul for the day to come.
Back to “A Dog’s Purpose,” each time the dog was reincarnated he found himself with a person that needed him-even though the person may not have realized it. His purpose was to make each of his humans happy. The dog found that living in the present moment and helping his humans do the same was his purpose. Dogs can’t tell time, they only know the “now” and they are great at making the most of “now”. The dog’s devotion and service to others made him happy too. Can you imagine if we all truly lived only to make others happy?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What is your purpose and how did you come to it? How do you live it out? Do you use any spiritual practices? I look forward to hearing from you.
Grace and peace,