My wife and I recently celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary by taking our three kids to San Diego for a couple of days of surfing and playing in the sand. Yep, we took our kids on our anniversary trip but guess who we didn’t take. There was no way we were bringing our dog, Bode (pronounced bo-dee). Forget that. For one thing it is very difficult to find a hotel (especially in La Jolla) that will let you bring your dog on vacation. And, and this is most important, it was time that Bode got a little time with Judy our friendly neighborhood dog trainer. Don’t get me wrong, Bode is a sweetheart but he is also a puppy, which means that he is about 50% dream come true and 50% nightmare. After the untimely death earlier this year of Rocket, our beloved 2 year old Australian Shepherd, we were ready to get back in the game and are now the proud owners (masters, parents, litter mates) to Bode Blue, a 6th month old Australian Shepherd. While it is a little difficult to be back at the training starting line, we love puppies. Heck, everybody loves puppies. Bode and I are at that stage where we are beginning to share that blessed union that can exist between humans and canines. But if I am being honest, Bode is a 18-pound, relentlessly restless, disobedient, unruly, always-barking, trouble-maker.
So when my wife came home today saying she heard someone say, “our minds are like puppies” I almost jumped out of my chair with an “AMEN!” “Our minds are like puppies” is undeniably true and it hits home. My mind is more like Bode than I care to admit.
Our minds are almost never calm. We have no relief because we want everything. We suffer so much dis-ease as our unruly minds do not obey and resist any kind of training what-so-ever. Even St. John of the Ladder said, “The mind is a greedy little kitchen dog, addicted to barking.”
Standing in direct opposition to this insanity (literally – lack of sanctity) is the surfing we came to do and the surfers we came to watch. As I drank my morning coffee and said my prayers, the wet-suited dawn surfers operated at a slower, calmer, controlled, ordered pace. The waves have a rhythm that can soothe. The surfers line up and join the rhythm as they begin to pick up speed and glide on the waves. I felt irresistibly drawn to breathe with the surf like the waves were the lungs of the world and felt my mind calm down.
Eastern Christianity has given us many great gifts but one of the most accessible is what we call The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The Jesus Prayer when said to the rhythm of our breathing can prayerfully bring this same calm about. While a feeling of calm is not the point of prayer it is the point at which we can begin to listen to the voice of God. Hearing waves reminds us to breathe and pray. Breathing in: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.” Breathing out: “have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Hearing that our minds are like puppies can also be hopeful. On our return to Phoenix we found a new and improved dog. Of course, he has already torn up a napkin and I just found his head in the cat’s litter box. But if Aussies can be trained so can our minds.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner.