Sunday mornings Carlie and I meet with our tracking club to practise developing tracking skills. Basically, we each follow a track (or scent trail) with several items for the dog to identify, each carrying the scent of the person who had laid the track). Although we are still quite amateur in our skills and abilities, we all enjoy our time and keep stretching our skills and our partnerships with our dogs.
Typically, the facilitators lay our tracks before we arrive, so each track has a chance to ‘age’ (this is more difficult than fresh tracks, which are easier to follow for the dog). This week, several challenges were added to Carlie’s tracks. They were intentionally ‘contaminated’ by two other people who had walked across the track – which means that she had to really concentrate and discern which track we were following. Second, the wind had picked up since the tracks were laid, carrying the scent farther off the tracks. This drifting makes it more difficult for the dogs to stay with the ground track. And to top it off, Carlie’s tracks involved corners, both into the wind and away from the wind, meaning the scent would be more or less strong, respectively. Garbage was also strewn around, so she had to ‘mark’ the real items ‘lost’ by the person, separate from random garbage on the field.
My own challenge of the tracking was that I didn’t have any idea where the track went. This is a sport where you learn to read and trust your dog. Carlie’s sense of smell is approximately 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than mine. A human has about 5 million scent glands, compared to a dog, who has anywhere from 125 million to 300 million (depending on the breed). While a dog’s brain is only one-tenth the size of a human brain, the part that controls smell is 40 times larger than in humans. So I have to learn to trust her and what she knows through her nose. That being said, she still looks to me for direction when she is unsure about a situation.
Carlie and I enjoy this sport and our goal is to set the dogs up for success. This time however, with the shift in wind, we all ended up being somewhat frustrated, dogs and people. I found myself wanting Carlie to be able to find the right track and ‘mark’ the items. I couldn’t help her because I didn’t know where the track went. The facilitator was calling out ‘read your dog’. Carlie wasn’t on the right track but I didn’t know how to help her get there. We both were getting frustrated. When she followed a track she was sure was right, I stood still and wouldn’t follow. So she came back to me looking for direction, looking at me, “well which track then?” She was doing exactly what she is trained to do – look to me for direction when she is unsure of what is expected. Yet, in this moment, I was asking her to be the one to go first, to get calm and work through the challenge before us.
The third track was even more difficult with angles and repeated contaminations of the track. When I realized what I was expecting of Carlie, I took a deep breath, called Carlie back to me and paused with her. I got myself calm and shifted the role of being patient back to me. I asked the facilitator for the orientation of the path. I reset her and reassured her she was doing a great job even though it was hard.
We got ourselves re-oriented and I directed her to ‘search’ again. We got through the contamination section and onto the last part of the track. Although we still had the wind, we now were dealing with only one track and she found her last item. We were both cold, somewhat frustrated, and yet relieved we had finished – we had found all the items. Together, we had completed the task and we felt a sense of accomplishment in the midst of the frustration.
On the way home, I could sense that Carlie had found the morning very challenging. Dogs have the capacity to understand us and are often impacted or influenced by our emotions. I wanted to change our response to the morning and I knew that change needed to come from me. Our trainer always tells people to talk to their dogs. Explain things. Even though there is no scientific evidence to prove they understand us, again and again, she sees that it works, so go with it.
I, of course, know Carlie listens when I speak with her. What she understands I’m not sure, but I can tell when she has understood the concept or sentiment I wish to convey. I told Carlie that “I know it was frustrating and very hard. But we did it. We stayed with the track. We finished it together. We worked together and didn’t give up on each other. We both kept working to finish the track. That is what we celebrate.” I thanked her several times for her good work and partnership. She sighed, relaxed and put her head on the door handle (her favourite resting spot in the car).
Change is difficult. It requires our all and sometimes more than we know we have (like this tracking session with Carlie). And when change is necessary in a relationship, change needs to be mutual. Both parties need to stick with the change process. If only one person is doing the changing, eventually the partnership will fall apart or one party will get sick or at the extreme, die.
Change is a natural given. How much change is often up to us. However, the level of change we allow, is the level of peace and joy we will be gifted. Change will take us outside our comfort zone as it did for Carlie and I. It will mean learning new skills that push us outside of our competency. And change will mean that sometimes we need to leave some people behind who cannot and will not join us on the change journey. But if we do not leave them, we will find ourselves frustrated and angry or depressed because we will have to stifle our own joy, freedom and potential to stay with the other … and perhaps make ourselves sick.
Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I’ve been inviting people to listen for their sacred word for 2016; that sacred word that will grow them, transform their hearts, expand their sense of self and guide them. My word is ‘imagine freedom’. To have more freedom, to imagine more freedom, I have to change. And I can’t ask Carlie to be the one to go first. It’s not for me to ask my family or friends to go first. However, as I change and invite more freedom into my life, I can ask them to partner with me in changing. I can invite them onto a journey of change with me, so we can move up toward partnership or companionship with each other, toward more intimacy and connection, toward higher expressions of love and joy.
This month I am offering a Reiki Retreat on February 19-21st on Moving into Freedom for anyone who wants to join us on ‘being free’.
I am also co-facilitating Peace Circles in which amazing conversations happen among people who want to walk inner peace to interpersonal peace in our lives. With peace, we are free. In peace, we have joy. If you really want change this year, are ready and committed for it, join us.
If you looking for new ways to imagine peace in the way you live your life this year, plug into one of the available programs. Or contact me for an individual session. You just might experience the freedom to be the ‘you’ you are, rather than the ‘you’ you think you would be, should be or could be if only life were different. Change you and you will change your life.