I have a 2 year old dog named Cona. She is an extremely intelligent animal. She was the star of her training class at 6 months old. Immediately following her course (as a teenager does) she decided that she would take training and obedience into her own paws. She came when called when she felt like it. She waited until we had treats in our hands to give us a "paw" or a "chill" command. Crate training lasted about 3 months until she decided that she would cry all night. It took about an hour to leave the dog park after chasing her around with judging glares from other dog parents. She barked for attention every morning as I enjoyed the cup of coffee in my hand.
My husband and I felt as though we were doing everything right, however no matter how hard we tried, Cona seemed to rule our lives.
Recently, we allowed Cona to sleep in bed with us (I know---big no no) After a few months of this, we came to our senses and realized that something had to give. It was time for us to take control.
When Cona sleeps outside of our room, she claws at the door. She whines all night and barks when we do not respond. We have tried anxiety blankets, treating the quiet time, time outs, and positive reinforcement training. Nothing has worked. Our fear of waking the neighbors caused us to break the training rules and give her what she wanted....until now...
Similar to babies, if you allow dogs to bark, cry, whine until they are quiet, through repetition they learn that they will not get what they are asking for...attention. They begin to self-soothe. When we responded to Cona's barking, she was pleased that her behavior revoked a response. Therefore she would continue whining and barking until she got us to cave.
One night, we decided to put the earplugs in and allow Cona to bark. She barked for 4 hours straight until 3am. There were moments in which I thought I would have a panic attack. I felt frustrated as a dog parent. I felt like a failure in my dog training, and sad that I felt anger toward this animal that I loved. My husband and I just kept asking over and over "what should we do?" I thought that she had to stop eventually right? Cona: The Energizer bunny had stamina I never thought possible. Through many consistent evenings of barking, it began to diminish. Though occasionally loud, she understood the routine. She became quiet, and even lovable in the nighttime hour. We did it.
Why is this relevant?
We all have a little Cona voice living inside our heads at each moment. It barks doubt, whines for attention, and claws for you to coil and cave. This little voice becomes the Chitta Vritti (mind chatter or monkey brain) that can sway our decisions and distract us from what truly matters. The more that you give that voice what it wants, the bigger and louder it gets. It becomes this untamed animal living inside of you wanting all of your resources, energy, and love.
Good news is that we are strong and have a choice. We can allow that voice to serve us. We can choose to co-exist with this voice while still loving and learning from the lessons it tells us.
In yoga on and off the mat, this Chitta Vritti will always be there choosing its obedience level as it pops in and out of your head. We are only human after all. Yoga is a practice of observing this voice, rather than ignoring it. We have the opportunity to see instead of react and take those lessons with us into our personal and professional lives.
What voice or distraction needs to be tamed for you right now? Rather than pet the puppy that is barking at you, what can you do to self-soothe and make your mind a little more at peace? Rather than give the voice what it wants, can you redirect focus into patience, breath, and calming of the mind?
You are not your thoughts :)