The Beagle that Never Stops Barking
By Stephanie Miller
We used to live next door to a beagle. That dog barked 24/7. Did. Not. Stop. Barking. Ever. When I left for work in the morning the beagle was barking, when I got home at night the beagle was barking. If I woke up at 2 AM the beagle was barking. It was possible to tune the barking out and go on with life, but any time I wanted to I could tune in and hear the insistent, relentless bark of the beagle in the distance. It’s kind of an amazing feat really, I mean, when did it sleep or eat since it never, ever stopped barking?
I did have some curiosity about the beagle’s barking prowess but I never actually went so far as going over to the neighbors to talk to them or to see the Olympian barker. I never considered killing the beagle or having it’s vocal chords removed. I did genuinely believe that the beagle just needed some attention and some training. On some level I understood that the beagle was just being a dog and I couldn’t expect it to stop barking because it was inconvenient for me.
I recently realized that the beagle has a lot in common with the voice inside my head. You know that voice, the one that tells you shouldn’t have spoken up in a meeting or that your boyfriend doesn’t really love you or that your stomach is sticking out a little too much. She’s always right there to temper any good feeling with a dose of supposed realism. She’s just telling you just for your own good so you don’t make another mistake and embarrass yourself again.
So here’s a few reasons for a beagle to bark; seeking attention; frustration; boredom; illness; alarm or fear. Do any of these sound familiar? They do to me! They’re the same reasons that the voice in my head goes off. I have to treat my own mind with the same kind of tolerance that I treated the beagle with. This means trying to understand the reasons my mind is giving me these negative messages. It’s actually pretty simple. We are social creatures and our brains are wired to make sure we fit in in society. Our brain is on an almost constant mission to figure if there is anything wrong with our environment and what needs to be corrected, this includes our behavior. The trouble for most of us is that we haven’t trained our brains to go off duty. We haven’t learned to tell our brains that everything is fine and it can relax. We haven’t learned how to face fear and anxiety without the accompanying desire to fix it, immediately.
This is where meditation can be very useful. The action of relaxing intentionally and allowing your brain to focus on a single thing can be very powerful. It’s like training the beagle to stop barking. Because you don’t really want to listen to that dog barking all day and night, right?