I'm sure I'm not the first person to notice what a natural Buddhist Cesar Milan -- AKA "The Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic TV Channel -- stunningly, beautifully, is.
On each episode, Cesar, a dog trainer, meets with the owners of dogs that are hyper-aggressive, hyper-anxious, or hyper-fearful. He interviews the owners for a while, and then he meets the dogs and notices their behavior -- barking at passersby, growling at anyone who approaches their food, biting visitors, twirling in circles, etc.
Cesar always starts by interviewing the owners for a while. Then he watches the problem behavior in their dog. Then he says a few profound things to the owners and does a few things with the dogs, and within a few minutes (edited down from a few hours of actual training) the dogs appear to have reversed years of bad behavior and are suddenly submissive, happy, and friendly.
Cesar always leaves each appointment telling the dog owners they need to continue their own mental training that they began on that day. The owners need to learn how to access their own natural ability to be calm and assertive, and to communicate that energy to their dogs.
If the owners do that, their dogs will get better and better and finally be completely cured of their problems. If the owners don't solve their own neuroses, though, the bad behaviors will continue.
Dogs, Cesar likes to say, always live in the present. Therefore, if the present is calm and peaceful, the dogs will be calm and peaceful. So it's up to the owner to become calm and peaceful.
"I rehabilitate dogs and I train people," Cesar says.
You probably have already figured out that the dogs' problematic behaviors always -- always -- mirror the aggressive, fear or anxiety of their owners's minds. So the real trick of Milan's technique is to convince the owners that this is true, that this is the real dynamic of the problem. In other words, that the only way to cure the dog's problem is for the owners to recognize and treat the problem in their own minds.
The instructive parallels to meditation continue. The way that Cesar calms down the dogs is a perfect demonstration of how a skilled meditator calms down the mind during meditation.
Normally, Cesar snaps the dogs out of their unwholesome mind-states with a single gesture -- a poke of his hand, which he holds like a jaw with exposed teeth. He applies this jaw-like hand in a single sharp jab applied to the dog's shoulder, or to forward part of the spine, behind the neck.
If the dog is super-aggressive, Cesar muscles the dog to the ground and applies his hand-jaw to the dog's neck with firm consistent downward pressure. He is in no way angry or fighting with the dog, he is just keeping the dog pinned down. Time after time, dogs that one second are barking or biting or spinning are sitting happily and quietly by Cesar's side. And dogs that one moment were in full-fledged attack mode -- their teeth bared and going for the jugular -- are on their sides, their tongues hanging out of their mouths, getting affectionate tummy rubs from Cesar.
This more sustained application of calm assertive energy to the dog is comparable to meditation, in which mindful awareness is focused, moment after moment, on whatever we choose to notice in the mind-body. Just as anger, fear and aggression soften and fade away when submitted to sustained mindfulness in meditation, so do Cesar's crazed dogs calm into a very obvious and visible bliss when he keeps his hand-jaw applied to their necks as they lie down.
To see this on Cesar's show is to see that the human mind wants to be trained, to be calmed, and to be submissive. Because each dog is a perfect reflection of a human mind, each episode stunningly demonstrates that the mind needs to be submissive to a higher power in order to be happy.
In most cases, all it takes to bring the unruly dog -- i.e., the unruly mind -- under control is a quick sharp touch of the hand-jaw. The passing poke to the aggressive dog (mind) is so lightly and briefly applied that it is nothing more than a reminder, really. A reminder of who is in charge, who is in control. This brief reminder -- this single moment of mindfulness -- is visibly seen to magically transfer the calmness of Cesar's innate awareness to the dog's mind and body.
The Dog Whisperer vividly demonstrates the essential "two-ness" of every human being. We are mindful awareness, but we are also mind. And mind is like a baby. It's undisciplined. It's sprawling. The mind wants, wants, wants and it searches, searches, searches, and it cries, cries, cries. It throws tantrums when it doesn't get what it wants. But it doesn't really know what it wants, so it never gets what it wants and is therefore never satisfied.
The only solution is for the mind to be disciplined by the other part of us, our mindful awareness, which through its naturally calm and assertive energy bring the mind under control. Mindful awareness can focus the mind's unruly energy through brief reminder-jabs, and can calm the dangerously violent mind through more sustained moment-to-moment attention.
When the mind submits in this way, it lies down and happily takes tummy rubs.