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Mystical Dogs

Mystical Dogs

(Inner Ocean Publishing)

Book Summary by Linda Brown

  Throughout her life, Houston has been a dog lover, so it seems natural that she features them in her book about following the mystic path. She reminds us that dogs offer steady emotional support, love us unconditionally and can even find us thousands of miles away.

They inhabit our imaginations and find a place in our dreams. Our pets assist us in finding who and what we really are. They help us bridge nature and instinct.

Woven into the stories about her animals, there are thoughts and suggestions regarding meditative and spiritual practices.

Mysticism, as Houston defines it, is the "art of union with Reality." It is a heroic journey of the spirit and the mystic is a person who brings into their path vigor, attention, and focus. These are the same characteristics we find in many of our pets.

The mystic path contains eight stages that this book is centered around. The eight stages include the following:

  1. Awakening - being filled with awareness that one is a part of the whole

  2. Purification - being released from old ways of thinking and doing

  3. Illumination - finding beauty and meaning in everything

  4. Voices and visions - knowing with more than the five senses

  5. Contemplation and introversion - turning to the inner life of prayer and contemplation

  6. Ecstasy and rapture - the art of the science of happiness

  7. Dark night of the soul - feeing bereft of everything. (This is easier to endure if we realize that this is a necessary stage, that what goes up must also come down.)

  8. Union with the one Reality. This stage is called the "unitive life" and this phrase appears often in the book. Everything becomes possible because the person is in a state of union with the One Reality. People who exist in this stage are energy and are life centers for the spiritual vitality in other people.

Within the framework of the mystic experience Houston relates how each of her pets has taught her lessons that have helped her on her own mystic path.

The first dog she owned was Chickie, who taught her to be alert to the seen and unseen. She and Chickie wandered hour upon hour through the forest and meadows - looking, hearing, tasting, touching.

Through the presence of Chickie, the author learned to awaken. Chickie also taught her that there is no such thing as past, present and future, but that time is infinite.

It is within the story of Chickie that the book instructs how to do the "stop" exercise, a method of practicing mindfulness. The exercise is done as follows:

Walk around a room. Become aware of everything you are doing, seeing, etc. Do the exercise for several minutes. Pick up a glass, walk to the door, look at your shoes. Then, stop. Next, do the same thing again, but this time bring your full consciousness to the activities. Inhabit, really inhabit your reality.

The author believes that if this practice is done for five minutes a day, within a month's time a person will have expanded her senses to the point where she is consciously orchestrating her own life.

Using the stop technique also makes one live more creatively, because mindfulness gives passion with clarity.

Houston's second dog, Champ, was part of her life from ninth grade through graduate school. He seemed to really listen when she told him her adolescent problems and secrets.

Also, he loved to get his leash and urge her to take him walking. It was through these walks that she happened to meet two men who played important roles in her life.

The first was an elderly gentleman for whom she ended up working, who taught her to appreciate, date and repair antiques. The other was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the great French scientist and mystic.

He taught Houston about evolution and the Divine and got her interested in searching for the divine potentials within humans.

Champ's skills involved networking and creating community. With him she was released from childhood's limited vision into larger visions, broader scope.

Champ taught her the four R's of transformation: route, rhythm, ritual and rendezvous. Champ is evidence of how we can all be magnets that attract what we need by sending out frequency vibrations.

Jean Houston's next dog, Titan, seemed to be on a mission of teaching her about goodness. Although Titan was in pain most of the time due to a spinal deformity, he loved everyone and everything.

He was a natural rescuer and gravitated toward people who were in emotional or physical distress. His very presence illuminated the minds and spirits of people who met him. Through Titan, she learned to better understand the four goals for a loving life:

  1. Loving kindness

  2. Heart compassion

  3. Willingness to allow oneself to be happy because someone else is happy

  4. Allowing oneself to be in a state of loving when others are not.

Titan demonstrated that the state of illumination is a natural form within oneself.

After Titan came two dogs that sang with her, one that loved to be dressed in costume and Zingua, the mastiff, who always did everything right. In addition to being so well-behaved, Zingua also possessed serenity.

She was another of the dogs that was alert to people experiencing distress, upon whom she bestowed her gifts of healing. Zingua was also the dog that participated when Houston taught altered states (sensory, psychological, symbolic and spiritual), which Houston also refers to as the four levels of the psyche.

The book briefly talks about an abbreviated technique for reaching these states while pointing out that the luminous place of consciousness is always available to us.

One of the dogs discussed in the book was not the author's, but belonged to a doctor whose medical practice consisted of counseling cancer patients. The dog, Nova, is of the Xolo breed, whose bodies have unusual radiant heat.

Nova helped cancer patients by placing her warm body over their diseased parts. Now she is also learning to smell disease in its early stages.

The last of the dogs to be written about was a long-haired white German Shepard named Luna. Many native peoples of the Americas consider a beautiful white dog to be a messenger from God and a messenger to God.

Luna was only four and a half months old when she arrived in Houston's life, and was the least dog-like of all the dogs Houston ever had. Houston talks about Luna's angelic nature and how her eyes held the mystery of union and reunion.

At times dogs have been regarded as gods - by the Egyptians, the Maya, and the Celts. Even Disneyland offers us animals that lead us into wonder and enchantment. Nor are animals afraid of the darker aspects of life. They are happy with us even when we are not happy with ourselves.

Toward the end of the book a humorous story is told about Moondog, the pet who kept bringing home human limbs. Eventually the police were called.

It turned out the limbs had been used by a pathologist in teaching his anatomy and dissection classes. When he had no more use for them, he buried them and one by one, Moondog dug them up and carried them home to his owner.

Another of Moondog's activities was grooming the cats. He would lick them for hours. Both dog and cats loved it.

Houston writes that from the blissful state Moondog seemed always to be in, he taught her about rapture. She believes an ecstatic state is natural, that the soul is geared for happiness and union with the One. She says it is reached when we tune in to our Source.

For the mystic, the unitive vision creates a new life and one experiences a sense of belonging and energies far greater than one's own. There are three marks of the state of union of which Houston writes.

First is complete absorption in the interests of the Infinite. Second is a complete sense of freedom and having urges to perform heroic effort or creative activity. Third is the self being established as a center of energy, giving birth to spiritual vitality in others.

True mystics quicken the Godseeds within the rest of us so that we, too, can move into extended realities.

Just as humans have different personalities and gifts, so do animals. Each has it's own specific set of lessons which it can teach us. The author says that one of the most important things she learned from her dogs is to pursue a dream wherever it takes her.

Not only were Houston's dogs companions in life, but they were also spiritual teachers to enlightenment.

And isn't it interesting, she notes, that dog is God spelled backwards?

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