A while back, I was reading an article written by a popular holistic vet that discussed the possibility that some people love their pets too much. As you might expect, there were quite a number of people who responded to this article with objection to this idea. Many people answered that they loved their pets more than life itself, more than people and so on.
I think the article missed the point, but the reactions seemed to point out the author’s intent. We humans have a very strong belief system and we make a concerted effort to prove what we believe. We also have a determined ego-mind that keeps us focused on our desires as well as our fears. In order to satisfy the ego’s influence for seeking happiness (desire), we often look for it in our special relationships. This includes the relationship we have with our pets.
The creation of our ego-mind and allowing it to influence us in the ways that it does, has led us to a belief that what we desire, love, joy, happiness, etc. can only be attained from something outside ourselves. So, we go on an unending pathway, looking for something or someone that will give us what we desire. We have been led to believe that if we have a special relationship, more money, more security and so on, we will be happy. Unfortunately, these things provide some sense of happiness but in a very limited way.
We all love our pets. At least that is what we believe and we will fight for that belief, just like the people who responded negatively to the article. But, do we really love our pets or is it really just a strong attachment? The answer is yes, we really love our pets, but we have created an attachment to them, due to the ego-mind’s influence, that has tainted this love. This is why our love is really conditional for our pet and the love from our pet is unconditional. Because, our pet doesn’t have an ego-mind interfering most of the time.
I work with pet caretakers every day in my office dealing with the upcoming death of their pet. What they believe is an intense love for their pet is actually a fear-driven response driven by their ego. Yes, they do love their pet, but the fear of losing their pet, driven by the ego-mind is in control and the love is put on the back burner. This is not love, but attachment.
When the ego-mind forms in early childhood, we begin to sense that there is a me and things out there. In time, the me-mind, or ego-mind, naturally assumes that if there is a me, then there are those things that are mine. This is when we form attachments. Attachments give us a temporary sense of happiness but it comes with a price; having it taken away. The stronger our attachment to something, the stronger the awareness that we have unconsciously, that it will at some time be taken away from us. This is how the ego-mind works. It has to instill fear of losing with all attachments derived out of desire. Do you remember how you felt when your parents took away your favorite teddy bear or blanket? You most likely felt like your world was coming to an end. You most likely have experienced many situations that you have lost things that you were attached to, and all of them have come with suffering.
Attachment is an aspect of time and space. Some thing (space) can be lost (time). Love is not an aspect of time and space. It is eternal, no beginning and no end. Love cannot be gained, nor can it be lost. But, the ego-mind can convince us that our attachment is actually love and when we lose our attached object, we lose love. This is suffering of the mind.
The truth is that you are love and you project your love on those things or relationships that open your heart. The conditioned mind makes us believe that the thing (pet or other special relationship) is the source of that love. It is from that perspective that we develop attachment. If we feel love and we believe that the source of love is coming from our pet then we develop a strong attachment. Since attachment is of the ego-mind and not of the heart, then it becomes conditional and it is no longer love.
Imagine that you have a white, glowing light coming from your heart. This light could represent unconditional love or that which is truly you. Now, imagine that light flowing up from your heart, moving through your brain/mind and projecting outward to your world. If the loving light is not altered by the mind as it passes through, then you will perceive your world as all-loving. This is how your pet perceives its world. But, if the conditioned mind (due to beliefs and perspectives) alters the loving light as it passes through the mind, the altered light will distort your world and create a world that is instilled with fear and all of its symptoms (worry, anxiety, depression, etc).
When we experience something in our world that opens our heart, this basically means that the experience transcends the ego-mind and re-connects our awareness to our source, love. This is what happens when we have a deep connection with our pet. It might also happen with other relationships, awe-inspiring experiences in nature, creating beautiful art, etc.
The point is to be aware of the source of love. It comes from within and is projected outward. When we are absolutely aware of this we can love unconditionally and be fulfilled in each moment with or without objects “out there” that appear to be the source of love. Then, when it is time to let go of that object, we can do so without a sense of loss. Instead, we can appreciate and celebrate our time together instead of agonizing over the time that we will not.
So, can we love our pets too much? No, because love cannot be measured. But, our ego’s influence can and will make us believe that we can or cannot, and its clouding of the truth is what causes our suffering. Stay in touch with the heart and don’t give so much attention to the ego-mind. You might find a place where your pet lives and the sweet presence of the undistorted moment.