Wag More. Bark Less

By Mary O’Malley

On my morning walk a few days ago I saw a delightful bumper sticker..."Wag more.  Bark less."  After a good chuckle, awareness reminded me that we oftentimes use that idea to override ourselves - to expect ourselves to be different than what we are. While it is a good intention to have, if we don't learn how to wag more and bark less with ourselves, we miss the point!

We are so used to barking at ourselves.  We are trained to deny, override, change or just fall into our inner experiences.  When we are angry or sad or scared, we usually get lost in the feeling or try to get away from it as fast as we can.  In other words, we leave ourselves when we most need ourselves.

We also have been deeply trained to judge ourselves. We 'bark' mean things to ourselves when we are the most vulnerable.  If we would talk to our friends like we talk to ourselves, we wouldn't have any friends! And yet you are the only person that you will wake up with every morning of your life and the only person you will go to sleep with every night.  Wouldn't it make a huge difference in your life if you could touch yourself with mercy, even when you aren't doing it 'right'?

In my world, one of the most healing things that can happen to an individual is to learn how to love ourselves AS WE ARE.  We are all a mixture of dark and light, and one of the most courageous things a person can do (and one of the most healing for the world) is to embrace the entirety of ourselves in our own hearts.

I learned a lot from Stephen Levine about 'wagging' more with myself, especially with his work around forgiveness and loving kindness.  This all coalesced into a wonderful little mantra that, for me, immediately brings me into that level of mind that isn't judging my experience.  Instead it is giving it the light of my own compassionate attention whether it is feeling unwell, a wave of fear, or even a chaotic, struggling mind.

The mantra is, "As is. I'm Here."  On the in-breath, you say silently to yourself, "As is".  "As is" is the place of merciful spaciousness, the willingness to allow ourselves to be exactly as we are in this moment.  It is the art of letting go of struggling with whatever is (our usual mode), and moving into the release that comes from welcoming it.  "I'm here" (on the out breath) is the willingness to be keenly curious and attentive to what is, giving it the loving attention it needs in order to transform.

These four little words allow us to meet ourselves exactly as we are-- the light and the dark, the clear and the confused, the kind and the mean, the acceptable and the unacceptable.  It is an invitation beyond the seemingly endless struggle to be what we think we should be.  This mantra gives us moments, however fleeting, when everything is okay, no matter how it feels.  It is the willingness to embrace all of the parts of our being so we can receive the loving acceptance we are hungry for from the source that really matters, ourselves.

Be light, Mary 


To learn more about this work, please visit our website at

Go to to YouTube to view The Gift of Our Challenges, a wonderful 3-minute multi-media presentation about this work, and click on my Blog link to read messages from me and reply or ask questions.

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The Magical Forest of Aliveness:
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