On Guardians of Being
A Celebration of the Gift of Our Companion Animals
By Patrick McDonnell
“Everything natural, every flower or tree, and every animal have important lessons to teach us…” - Eckhart Tolle
Guardians of Being (words by Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth and art by Patrick McDonnell, creator of MUTTS) celebrates the reason we love our companion animals. It illuminates for us their divine purpose. While we are lost in our thoughts and busyness of everyday life, they have become our guardians of being. They can bring us into the present moment and reconnect us to the one source of all life.
Guardians of Being is a collaboration of Eckhart’s teachings and my cartoon illustrations. As does all of Eckhart Tolle’s work, Guardians of Being teaches us about finding inner peace by living in the now, the transformation of our consciousness, and the arising of a more enlightened humanity. The primary signposts in this new book are all of nature and, in particular, our beloved dogs and cats.
Eckhart’s words in Guardians of Being are succinct and to the point, similar to his text in Stillness Speaks. As Eckhart Tolle said in his introduction to that work, the form the book takes is like “the oldest form of spiritual teachings: the sutras of ancient India. Sutras are powerful pointers to the truth in the form of aphorisms, or short sayings, with little conceptual elaboration…. The advantage of the sutra form lies in its brevity. It does not engage the thinking mind more than is necessary. What it doesn’t say - but only points to - is more important than what it says.”
On a different level, I think the same can be said of the brief three-panel comic strip. At its best, its humor and truth go beyond the obvious.
I wanted to be a cartoonist as far back as I can remember. I’ve always loved the art’s simplicity, immediacy, intimacy and absurdity. From the start, I was enchanted by how a few simple pen-and-ink lines can come to life on the page, which is, for me, the magic of cartooning. Many great comic strips (such as Peanuts and Krazy Kat) spoke to me directly and I always wanted to give back some of the joy and comfort I found there.
MUTTS, my comic strip about a dog, Earl, and his unlikely friend, a cat named Mooch, started in 1994. MUTTS focuses on experiencing the natural world (gentle rain, quiet flurries, full moons…) and that special bond that forms between companion animals and their guardians. My own Jack Russell Terrier, Earl, was my inspiration. Earl was my teacher; he constantly celebrated life. I tried my best to convey his joie de vivre and good-hearted spirit in my strip.
Animals are one with life and can be our link back to nature. In MUTTS I try to keep the animals animal-like. In trying to see the world through their eyes, I have become more aware of and empathic to their situation.
MUTTS has led me to work closely with several animal welfare groups, and to join with The Humane Society of the United States where I serve on its board of directors. We face many issues of animal cruelty that humans perpetrate on animals, such as factory farming, dog fighting, and puppy mills. The HSUS is making large strides on many fronts, but sometimes it feels to me like we are attacking the Hydra; every time a problem is resolved, another rears its ugly head. But at its core there is just one problem, unconsciousness. We no longer feel connected to nature, to the life force. In Guardians of Being, Eckhart shows us the reconnect: “When you are present you can sense the spirit, the one consciousness, in every creature and love it as yourself.”
Making art can be a form of meditation. I start my day in the early morning by reading a passage or two from a spiritual book to keep my head and heart open. In 1999, while traveling in Los Angeles and visiting one of my favorite book stores (The Bodhi Tree), I saw The Power of Now on their new arrival shelf. I was compelled to bring that book home; it moved me with its directness, simplicity, and place of deep truth. As it has done for millions, The Power of Now changed my life. Eckhart’s teachings inspires MUTTS, and many strips have a direct connection.
I thought combining my art with Eckhart’s teaching on how animals and nature can bring us into the present moment could be a good entry point for some people. Seeing a photo of Eckhart with his new dog, Maya gave me the impetus to pursue this project.
My wife, Karen O’Connell, and I compiled his passages and quotes that focused on animals and nature. We paired these with MUTTS art that spoke to the teachings in their own way. We created a proposal for the book and Eckhart graciously agreed to collaborate. He edited, reworked and wrote new material for what was to become Guardians of Being. He created a passionate, humorous, enlightening meditation on the power and grace that animals can bring into our lives.
In Guardians of Being, Eckhart has translated what our companion animals have been telling us for ages. “Life is good.” “Live in the Now.” “Enjoy.”
Copyright Ó 2009 by Patrick McDonnell. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800/972-6657 ext. 52.
Patrick McDonnell is the award-winning creator of the MUTTS comic strip, which appears in over 700 newspapers in 20 countries and has an estimated daily readership of 50 million, as well as the author and illustrator of the picture books The Gift of Nothing, Hug Time, and the upcoming October release, Wag! (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). He lives in New Jersey. His website is www.muttscomics.com
Eckhart Tolle is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Now (3 million copies sold) and A New Earth, the fastest-selling Oprah Book Club selection ever (5 million copies sold). He speaks and teaches extensively throughout the world. He lives in Vancouver, Canada and his website is www.eckharttolle.com
Guardians of Being
Words by Eckhart Tolle Art by Patrick McDonnell
October 2009 Gift/Inspiration $18.00 ISBN 978-1-57731-671-8
Hardcover 128 pages Color illustrations throughout
Printed on 100% postconsumer-waste recycled paper