by Rachel Inglis

posted 4 March 2016


I’ve been thinking about getting a dog for months. Or more like swithering, actually. So the following quote in a newspaper resonated:

“My own heart tells me [one thing], and my head then works with the facts ….. pulling them towards my predetermined position.”

Oh, how true.

I’ve done heaps of research, spoken to dog-owners, and am doing the reading. Then recently I learnt that a litter had been born to reputable breeders, and suddenly it’s become a reality!

Time to stop swithering and make a decision. But what should I do?

I had an epiphany moment. What about using ‘discernment’?

You might feel that going through a ‘discernment process’ just to get a dog sounds a bit OTT, but it made sense to me. This will make a huge difference to my life, and it is a responsibility. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, in other words.

The other thought lurking at the back of my mind was that either choice would be a good choice – there’s no obvious right or wrong here. For most of us, the choices we swither over are those where there is no obvious ‘right’ choice, and so how do we make the ‘best’ choice from two equally good ones?

What does Ignatian spirituality say about discernment?

Be ‘balanced’ for a start – or, to put it another way, aim for the state of heart where I am just as happy with either choice. So it first involves becoming aware of any ‘predetermined position’ of the heart and letting go of preference either way. In that way I am free to respond to the Spirit’s prompting.

If, when faced with a decision, we find ourselves swithering, as I did, the first suggestion is to make a list for and then one against. I first made a list against getting a dog, and then lived with that for a day, noticing how I felt. The following day I made a list for getting a dog, and then lived with that for a day, again noticing how I felt.

Writing the two lists helped to articulate what had just been vague feelings, and I was surprised by what I wrote. There was quite a qualitative difference in the two lists.

I noticed that the ‘for’ list had much more energy, life and consolation for me. I then spoke to a friend, who also noted that I sounded energised just talking about getting a dog.

Once I had made the decision, I noted again how I felt – did it still feel right, or was there an inner check? One thing is certain, the swithering has gone and I’m very content with my decision.

And, so, I hear you ask, have you got it yet? Well, no, but soon! A Westie, since you ask.

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