My life changed when I met one of the two greatest mindfulness masters of all time– Brownie + Domino, two little 14-year old Shih Tzus. Technically they’re my little brothers since they’re really my parent’s dogs. Although it’s probably more for survival reasons, animals know how to live moment to moment, and be completely present in their environment and conditions. Animals can teach us a lot about being present, Harvardstudy shows that having dogs can help you become more mindful. Every morning I wake up and no matter how many tasks are waiting for my attention, my two little “brothers” walk over to me for a morning greet and my attention belongs only to that moment. As they sit by my lap, I pet their head, scratch their backs, and make connection with them by bringing my face down to each of them and make eye contact to let them know I’m here now. And in that moment my life makes sense. This is my morning ritual that reminds me to always bring awareness to the present condition–it’s my mindfulness practice.
There are many ways you can practice mindfulness with your dogs.
- When walking your dog, you can bring awareness to the sensation in your feet and legs as you’re walking at the same time notice the sensation of your breath in your body. Then notice if you and your dog are walking as one unit, can you sense his needs, and can he sense your needs, for example, are you stopping when dog needs to stop and is your dog walking in the same direction as you or is he weaving all over the place.
- As you’re petting your dog bring awareness to the sensation on your skin as you make contact with the dog’s fur. And be intentional with why you are petting your dog, for example “I want him to know I love him”, or “I want to feel his soft fur”.
- When your dog is engaging with your bring awareness to his behavior and see if you can pick-up on what he needs from you, for example: to play, to go on a walk, for affection, for food. (Now that my dogs are senior this mindful practice has helped me understand how I can best serve my dogs).
- See if you can just sit in silence with your dog and bring your awareness to your breath and then to your dog, and back to your breath. Notice if there is are sensations, or emotions that arise that reminds you of the connection you have with your dog.
Dogs unlike humans don’t seem to be stuck in the past or get too worked up about the future. They live for the moment, and they respond to only what is happening to them in real time. In other words, they don’t hold grudges and decide to act to punish you for not letting them chew up your couch three years ago. I feel safe in knowing where I stand in the relationship, and I don’t take offense when they decide they choose sleep over engaging with me. This makes my relationship with my Brownie and Domino straight-forward, drama free, and uncomplicated.