How I recently found that dog-owners have an untapped meditative source with you at all times: Your dog.
This blog was originally posted to our other blogsite at the Digging Deep Project. We’ve been hearing from our followers that they love animals as much as we do, so we wanted to also share this blog with our Shadow’s Edge readers! If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can read more awesome blogs from us by going to DiggingDeep.org/blog
When I was in my twenties, I went to a yoga class with my mother.
Apart from wanting to do something for our fitness, we also thought it would be a good way to practice mindfulness — something to center our thoughts. I had tried meditation before and while my mind did wander like they said it should, it didn’t wander aimlessly, instead returning to work, daily life and all things other than inner peace.
Unfortunately, my 67-year-old Mom and I got expelled from the Yoga class before we could reap its benefits.
We had picked a class that also focused on breathing, but what we hadn’t bargained on was that breathing came with exercises that our beginner bodies weren’t able to handle yet. At the same time, we were asked to picture and focus our healing energy on, for example, our liver, or our spleen (honestly, what does that even look like?). Of course, looking at each other and trying to maintain uncomfortable positions while visualizing our spleens didn’t exactly help us focus. And so, the inevitable happened.
While attempting a one-legged chair pose, we were asked to picture a healthy lung. My mom was an avid smoker and I could just see her think of the bad lungs on cigarette packs. We burst into laughter and were asked to leave.
Since then, I have come a long way.
I happen to really like yoga now (leaving out the more esoteric practices). I also have tried different ways of meditating and recently found that I have had an untapped meditative source for many years, right with me at all times: My dog.
For almost 2 years, I suffered from a skin condition that was thought to be stress-related and only got better this past August. When I was in Los Angeles on a trip in that time, I hoped to relieve my stress and my skin condition with a Doga class (yoga with dog…). I admit, I had more fun than my 15-year-old dog, Douglas. What is it they say about teaching an old dog new tricks? Anyway, it was a one-time thing, but it did get me thinking.
Only 2 months ago, I got my now 4-months-old new puppy Bowie.
Because of Covid-19 and where I got Bowie from, we had to quarantine over Christmas. So, I decided to try again: Doga 2.0. This time, I started with something a bit easier than balancing an untrained puppy in poses that I didn’t even know. And I found an online meditation class that involved dogs. Wasn’t that just what the doctor ordered? Suddenly it made total sense to me.
Working with a dog is all about our own energy.
Our energy leads and the dogs energy responds. What better way than shared meditation to bring both our energies into balance? I have a job that I cannot let go when the work day is over. I also have been under a lot of stress due to life circumstances and the lingering physical and mental effects of my illness. When Douglas passed, I was devastated. Now I have Bowie.
Living with Bowie is a bit like having a boyfriend that is into extreme sports. He wants to do and try everything. Ideally all at once and with every possible distraction. Yorkshire Terriers are highly intelligent but due to their size are often underestimated, meaning they are not challenged enough. They may be small, but they are still their own woof. They love learning new things. And they love doing that with you. Even when that thing is meditation.
From when I was little, we’ve always had Yorkies and one of the things I really like about having a dog is that when you are with a dog it demands your attention and focus. In a way owning a dog is its own mindfulness practice. If you allow yourself the time to cuddle, play, walk and really be with your furry companion, it’s easy to forget or reframe all the things that are bothering you.
I’ve always called that time Quality Dog Time: My moments of peace in a hectic day before sending him off to lie and wait for me to finish work again.
Studies show that owning a dog promotes the flow of oxytocin, a hormone that decreases our heart rate and fosters feelings of well-being and relaxation. Science demonstrates that these biological responses have measurable clinical effects. Specifically, pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Interactions with animals can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions. Plus, wouldn’t you know, it also calms Bowie down. Not for long, I will admit. But still.
So why not try it? Here are the steps Bowie and I developed to help you meditate with your dog. (Really…)
I take a mat or blanket and sit in a comfortable pose. In my case, I cross my legs in yoga pose. With the promise of treats, I entice Bowie to sit in front of me between my legs, facing me (this doesn’t always work). I look at him and pet him to focus both my attention on him and his on me. Then, I hold Bowie around his ribs. Since he is small, this enables me to hear how he is breathing and hear his little heart. Then I start taking deep breaths and in the same rhythm as my breathing, I pet Bowie. I concentrate on my breathing and his and try to align them in a rhythm. Because he is a small dog, this usually means that for every three breaths he takes, I take one.
That is basically it: We sit together and breathe for as long as he will tolerate. We try to do this once per day now and usually it is after he has had a good play session, so that I can help him calm down faster when he is amped up.
The benefits are that I get to spend quality time with Bowie. I have a mini meditation session, and Bowie learns to calm down after running around. It’s simple and you can do it anywhere. And best of all, it’s a really cool bonding experience with your pet. Try it and let us know what you thought. We promise: No judging. Now it’s time to get off your device and go meditate with your dog.
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