Who are your teachers? One of mine is Mavis, my one year old Australian Shepherd/Collie canine mix. At 35 pounds, and mostly hair, this wiley young pup teaches me the most about being in the moment, letting things go, and finding time to rest.
Mavis did not have an easy start in life. Found in rural Kentucky, a kind stranger rescued six abandoned puppies who were all very timid and scared. According to her foster-mom, Mavis was the first one to walk-through the open door of the rescue crate with curiosity and courage. In doing so, she was already beginning to live a life that inspired others.
Ram Dass famously spoke, “We are all just walking each other home.”
When the world is observed mindfully, finding our kinship with other beings is always within reach, especially if you have pets. This blog is for anyone who is curious how to support their mindfulness practice of pausing, paying attention, and being present with their furry or feathered loved ones.
Mindfulness with Your Pet
1. Breathe together.
This is a great one when you need to focus or to deescalate strong emotions. It’s helpful if your pet is resting. You could gently rub your hand on their body or just watch from across the room. It’s nice to lie down next to your pet if you can. I place my hand gently on Mavis‘s rib cage and match her inhalation and exhalation. I am able to clear my mind enough to just focus on breathing in and out in rhythm with her.
2. Be Present.
Mavis is a mixture of different kinds of herding dogs. Her ancestry has provided her with skills of observation and an alertness to what moves in the environment. At times I will sit next to her outdoors or next to the window. I notice her gaze and follow it. By tuning into her noticing, I am aware of subtle movements, the smell in the air as she lifts her little muzzle toward the sky. I watch her ears to see where they’re pointed and try to listen to what she may hear. All of this input through the senses helps me get present to the moment.
Mindfully living doesn’t always have to be so serious! Mavis invites fun into the moment. Her presence, nonattachment, non-judgment turns everything into a game. She approaches the world with curiosity. How does this taste? What does this run feel like? She has a keen sense of meeting the moment fully embodied. I feel like she’s constantly inviting engagement. It may seem like the wrong time, but that’s the beauty of a dog mind. It’s always the right time to play!
4.Rest and restore.
Mavis plays hard. She rests when she needs to rest, no matter where she is or if it’s appropriate. She often reminds me to drink water or rest. When she’s home, she nuzzles and paws at her bed in true Goldilocks fashion until her resting place is just right. She finds the balance of resting and restoration to support her active puppy lifestyle. I am a firm believer that when you see it, you can believe it. Mavis makes me believe in the power of resting well, and often.
Mavis loves to walk in the park. I do too, so it’s very convenient! Sometimes (most times) our plans don’t always go the way I think they will. Imagine getting very excited to get in the car. Drive all the way to the favorite park and arrive at a huge thunderstorm. Ugh. I am devastated, but somehow Mavis is delighted! I don’t know if she had expectations, but she definitely is okay with whatever happens. She is able to meet the moment and accept what it is. She helps me to not sweat the small stuff and always be willing to adapt the plan.
Who Walks Whom?
Just like humans, all pets come with their unique gifts and personalities. There is no doubt that they can be examples for how to live mindfully. As humans, our role is to become aware of the ways our pets attune to the world. As Mavis and I integrate our lives together, we become aware of each other‘s needs, patterns and habits while we create a sense of cohabitation. There is no doubt: she is her own being. We make agreements about how we want to live together.
The mindfulness with your pet tips are some things that Mavis and I find helpful in managing all the ups and downs of life. I encourage you to try these things with your pets. Have anything to add to this list? Find us on Mind Body Align social media and share your thoughts with us!
Grow Your Mindfulness Practice
Are you interested in more everyday, informal mindfulness moments? Join Caryl in a virtual community mindfulness practice every Wednesday and Thursday at mindbodyalign.com
Caryl Church Jesseph (she/her) is a Curriculum and Education Developer and Mindful Educator with Mind Body Align. Along with 15 years of experience in public schools as a K-12 art educator, Caryl is also a certified yoga teacher, published writer, exhibited artist, and winner of the Northeast Ohio Outstanding Art Educator Award and The Carrie Nordlund Award.
Caryl earned her Master’s Degree in Art Education from Kent State University. She compliments her work with modalities rooted in storytelling, visual art, movement, play, and ecological connection. She is passionate about creating welcoming, safe, inclusive, equity-focused spaces that support people’s mindful awareness and connection to self, others and the natural world. Outside of the classroom, Caryl can often be found photographing wildflowers, writing stories, or enjoying live music.