Transform Your Daily Dog Walks into Mindfulness Sessions
We often link mindfulness to practices like meditation and yoga, but with a dog in your life you will learn faster.
Photo by Gary Ellis
Mindfulness might be one of those terms you think it comes from a Celeste’s hippie hazed soft mouth, and while this is often the case, I invite you to forget about it so that the message of this article finds you unbothered.
Mindfulness is a component of a happy and meaningful life. Simply put, it is the state of mind where you live and experience each moment as it comes. No judgements attached. From there, there seems to be no limit.
Despite the increasing popularity and interest in mindfulness, and a growing understanding of the profound effects on people’s lives, people struggle to implement a daily practice that will help them become more mindful. Mindfulness is linked to practices like meditation and yoga but honestly they are not a necessity. With a dog in your life, you will learn faster.
The struggle to stick to new habits is real
“I wish I had more time for meditation,“ I hear people say, ”but my mornings are even more packed since Rona came in”. They hold Rona, the dog, responsible for taking time from meditation while she is actually creating more. She takes the blame for being part of the problem but in reality, Rona is part of the solution.
If you also seek to slow down your erratic mind, but struggle to find time for your mindfulness goals (especially now that the dog is here), think about this:
Habits are hard to get into and even harder to maintain. Even the most promising habits -like those that make up our lists of new life resolutions– fail to maintain momentum and never become something of value. It is common to struggle with habits that are hard to stick to.
The blame is not on the dog though, neither is it on the bad commune or the weather. It is probably you being a procrastinator. Or am I projecting?
You may need to become a little more flexible and unconventional. For example, there is no reason to believe that the only path to advanced mindfulness goes through forced meditation sessions. I have multiple alternatives to offer. On the top of my head, daily meditative walks will do just fine.
As a dog person you have an advantage in this. You are ahead of the game in developing an incredible habit that experts recommend and the rest struggle with; the habit of going for one or, even better, two daily walks. You are ahead because you get to be out there twice a day everyday for years to come. (Two walks for at least one hour each are a minimum for a dog’s welfare.)
Use your morning and evening dog walks as the foundation to build a new practice on it. With a conscious effort to spice up your two daily walks with your dog, you can transform them into your daily mindfulness practice. Your daily mindful trips.
The opportunity to practice mindfulness organically as you go through your daily doggy tasks is one of the greatest benefits of living with a dog. Seize it.
”How does a meditative walk with my dog help?”
Practices that promote a healthy and strong relationship with the present moment help you relieve from the toxicity of an unfocused mind. Meditative walks are mind soothing. Daily meditative walks are life changing.
A daily morning walk under the trees gets your mind right. The morning sunlight salutes the brain with the right amount of vitamin D, the weather keeps the mind in touch with the elements, and the movement of your hips gets your fluids moving.
There is an extra element in today’s idea that will further propel you. Having daily tasks that their purpose exceed your self’s needs is humbling. Caring is humbling and being humble facilitates advanced mindfulness. With time, caring for your dog’s daily needs and being an active part of their daily adventures will shape your brain to be more selfless and thoughtful.
Putting your ego aside broadens the awareness.
Caring makes your daily doggy tasks a little more important and ritualistic, and like all rituals, it gives you a daily purpose and structure. Yes, if you let it, the doggie life structures your day. This helps you become more focused. Healthy routines keep the mind from purposeless thinking.
Having a daily structure that revolves around your dog, given the love and fun that comes from it, has extra benefits. It helps you stick to it with more ease. Easier than to stick to generic or self-centered assignments.
”How to keep the mind focused?’
All you need to do —sounding easier than it is— is focus on the present moment. If you need something more tangible than the ‘present moment’ here are a few small events worthy of your attention while walking your dog:
- your dog’s breath
- your dog’s reaction to everything
- your breath
- the touch of the wind
- the sun’s warmth
- the touch of your clothes
- your hips’ movement
There are always going to be one or more -it is always more- sensations throughout your body, whether you notice them or not. If you look closer, you will feel countless sensations across your body as your restless biochemistry works in its known and unknown ways.
If you find your mind to be stiff and you are unable to feel the subtle sensations in your body, turn your attention outwards. Focus on the sounds of your surroundings. The cars passing by, the kids playing, etc. Everything that happens is practice for the mind to return to the present moment. With time and practice, you will train the mind to be more in the now and less in the fantasy zone.
How to level up?
Take it to Nature
Peaceful natural landscapes are not in everybody’s reach, that’s why you may need to go the extra mile that will take you there. Look for the nearest green area and go with your dog as often as you can. Go for a morning or evening meditative walk to the nearest forest, beach, or lake, instead of your usual walk. Go where it is only natural for your dog to be off-leash and you to be more relaxed.
Develop this habit and you will step up your daily mindfulness practice. Do more of it and you will see your life improve. Plus, your dog will love you for it.
The sounds and smells of nature have an immediate and profound effect on all of us. Nature provides the ground for a more effortless deep work. It will slow you down and relieve you from excess stress. Being in nature will reinforce your mind to detach from bills, administrations, worries, and regrets; your constant self-absorbed thinking pitfall.
While in nature, your senses get aroused and it’s easier for the mind to turn its attention to the present moment. However, you still need to make conscious efforts to leave stress behind and maintain your focus on the many external and internal stimuli that abound in nature.
As we established before, your body sensations will always be there to bring your mind back to the now. With time and practice, the mind becomes sharper and sharper. The subtle realities of the world do not slip your attention. Worries do not break the seal, you see clearer and make better decisions.
As you advance in the game the benefits mount up.
The great outdoors
This is for when you want to escalate your efforts. Immersed in the forest or a wild beach is when the senses feast and the mind has no choice but to be fully present.
Regular visits to the great outdoors are essential if you are looking to advance your mindfulness. The beauty of little-seen landscapes will not let you be or stay overly impressed with yourself. Your status becomes irrelevant, your ego is snatched.
Here is a trick:
Nature has a tremendous stimulating effect on dogs too. I am not lying when I say that if you haven’t taken your dog for a visit to the great outdoors you haven’t seen your dog’s dogness on full display yet. When you are there, in the ampleness of the scenery, your dog will go full-on lost in the moment. When you reach that, ditch the position of the leader and let your dog’s excitement show you the way. Experience what it means to be loose in nature by giving the lead to your dog. Let them take you where their endless desire to know everything takes them.
Let that be a lesson of acceptance and joy but remember to not trip away.