The benefits of meditating with your dog
By Leslie Garrett
After more than a year of trying to “be still” and “quiet my monkey mind”, I finally did what we North Americans are so great at—paying someone to coach us. And so, once a week, I sit on a cushion and try out various meditations, with the hope that one of them will stick, I’ll find inner peace, and get my money’s worth. But my meditation coach said something the other night that made me wonder if she isn’t, in fact, the one teaching me.
Let me explain:
I was at my class sitting on my cushion, noticing that sitting cross-legged is highly uncomfortable and that my spine curves like a question mark and wondering if, perhaps, I had some of those funky mala beads I might be able to do this, when my meditation teacher said something that reduced meditation from some sort of magical breath-induced alchemy to something simple. That even I could do. That my dogs do every single day.
“Imagine,” she suggested, “a time during your day when you’re totally in the moment. When you’re focused on simply being…and not doing. That,” she explained, “is a meditation.”
Wow, I thought. My dogs meditate. A lot.
What’s more, I realized they were giving me the gift of meditation. Just that day, I had stood at the back window and watched my three dogs race around my backyard, fresh snow up to their bellies, one dog on only three legs. I smiled as I watched. Their delight was contagious. They would pause just long enough to take a few more breaths deep into their bellies…then they’d be off again, high on sunshine and snow and life. Even the one who almost lost his life to bone cancer.
I thought of nothing else as I watched. Not my computer, open to work that needed finishing. Not the breakfast dishes on the counter. Not the piles of laundry. The unmade beds. I just watched and breathed and savored. As my teacher had explained, I meditated.
James Jacobson isn’t at all surprised by my epiphany as it’s one he had years ago. One that prompted him to write “How to Meditate with Your Dog”, a book that landed him on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and CNN. “Dogs are natural meditators,” says Jacobson, who insists that he means all dogs. Even, he jokes, Jack Russell Terriers.
Admittedly no one expects dogs to volunteer at hot lunch or drive carpool. So perhaps getting into the Zen state requires less of a stretch. But even if dogs had iPhones that bleeped with commitments, they would preserve their Zen. “Dogs live in the moment,” says Jacobson, noting that’s all meditation really is.
So while I might have a human in my life offering courses in meditation, the real teachers sit at my side, or curled at my feet or patiently waiting for the cats to leave their food bowls so they can lick what remains, every day. No cushion or candles required.