Cesar Millan poses with two dogs.

It’s that time of year again, when we reach an equinox, which means a day with equal sunlight and darkness which ushers in the change of season to fall (in the north) and spring (in the south.)

Normally, I’d use this opportunity to remind you about the importance of bringing balance to your relationships with your dogs, but I think most of you know that part already. What I can tell you, though, is one of the key things to remember in order to find that balance — not just with your dogs, but with the world in general.

Like the equinox, it’s another lesson that comes from Nature.

Approach Nature with Respect

Before you can find balance in any relationship, you have to approach it with respect, and this begins with Nature more than anything else. For too long a time, humanity approached Nature without any respect, taking away resources, dumping garbage, and throwing the environment out of balance.

This isn’t just a modern phenomenon, though, or limited to European settlers. One hypothesis explains that a lot of early animal extinctions in the Americas may have been caused by the first settlers over 10,000 years ago, long before humankind had developed any kind of major industry or technology. And as we’ve seen with recent wildfires, one person with a match and no respect for Nature can do a lot of damage and leave things very much out of balance.

In order to have respect, of course, you have to observe and listen. You need to pay attention and adjust your behavior accordingly. Farmers learn this by seeing which crops do better in which soil, or which plants seem to do well near each other and which ones don’t. Over years, as they listen, Nature tells them what to do to optimize their farming. As she gives up her secrets, the farms thrive — but only if the people working on them bother to pay attention to what they’re being told.

It works the same way whether you’re approaching animals or people, although animals will respond a lot more directly if they’re not feeling respected. Depending on what kind of animal they are, being approached with a lack of respect can make them fight or flee. Even a small creature being disrespected can be dangerous, as anyone who’s ever been stung by a bee or wasp can attest. And an animal that’s not trying to fight can cause damage — just spook a horse to see how that works!

Needless to say, we should always approach our dogs with respect, and the best way to do that is to remember that they are dogs, not humans. Pay attention to what they’re actually saying with their energy and body language, and not what you think they’re saying because their expressions might look human.

That doesn’t just work with dogs. It works with humans as well. Always pay attention to what someone is actually saying, not what you think they’re saying — and it’s okay to ask if you’re not sure. That’s just another way to show respect.

And there’s another way to say “pay attention.” In various teachings, it’s called “mindfulness.” It’s also called living in the moment. It’s the ultimate source of respect for other creatures, though, because it comes down to respecting yourself and paying attention to where you are, what you’re doing, and what’s going on around you.

When you aren’t paying attention, things can sneak up on you, like the changing of the seasons, and you can miss obvious signals from the people and animals in your life. But when you engage and live mindfully, everything starts to move toward balance because you will have balanced yourself.

Stay calm, and stay present!

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