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The mind is everything. What you think you become.

With the holiday season upon us, and all its busy demands on your time and attention, now is the perfect time to find ways to remember your emotional center and build your inner sense of peace. Focusing on the positive can be crucial to maintaining calm in the midst of what is, for many, a season of stress. Our animals, because of their connection to us-they love us, live with us and spend so much time with us-are aware of and deeply affected by the stress we endure. In short, when we are stressed, our animals are stressed.

If you can put yourself in the right frame of mind ahead of time, you can more easily avoid or at least lessen the impact of the stress you’re sure to encounter in the weeks ahead. Meditation is one of the easiest, most immediate ways to achieve a calm and peaceful state of mind. Meditation is widely known for its healing benefits. As Deepak Chopra, an M.D. known for his study of mind/body/spirit connections to health, said, “In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” In doing so, we can help ourselves-and in helping ourselves, we will help our animals.

Don’t just meditate-meditate with your animal!

When you meditate, you find an inner state of calm and stillness that can bring you back to your true self-the part that exists above and beyond the stress in your life. The purpose of meditating with your animal is to create a space of calm and peace within yourself, and in doing so, invite your animal to join you there. Often our animals, simply by their very presence, can help to calm us as well. They are great meditation assistants!

To prepare for the meditation, choose a space in your home near your animal where you will not be disturbed. You may place yourself next to them or across the room-anywhere in the near vicinity is perfect. Try not to pick them up or disturb them; just find a place where they can approach you and climb into your lap if they wish. Find a comfortable position, sitting on the floor or in a chair. Make sure your spine is straight, shoulders, arms and legs relaxed. Rest your hands palms up or palms down (whichever you prefer) on your lap. Close your eyes and take a nice, deep cleansing breath. As you breathe in through your nose, imagine light, healing energy flowing in and filling your body. As you breathe out, imagine all your stresses from the day releasing from you with each exhale. Repeat this breath two to three times.

Place your hands, palms together, in front of your chest. Set your intention that you are open to receive healing, peace and relaxation for yourself, and also that you are willing to facilitate this healing, peace and relaxation for your animal as well, in whatever ways he or she is open and willing to receive. You may return your hands to your lap, or keep them palms together during the following meditations.

Once you have prepared and set your intention, you are ready to try these simple and short guided meditations:

1. “Inner Sanctuary”: Visualize a physical place in your life-a sanctuary-that brings you the most peace and calm. Let yourself imagine all the details of the place, engaging your five senses as you do. How does this place look, what colors do you see, what do you hear, and how does it smell, taste and feel? See yourself there and allow your heart and emotions to reach out and bask in the tangible peace of this sanctuary. Imagine that your very being is surrounded in healing light, just by visualizing this special place. Feel peace and calm resonating throughout your whole being as you continue the visualization for five to fifteen minutes.

2. “Gratitude Affirmation”: Sit with the words “I feel gratitude; each day is a precious gift” inside your heart and body for several minutes. Allow your mind to think about all the people, animals, places and situations in your life for which you are grateful. Feel the meaning and truth of gratitude permeate your whole being-body, mind, emotions and spirit. When you feel encompassed in gratitude within yourself, offer it as a gentle, loving bridge of light from your heart to the heart of your animal. Remember to include all the feelings that go with the word. Continue holding the affirmation for several more minutes.

3. “Circle of Healing”: As you sit, visualize your heart as a rose blooming with healing white light. Imagine this rose is composed of perfect peace, balance and harmony. Feel this light gradually spread throughout your body. After several minutes, see the energy of each of your family member’s hearts (both human and animal) as a beautiful rose of healing white light located within the center of each being. Visualize serenity and peace surrounding each member’s heart energy and then connecting all hearts together within one healing circle of light. Visualize this unified “heart of the family” as perfectly in balance, at peace, connected and completely healed. Hold this visualization in your mind for several more minutes.

Animals respond very well, and often immediately, to our focus and intention on peace and calm. Typical responses include coming over and lying on your lap or by your side, relaxation and yawning, falling asleep, snoring and dreaming.

Connecting to your animal through meditation is easy, fun and beneficial for you both. Although stressful situations like the holidays may be unavoidable, responding with stress and upset can be avoided. Preparing yourself ahead of time by spending time every day with your animals in meditations of peace, gratitude and healing is a great way to embrace the positive, no matter what holiday stresses come your way. Try it and see-your animals will thank you!

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