After practicing meditation daily for many years, I made a startling discovery: Meditation doesn’t require one to light a candle and sit pretzel-like on a cushion with eyes closed and your hands in a formal position. Informal forms of meditation—taking a walk or riding a horse, for example—can be just as powerful (if not more so). That’s because meditation aims to bring all of our energy here to this present moment, and open our hearts to the peaceful power that exists in the now—something animals instinctively know how to do. It matters not how we do this, but rather that we do it.
Once we realize this, fitting healing meditations into your busy days becomes that much easier. Especially for those of us with dogs. Imagine if every dog walk could transform into a walking meditation. It truly can! Here are six easy tips you can try today:
1. Prepare your pooch. Ideally, and to achieve a better meditation space, you’ll want to eliminate any agitation your dog might have before setting out. Has your dog been cooped up inside all day? Take 10 minutes to throw the ball with him to release some of that overabundance of energy. Is he thirsty? Give him a long drink now, so he won’t need one in 15 minutes. You know your dog best: Think about what you can do to get your dog into a calmer state of mind.
2. Follow the dog’s lead. Letting someone else “drive” can be liberating (even if that “someone” is a dog!), and this will work as long as your furry friend isn’t distractedly pulling the leash every which way. But feel free to take a different path this time. Let go of feeling like you have to watch the clock.
3. Embrace silence. Aim for a peaceful stroll, so push away the desire to speak to your dog or converse with others you encounter on the walk. Soak up the silence instead.
4. Stay present. Tune into your five senses and the beauty around you, be patient with your dog’s olfactory musings, relax and breathe. Push away any thoughts that take you out of the Zen state. Focus on your experience of walking: how your body feels, the birdsongs around you, the rustling of the wind in the leaves, the jingle of the collar, the sound of each footfall upon the ground. If your mind wanders too far, gently pull your thoughts back to this moment.
5. Put away distractions. The goal is to connect with your dog in this moment. Imagine you are connected by your hearts, not just with the leash. Stay in tune to his experience and emotions, so ditch your cell phone, iPod and so on. So many dog walkers lack true connection with their pooches; both minds are going opposite directions. But when you eliminate unnecessary distractions, you can close the gap and focus on moving in the same direction.
6. Make walking meditations a daily routine. This may seem difficult at first, but the rewards will soon have you both looking forward to this precious time.
Here’s a meditation you can try today:
Reiki practice: “Remembering Gratitude”
Walking meditation with your dog: Take 10 minutes to walk outside in nature. As you walk, focus on the mantra “thank you.” Allow your mind to go where it will: to animals, people and situations in your life for which you hold gratitude. Notice how your mind and heart shift in as few as 10 minutes with this positive focus.
Have you ever tried meditating while walking your dog? Share your experiences in the comments below.