Dogs Teach Meditation!
My friend, Kelsang Menla, wrote this very interesting guest blog post about dogs and meditation! Based on Menla’s blog post, shown below, we have a lot to learn from our furry family members!
Menla is the Administrative Director at the Kadampa Meditation Center Maryland. Menla has been practicing Kadampa Buddhism for 12 years and took ordination in 2001. You can contact Menla at the following e-mail address, Director@meditationmd.org.
Dogs Teach Meditation!
Sometimes life is really stressful and there is so much to deal with. In contending with all of the things we have to do our thoughts can get scattered and our mind can become tense. To bring back a greater sense of well-being, a peaceful state of mind, and inner balance meditation is an excellent tool. It’s so simple to learn to meditate that even dogs can do it (well sort of… more on this later!). Just try sitting down in a quiet place, scanning through your body to relax your muscles and areas of tension, and then turn your mind to your breath. Find the sensation of the breath at the opening of your nostrils, and lightly focus your attention there. Experience the breath as you breath in and out, allowing mental and physical stress to gradually dissipate and melt away. Thoughts may run through your mind, but simply choose to go back to your breath and leave behind whatever thoughts may be consuming you mind. Try to remain with your breath allowing yourself to relax and gradually a refreshing feeling begins to fill your body and mind.
But you might say, “I can’t do that! There is too much going on in my head! I’ve got so much to do. And anyway, I can’t stop my mind from thinking. It’s impossible. I can’t meditate. I’ll have to try that when I have fewer things to deal with.”
Hold it right there. It’s not impossible. It isn’t too difficult, and if you wait until you have less to do…well let’s be honest, there’s never less to do for very long! Your dog is teaching you to meditate all the time. If you just watch your trusty friend in action, you’ll see how you can be an expert meditator before too long.
When you get home from work and it’s time to take doggers out for a walk, this is the perfect time to watch for his cues…
When you say, “It’s time for a WALK!” What happens??? Your little friend get’s all excited. All he can think about is W-A-L-K. You might be dilly-dallying, talking on the phone, looking for your phone, looking for your keys, getting distracted with opening the mail. But, doggers won’t let you forget or get distracted for too long. All he’s thinking about is W-A-L-Ks! He has single pointed focus on that and will remind you of it if you forget for too long.
So, you get out of the house and go down to the park. You’ve brought his favorite ball and you start playing catch. When you pick up that ball, his eyes are on it like a white on rice! As you move your arm back to throw the ball, doggers is watching your hand and the motion of that ball without distraction. With single-mindedness he chases after that ball and then brings it back to you and…repeat again, again, and again! If you get distracted with a text message, he’s still watching that ball. And when you stop texting the ritual of catch is restored. It’s like meditation, you go back to your breath again, again, and again. Leaving distractions of the mind behind, you allow your mind to become absorbed into the experience of the breath. When playing catch, you’ll probably get tired before your little friend does, which is a good lesson in itself — time flies when you’re having fun. If you could get absorbed into meditation with the same joyful enthusiasm as doggers playing catch, you’d be able to meditate for a lot more than 10 or 15 minutes!
Then when you get home and it’s time for a little doggie treat, you decide to have a little fun. You pull out a treat from the bag and holding it in you hand you wave it from left to right. And doggers head goes from left to right at the same exact speed as your hand. Then you toss it to him and yum yum it’s gone. Then repeat! Doggers wants that treat, he knows how yummy it is, and he’s patient enough to wait for it. He doesn’t give up. He’s showing us how to approach meditation. The treat of meditation is feeling a purer form of happiness, a bliss and peace of the mind. Having a little bit of patience with ourselves and developing that single-minded focus we will enjoy our meditation time just as much as doggers enjoys his treat. Then you both have your dinner and relax for the evening.
The thing our little friend is trying to show us is that we can become absorbed in any activity if we enjoy doing it. And if we enjoy it, it becomes a habit. For your pet it is walks, catch, bones, and treats. He loves those things and can become absorbed into them. For us it’s other things. Maybe work, good books, favorite movies, a conversation, or a hobby. We can enjoy and develop the positive habit of meditation too. If we learn how to meditate properly and get the taste of peace that comes from meditation, then we’ll feel relaxed, calm, and uplifted! We’ll learn how to become absorbed into a peaceful experience just like doggers gets absorbed into his game and before too long we’ll notice that we’re meditating. So who says meditation is impossible or that you can’t do it? If you ask your pet he’ll say, “Ruff Ruff? It’s not ruff is easy!”
If you’d like to learn more about meditation and have a few tools to start, I recommend guided meditation CDs in the series Living Meditation. You can download them as MP3 files or you can purchase theCDs here.
The dog photographs shown in this blog post are of little Biscuit!