Try meditating with your dog — you’ll find a new way to relax and bring mindfulness into your life, says Pamela Robins
If we take the time to stand back and watch the things our animals naturally do, it can provide us with a window into their soul. Animals have free will. They think. They feel. They are curious. They can become scared or surprised. They can be very funny – hilarious even! They can become tired or not feel well. They can get bored. They can get excited!
If you choose to notice, then you can find wonder in the smallest of details. For example, when I notice my cat sleeping, a quiet joy fills my heart as I see his eyes flutter, his body moving with the rise and fall of his breath, or perhaps a twitching tail or whiskers. I like to count the dots on his cheeks where his whiskers grow or the stripes that wrap around his little arms, admiring the intricate patterns and texture of his fur.
Check out our feature about the creative power of walking
Spend time observing your pets
When meditating with pets, take time to observe things like how your pets look, feel, and behave. When you do, keep in mind that our animals have unique and incredible ways of navigating their surroundings, of which we are a part. Similar to humans, animals use at least five different sensory methods of assessing their environment: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Animals do not perceive the environment in the same way a human would, and different animals use their senses in different ways.
If you observe a horse, you can tell exactly what they are looking at and where their concentration is – even how they feel – just by watching their ears! A horse’s ears will be facing forward, backward, or sideways – whichever position will allow them to best hear what they are focused on. The ears are almost always active. If both ears are forward, the horse is paying attention to something in front of them. If the ears are casually moving about, the horse may be relaxed and just checking things out or attempting to tune in to something specific and home in on it. Pinned-back ears is a sure sign a horse is angry or upset.
I like to talk or sing to my horse, Tuxedo, and when I do it makes me smile to see his ears moving around listening to me. A horse’s ears are able to move a full 180 degrees because they have the use of ten different muscles that allow them to do so (in comparison, the human ear has only three muscles), and they can single out a targeted area to tune in and listen to.
If it’s your cat you are observing, be mindful that their eyesight is truly extraordinary, especially their peripheral vision. A cat’s pupils can dilate wider to capture a panoramic view of the landscape. They are also specialists in sensing the tiniest of movements, a hunting skill developed over thousands of years. Where cat vision is particularly intense is at nighttime. Compared with humans, cats have six to eight times more rod cells in their eyes, enabling them to detect light at very low levels, so they can see things in the dark that we cannot.
When it comes to dogs, their sense of smell is very different than is ours. In fact, the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analysing smells is 40 times larger than that of a human! Incredibly, their sense of smell is about ten thousand times more acute than ours.
The idea is to look at your animal companion and notice how they notice the world around them and how they react to it. This includes their reactions to you. As anyone who’s ever had a dog knows, when you are getting ready to take your dog for a walk, he or she will sense your energy and intention, and they will react accordingly. Most dogs love going out for walks and so they will get very excited, while some don’t like walks at all or may just not be in the mood at that moment, in which case they will object to the idea by sitting down and refusing to move, possibly running away from you or even hiding!
Try yoga with your dog
When you pay attention to the opinion, mood, and communication your animal demonstrates, you are honouring the fact that your animal is a being separate from you who has his or her own needs at any given moment. If they don’t show excitement for an idea you have, you can alter your plan to accommodate them just as you would a friend or partner when they don’t have the same interest in something that you do.
If you sense excitement in your animal, then the answer to whatever it is you’re suggesting is yes! If you sense hesitation, then the answer is probably no, and that’s OK. Let go of your expectations and become flexible by making another choice to try something different that your animal might prefer to do. For example, if it’s your dog, go through the list: Playing catch in the yard? A ride in the car to the dog park? Tea with Mum? Yoga with your dog? Or try something new—get creative, just don’t get stuck!
Being able to notice an opportunity, to tune in, and to adapt to a changing set of circumstances is a useful practice for us not only in relation to our animal companions but to our human companions too! It can lead to fun, interesting, exciting, and new adventures . . . and in the process, we expand upon our compassionate and loving nature.
Learn the four-seven-eight breath technique
The four-seven-eight breath technique is calming, short, simple and you can do it anywhere…
- Relax in a comfortable seated position on the floor, on a bed, or on a couch or in a chair, with your hands resting on your knees and your palms facing up or down.
- Close your eyes.
- Exhale, sending all of your breath out of your mouth while making a whooshing sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale, sending all of your breath out of your mouth for a count of eight.
- After a few rounds, you should start to feel a sense of relaxation come over you.
- Let your shoulders drop down to further relax and let go. This is my favourite part because the tension will leave your body. You don’t feel how tense you really are until you release your shoulders!
- Now, as you continue to breathe, visualise your heart being like a sun—a golden ball—warm and glowing. Focus on this beautiful feeling for several more inhales and exhales.
- At this point, I like to turn my palms face up and, on my next exhale, send the warm glowing feeling of love I have created in my heart, outward, to my animal’s heart, asking if they would like to join me in this loving, peaceful space.
- I do this by visualising a beautiful path between my heart and my animal’s heart. In my mind, I ask them if they would like to meet and join me on this path. The key is that your calmness and loving intent is your invitation that allows your animal the freedom to choose to join you.
- Sometimes your animal is already there with you, physically or energetically. They may sit on you, sit near you, or walk away or around you. That doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying your calm and peaceful vibe. They have their own way of enjoying it and you.
- Once you are connected with your animal, just continue to breathe in and out love, as you visualise the details of the beautiful pathway you imagined sharing with your animal, and enjoy the tranquil vision you have created for them and with them. Is there grass? Are there flowers, trees, rocks? Is the path long and winding? Narrow or wide? You simply could be sitting in the warm sun-filled rays of love light you have sent out to them. It’s your vision in the moment.
- Continue sharing that loving energy just being in this “other world” of peacefulness and beauty until you or your animal are done. The time is not important; the exercise of intention, visualisation, connectivity, and calm are.
- Take five minutes or more anytime you feel it would benefit you (both) to shift into a lower gear. This stress-free time is healing and beneficial for both of you. I like to end this meditation by thanking my animal for being all of who they are and for all the wonderful things they bring into my life.
Pamela Robin’s book Meditating With Animals is available on Amazon priced $28 softcover, $34 hardcover, Kindle $9.99 . You can follow Pamela on Instagram @meditatingwithanimals.
To find out more about her work visit meditatingwithanimals.com.