Mindfulness is officially mainstream. It’s everywhere you read, listen or watch these days. Celebrities are doing it. Google is doing it. There’s even a really great magazine dedicated to it. So why does it matter? And what the heck does it have to do with being a pet owner?
Although popularized by “modern mystics” like Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra, the origin of mindfulness dates back to the early teachings of the Buddha and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Essentially, mindfulness is the ability to be present, fully engaged and aware of who we are, where we are and what we’re doing at the moment. Seems pretty simple. And it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
Slaves To Our Scattered Brains
As humans, we are slaves to over-active and reactive brains. We live consistently on at least two or three planes of existence – and the digital revolution has made it worse. We may be standing in a check-out line, but we’re checking text messages. Or we’re driving but listening to talk radio. Or we’re having dinner with friends or family but thinking about what a jerk our boss is. Most of us are rarely – if ever – fully present in a given situation.
Mind Is Matter
When our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body and the beauty of being alive. Often, we find ourselves ruminating or regretting the past of fretting about the future – recipes for depression and anxiety. In our 24/7, overly stimulated world, it’s easy to lose touch with ourselves and what matters most, frittering away precious time and losing both promise and potential.
Pets Teach Us Presence
Watch your dog or cat navigate their way through the world and you will learn the joyous, fully present practice of mindfulness. When your cat stretches lazily in a sun-drenched spot of the living room or your dog ardently sniffs the side of a tree, they are fully and completely soaking up the moment with their senses. They are where they are, in full appreciation of life, unburdened by the past and unconcerned about the future. This is what it means to be fully alive. This is mindfulness at its most basic and beautiful.
Petting As A Practice
While we can learn much from what our pets model in their behavior, we can also use our relationship with them to create our own mindful micro-moments. As beings that have captured our hearts and imaginations, they are wonderful focal points for awareness, capable of bringing forward the beautiful experiences of love and compassion.
One of the most exquisitely simple yet profound practices of pet ownership is the act of presence while petting your dog or cat. Most of us are zoning out, watching a screen or doing something else at the same time we give our pets the attention they crave. And because they’re our pets, they accept it gratefully. But if you can take the time to be fully present in petting your dog or scratching your cat behind the ear, you will experience the true benefit of pet parentage and mindfulness and your pet reap the benefits. Focused energy and attention in the spirit of love and compassion is utterly transformative and can bring both you and your pet to a place that almost feels like bliss.