Can Your Dog Teach You About Mindfulness?

Learning mindfulness from your dog

Yeah, I know, you’re not a dog, but spend some time watching yours and how he or she lives in the present moment, and then ask yourself if it wouldn’t benefit you to interact with the world in some of the same ways.

We think observing your dog’s behavior can help develop greater awareness of living in the present moment that’s simple, practical, and effective.

—Staying Present—
Dogs don’t spend time thinking about the past—they don’t rush through the present to get to the future. In every moment they’re engrossed in their senses, noticing what they hear, smell, see, feel, and taste. No time is wasted in a dogs’ day with thoughts about yesterday or tomorrow that don’t change anything—they soak up every bit of the wonder and goodness of Right Here Right Now.

Dogs sniff and lick—they watch and listen patiently and with intensity—they’re driven by curiosity to use their senses to make discoveries about things and activities in the present.

Curiosity is One of the Best Ways to Practice Mindfulness

Try being in the moment by watching a bird to see what it will do next, draw in the scent off a rose, take note of how an emotion feels in your body, or listen intently to the person who sits across from you.

—Choosing Joy—
Dogs are excited about life—they greet each day with enthusiasm and appear grateful for the littlest bit of attention, reward, or new thing that comes into their day. Dogs don’t have regrets from the past or worries about the future that keep them from the appreciation and joy of being in the moment.

We can wake up and grumble about another day, or gratefully take in a few deep breaths before getting out of bed with a positive outlook of the possibilities ahead.

Read about — Mindfulness ZZZ’s 4 Waking Up Happier

Dogs don’t spend time judging others or themselves—they offer acceptance regardless of how much money a person makes or how much they weigh, and they don’t think poorly of themselves because they were scolded yesterday when they chewed up a shoe. Dogs take things as they come, expecting the best with excited anticipation, which keeps the past from negatively impacting their present moment.

When a dog responds to a human or another animal who’s in physical or emotional pain, they can exhibit clear concern, moving near or licking the distraught to offer comfort. When dogs witness crying, they don’t think about what that person should or shouldn’t have done to avoid the distress; whereas, a humans’ level of compassion can be diminished by judging past behavior and decisions that have led to someone else’s struggles. Coming alongside a person in need, without judgement, allows us to be in the moment and offer true compassion.

Grudges keep us stuck in the past—forgiveness allows us to cut ourselves loose and live in the moment. Have you ever noticed how dogs don’t seem to hold grudges? If no one in the family remembers to feed them before going off to work and school, or their paw is accidentally stepped on, or they’ve been banished to the outside for being too excited when a guest stops by, a dog is quick to forgive, and their desire for connection isn’t deterred.

—Enjoying the Simple Things in Life—
Dogs appreciate the simplest of life—a ball being tossed to fetch over and over, a bowl of cold water on a hot summers’ day, a scratch on the scruff of the neck. Most peoples’ days are filled with simple pleasures they don’t even notice—the taste and crunch of an apple, a shirt that fits well, or the brilliance of a star filled night—yet, when simple things are cherished, they can bring a quality to life that temporary worldly pleasures often just complicate.

Mindfulness living is about keeping your mind from wandering into the past or present by noticing your thoughts, emotional and physical feelings, and the sensory and relational experiences that are in your present moment. If you’re paying attention and spending time being Right Here Right Now with your dog, you can have a helpful partner for practicing mindfulness.

~ Cynthia Cartier