What Can We Learn About Meditation From Our Dogs?
Some of our most valuable lessons are learned in the most unorthodox ways. Take, for example, Petey teaching me how to accept disturbances and use them as opportunities to go deeper during my meditation.
Margaret Wheatley, the complexity theorist, tells us: “You cannot change a living thing from the outside. You can only disturb it so it changes itself.”
My dog (Petey) has been with me since the inception of my meditation journey; I struggle to remember what came first, him or the attempts to mediate. I just know they arrived in my life around the same time and honestly, knowing the Universe, I’d venture to say they came on the same day. I digress.
As if meditation wasn’t hard enough for this beginner, I had my very needy, physical touch whore of a dog alongside (oftentimes on) me throughout this journey. In the early stages, I recall pleading out to him in this condescending (somewhere between loving and aggravated) tone, “Baby, please just leave me alone for 15 minutes”. Yearning for this peaceful, quiet, tranquil space. You know, like a total zenned out environment! I’d stand up and walk him over to his bed, pet him, tell him to stay, and walk back over to MY meditation space. Sometimes he stayed, other times he didn’t.
In time, I discovered he loves sleeping just as much as he loves being touched, so I adjusted my meditation schedule to be before mister sleepy head woke up. This was perfect, I was peacefully left alone to chase this higher state of self and he could continue to sleep without FOMO from an opportunity to be touched. It was a win, win!
As life happens, my meditation schedule has adjusted and I now mediate between 7:00 and 7:30, meaning his walk comes before mediation, which in his eyes, is petting time. It had been a while since I had to manage his interruptions, so the first time he came over to sit on my lap, I simply lifted him and placed his backside next to me, with my hand on him. This way, at the very least, feel could feel me.
Without fail, the next morning, he came to sit on my lap. Only this time, I let him. He might have taken me out of my meditation but he contributed to the moment – I was deeply present with petting him, talking to him, appreciating him. I spent all my attention and energy in those moments on him, hyper-focused on his role in my life. And guess what? It brought me great joy!
When I stopped resisting his nudges and accepted his love, I saw clearly that meditation isn’t about creating this environment that’s perfectly blissful whilst on a chase toward enlightenment. It’s about finding the bliss, the quiet, the peace, the serenity amidst the nudges of life. The external “meditation” space I was seeking wasn’t at all getting me closer to enlightenment, it was the journey within that was getting me there. Petey was simply reminding me that there will always be noise, and it’s up to us to find the silence in the chaos.
We are now in a space where he gives me some time to myself and then he comes to remind me how to accept outside circumstances to grow my inner peace. He nudges my right arm with his nose, lifts it with his big ass head, and steps into my lap. He sits right in my lap and I hold his front legs or rub his chest. He shows up to join me at the exact time I need to learn a lesson; he’s there reminding me I can stay focused in the thick of chaos. After all, “you can not change a living thing from the outside, you can only disturb it so it changes itself” – Margaret Wheatley.
So what can dogs teach us about meditation? I certainly have learned to accept interruptions, allow what is to be and grow deeper into my practice. Like life, there will always be a lot of noise and mediation in a serene environment full of peaceful senses and complete silence is a reality of the mind and spirit, not the physical. We create our realities and Petey provides me the opportunity to pivot, accept, and appreciate every aspect of life as it shows up for me.