We have all heard about the health benefits of meditation. It lowers the heart rate, increases blood flow, and lessens chronic pain. It helps with relaxation, concentration, and helps stabilize your mood. The list goes on and on. Many people feel like they don't have the time or the opportunity to lock themselves in a quiet room for twenty minutes and just breathe. There is a way that you can fit it into your busy schedule, though. And you can have an accomplice. It's called walking meditation. The next time you take your pup out for a walk, leave your phone at home. Instead, put on your sunglasses and walk silently with your dog. Just focus on your breathing and taking in the sights and sounds around you. When your mind starts to drift to the worries of the day, gently guide it back to the present moment and what is happening now. There will be times when your brain seems unruly and you can't help but think about a pressing project at work or conflict in your personal life. Try not to get frustrated and if you can be amused by the struggle, that's even better. After all, it is kind of absurd how difficult it can be sometimes to control our own minds. Even if it feels like you are on a mental yo-yo, just keep returning your mind to the present and voila, you are meditating.
When I first became a dog walker, I started doing these distraction-free walks because of the wonderful effect it had on my dogs' behavior. I had no idea I was actually meditating. The truth is we don't need to talk to our dogs to communicate with them. After 14,000 years of being our constant companions, they have learned to pick up on our non-verbal communication and read our mood. In fact, they equate the human voice with a lot of things and none of them include relaxation. When we share a silent walk with them in a relaxed state, it does wonders for their behavior inside the home and out. We are signaling to them that everything is alright with the world and there is no need for anxiety or aggression. After trying the walking meditation a few times, you may actually notice an increased bond between you and your dog as well. You will start to walk in stride with another. There are moments when you may even feel like you are sharing the same mind. If that sounds kooky to you, try it and you might see what I mean. Dogs are the kings of living in the moment. They don't know how to function any other way. Let them teach you how to meditate.