Dog Heads and Mindfulness
I was feeling a bit grumpy as I crept along with the traffic. It was slow, but it was moving. The regular busy-brain things were going through my head: how do I make a living in this crazy world, what do I want for dinner and what do I need from the grocery store to prepare it? Folks were on their brakes, switching lanes without signaling and generally driving like idiots. Like I said, I was grumpy. That’s when it happened, one of those things that always makes me smile. A car passed on my left and with her head poking fully out of the back window, a big blond lab-looking dog was enjoying the moment with complete abandon. It looked as though she had a huge smile on her face with her long red tongue hanging out the side of her half-open mouth. Her ears were flopping in the breeze and her eyes were wide and bright. She was happy and her happiness reminded me to be happy as well, and helped me change my mood.
Later that day Andrea and I were walking Ladybird, our dog pictured above who is 80 pounds of love, through the neighborhood when Andrea paused for a moment. A stunning redbud tree was fully in bloom. A gentle breeze had the delicate pink flowers drifting downward like snowflakes, carpeting the ground around it. It was a beautifully peaceful moment, one I might have missed if she had not been with me. She mentioned how lovely she thought it was. From there our conversation turned to how important it was for us to take the time to notice and be with the simple things in life which bring us joy.
These moments brought to mind the internal dialogue which is constantly going on in our heads. Those things which bog us down in the mundane work of finding a way to pay the bills, the idle gossip of family, friends and neighbors and the endless list of worries that clutter our mind. I find it very interesting that with all of this busy-brain, we are so easily triggered by the minutiae. Internally we chase from one distracting shiny thing to the next. Being so caught up with the chatter in our head we tend to miss many of the wonderful things in the world around us. Those little things of beauty which bring a smile to our face and create a spark joy in our hearts. So much of this beauty is easily realized and may be deeply appreciated if we simply learn to quiet our mind.
It seems that we have become afraid of being alone with ourselves in silence. Perhaps, afraid of silence, is too strong, but we have certainly become very uncomfortable with it. The stillness of a quiet house unnerves us to the point where we need the flat panel blasting to fill the void or we must be glued to some glowing device, both of which fill our heads with endless distractions, only lasting a moment and then are gone completely. It is this dissatisfied and perpetually distracted mind which keeps us from finding a calm and stable inner peace. A place inside where we are comfortable to simply be with ourselves. It is a place where we direct and control our thoughts with intention. It is a place of meditative equipoise where our inner spiritual self meets the physical world in a perfect balance of yin and yang.
There is a lot of talk these days about mindfulness. There also seems to be a bit of confusion about it with many seeing it as some esoteric out of reach thing that only people on the fringe care about. In my experience mindfulness is a step beyond awareness, a pause before reaction. A pause that gives us a moment to understand what we are experiencing and be thoughtful in how we respond to it. The person we judged to be so rude in the grocery store may have been absorbed in worry or concern for a loved one. We don’t know. If we remove the negative judgement and offer them peace in our hearts, we will become free of a troubled mind ourselves.
Mindfulness of observation helps us to get into a quite place of inner calm. I have found that by removing judgement and not labeling things as bad or good is a wonderful way of taking in the world and experiencing its simple beauty. Enjoy the rain and sunshine equally as they nourish and bring life. When we start out by labeling the rainy day as “a miserable day” you can bet that it will be.
We miss so much when we walk with our heads down toward a goal of 10,000 steps. Why not take time to feel the crunch of the leaves beneath your shoes, watch a bird of prey circling high overhead or a young mom pushing her child on a swing. Breathe in deeply and feel the crisp air bringing life to your body. We have all heard many times that each moment in life is precious; mindfulness helps us to fully live in these moments.
For many, meditation sounds difficult and way too time consuming. Afterall who has time to sit on a cushion and say ‘om’.? Meditation does not have to be complex and a bother. It is really pretty simple and offers tremendous rewards, but like anything else it does take a little practice. A simple 5-minute mediation to start your day produces a positive energy within and around you while 5 minutes before bed creates a calm mind that will see you sleeping better. A Tibetan teacher once explained meditation this way, “You know that moment between one thought and the next? Prolong it.” Very simple, yes?
We can learn a lot about mindfulness from our dog-friend with his furry head happily in the breeze. Completely absorbed in the moment, he is fully present with the many smells, the feeling of his ears flapping in the breeze and the taste of the air on his tongue. So, open your heart and spirit to the wondrous experiences life has to offer, be mindful – simply be the happy dog.
What moments bring a spark of joy into your life? Share them and help us all to remember to smile.
William C. Judge 2019