Dogs live in the moment – and they know whether you are ‘there’ with them or not. Learning to be in the moment will allow you to give your dog the undivided attention he needs to feel respected. This in turn will go a long way towards improving your relationship with your beloved dog – so here’s how to join your dog in the moment.
Being in the Moment vs. Living in the Past or Future
Our self-awareness is the one thing separating us – humans – from the rest of the animal world. Conscious of how we feel and everything we think about, we strive to understand why we feel and think these things. In doing this, we frequently find that we are either thinking about and reliving the past or attempting to predict and anticipate the future.
Our ability to feel and think about emotions from both past and future is the reason so many of us find it extremely difficult to find balance. We waste our time by constantly thinking either about decisions we made in the past, which we cannot change, or future things that are yet to come, over which we simply do not have control.
When we think about a past event with an emotional association, our brains relive and feel the emotions we felt at the time. If we constantly relive a past event associated with a negative emotion, our energy or personality will begin to permanently project this emotion, because we are “stuck” in it. When thinking about the negative individuals you know, you will most likely find that most of them either focus only on their past’s negative things or constantly anticipate something negative in the future.
I know it is important for us to plan for the future, and we should without doubt learn from the past. We must, however, be aware of just how much of our time we spend (or should I say “waste”?) living in the past or the future.
Anxiety and depression are two common conditions caused by spending too much of our time looking back or too far ahead. Some people’s anxiety is fuelled by the constant fear that they might lose control. They subsequently spend their lives continually trying to avoid that loss of control by attempting to anticipate every scenario possible.
Others suffer with depression due to a combination of continually reliving negative emotions and events of the past and fears & worries about the future and how to deal with it. Yes, I do understand that there is much more to both anxiety and depression, but our thought patterns do have a significant influence both on how we feel and on how we behave.
How to Join Your Dog in the Moment
The part of our brain that allows us to think in this manner is not yet developed in young children – and it is not present at all in dogs. This is why both small children and dogs find living in/for the moment so incredibly easy. When children and dogs wake up, they are neither thinking of yesterday nor are they thinking about tomorrow – they are thinking only of ‘right now’. This makes it crucial for us to be present in the moment when we spend time with them.
I have learned to simply “be in the moment” and the following tips will help you to learn it as well:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Learn good breathing techniques
- Practise meditation
- Practise tai-chi, yoga, Pilates or similar mind-body exercises
The ritual below is also a great aid to finding ‘the moment’:
Step 1: Open a window or, better still go outside and take 5 or 6 deep, slow breaths – in through the nose, out through the mouth.
Step 2: Close your eyes and, continuing to take nice and calm, steady breaths, put your entire focus one by one into each of your senses.
Step 3: Begin with sense of hearing. Listen – really listen – to the sounds around you. Listen to birds and the wide variety of songs they sing; listen to the wind, frogs, cars, planes – allow your sense of hearing to really take over.
Step 4: Keeping your eyes closed, move on to your sense of smell and, once you have “sniffed” every scent around you, move on to your sense of touch.
Step 5: Finally, allow your sense of vision to take over. Look at the things you see day after day in real detail – the colours and shapes of leaves and flowers, the patterns in the bark of trees, the wings of a butterfly…
If, at any point, you feel your heart beat going up for some reason or another, start over from Step 1.
When focussing all your energy on the sounds, smells and sights of the ‘right here and now’, you will not think about the past or the future. Teaching you how to really use your senses, this easy little exercise can bring you right back into the moment – and it is also a fantastic way of preparing yourself for any event likely to take you beyond your comfort zone.
Next time you walk your dog, practise this exercise – and watch what your furry companion does while you spend time using all your senses: most dogs will, in my experience, stop & smell whenever you smell; focus on whatever you are watching and listen whenever you listen.
Be in the moment with your dog – and be a good leader both to your ‘pack’ and yourself. Your dog will love and respect you for it – and this will help you build a better, stronger relationship with him.