Mindfulness has become popular in recent years but how can we incorporate it into our busy lives and benefit both ourselves and our animals?
Firstly, back to the basics and what mindfulness actually means. Being mindful is about focusing our attention lightly on the present moment, whilst acknowledging and accepting how we feel, our thoughts and any sensations we notice in our physical body. It may improve our lives by reducing stress and helping us to relax in a deep and healing way.
Animals are more naturally in the present moment, for example; when a dog is chasing a ball or chewing a tasty bone, they are not thinking of anything else or when a cat is preparing to pounce on a leaf, they are enjoying exactly that, experiencing their chosen activity fully in the moment. It is the same for a horse joyfully rolling in the mud or when a rabbit munches their way through tasty dandelion leaves.
If we wish to improve our lives and the lives of our animals we must take small steps forward to positive change. Mindfulness is known to be most effective when practised in short bursts of between 5 and 20 minutes. Initially by setting our alarm just ten minutes earlier each day we can make a solid start by introducing 5 minutes of morning mindfulness and include our much loved animals in this process. With time and as you notice the benefits you may wish to set your alarm half an hour earlier and spend more time being mindful, giving yourself the opportunity to write up your experiences in a journal, noting any changes in how you feel and how your animal is responding to you or your new practice.
Simple Mindfulness Exercise:
- Sit or stand with your animal, make sure you are as comfortable as possible.
- Take three slow deep breaths in drawing the breath down to your belly and then slowly exhale, letting go of any cares or worries.
- Bring you attention lightly to your feet and how they feel on the ground.
- Be aware of your natural breathing rhythm and the way the air feels in your nostrils.
- Be in this space for five minutes.
- If thoughts enter your mind notice them but allow them to float away bringing yourself back to your breath.
There are many opportunities to share mindfulness with our animals such as during normal daily activities; feeding time, grooming sessions, cleaning and mucking out and many more tasks. Each one presents us with the chance to be fully in the moment. When we change our perspective and are present to what we are experiencing, even the most routine task passes by easily. Sharing our lives with animals is a privilege and when we cherish the time we spend with our pets even during mundane or challenging tasks life flows easily as we are open and allowing by using mindfulness to support our journey together.
Mindfulness Walking Meditation:
You may wish to practice this mindfulness walking exercise in your garden or on a quiet dog walk away from traffic or other people or even incorporate 5 minutes of mindfulness during your usual walk. Sharing mindfulness walks with your animals will facilitate a deeper connection and you may find they start to follow you.
- Take 3 slow deep breaths into your belly and slowly exhale letting go of any cares and worries.
- Bring your attention lightly to the sensation of your feet on the ground.
- Notice the breeze on your face and wind in your hair.
- Be aware of any bird song or other background sounds.
- Move your attention to your animal, notice the colour of their coat.
- Bring your attention back to your breathing if your mind wanders.
- Continue this for between 5 and 20 minutes.
- When you have finished notice any response from your animal.
Your commitment to your mindfulness practice will bring blessings to your relationship with your animal and will provide a good foundation upon which to build. Remember to practice between 5 and 20 minutes of mindfulness as often as you able to but at least once a day.
About Author: Tina Read supports her clients with Reiki, by teaching simple meditation techniques and through intuitive guidance, which will empower and assist you in deepening your relationship with your animal. Tina has a monthly column in Cat World Magazine and writes a blog. She volunteers Reiki for Feline Care Cat Rescue, Uk German Shepherd Rescue Angels and TOLFA India. Tina is a member of the Federation of Holistic Therapists and the Shelter Animal Reiki Association and is delighted to contribute to their blog. For more information on Tina’s work, please see her website.