Most of us share our lives with beloved animals—cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, parrots, guinea pigs, rats and the like. Animals are wonderful partners on our journey toward mindfulness. But keeping that powerful connection alive when it comes to mindful eating can be extremely difficult, especially in today’s world, where eating animal products is not just expected, but practically celebrated.
But what if there was a way to bring our mindfulness practice to our next trip to the grocery store? Remember, even small steps will make a difference. Here are a few thoughts to meditate on next time you fill your shopping cart:
The concept of “mindfulness” has been on my mind a lot lately. Not just because it’s splashed across headlines and gaining wider acceptance in the U.S. (even corporate America is embracing “mindfulness”)—but also because I spend so much time with animals in my work. And as I’ve written about before, animals are mindfulness masters who teach us important lessons about living mindfully every single day.
But with so much out there in the world about mindfulness these days, I’ve noticed absolutely no one is talking about a vital ingredient to living a truly mindful life: the heart. In other words, I believe you cannot be mindful without also being heartful—feeling and embracing the abundance of emotions and feelings in one’s heart. Without the heart component, mindfulness leads to a calm and aware state of being, yes, but also a state of indifference or detachment.
You cannot be mindful without also being heartful.
In Japanese, the character “kokoro” means mind and heart (the same). So in Japanese tradition, your mind has to unify with your heart for you to be in the “right” space for healing. This idea—a fusing of heart and mind—fits well with my Reiki work with animals. When we sit or walk mindfully with our animals, our hearts open so we can radiate our inner compassion. And with our furry friends by our side, offering their unconditional love and acceptance of us, we are able to access our inner peace more easily. The heartful thinking that follows promotes generosity, openness to others, healing and more.
So next time you think of living mindfully, remember the importance of living heartfully, too. Instead of falling into old patterns of thinking—that the mind and the heart (thinking vs. feeling) merely battle one another—embrace the possibility of heart and mind existing as one and in partnership.
I just got back from our 2015 SARA retreat at the gorgeous Ratna Ling Retreat Center; what a wonderful, inspiring and relaxing time! We offered on-site daily yoga classes to our participants … but wow, did I miss my dog Mystic! If only there were some way to combine yoga and dogs.
Well, of course there is! You may have even heard of the trend, called “doga,” which has been rising in popularity in recent years (and gives new meaning to the term Downward-Facing Dog). Doga just makes sense: As I’ve learned in my animal Reiki practice, animals are very spiritual creatures and the best meditation partners. They also love to accompany their beloved human everywhere and get extra attention any way they can, whether it’s walking on the beach, sitting under a tree or even doing yoga!
Depending on your dog’s personality (and size), doga can be an amazing way to strengthen your bond with them, relax together and practice mindfulness. Though there are many doga poses, one of the most common, according to Today.com, is the Chaturanga, where your dog lies on his or her stomach while you pet their back.
And because we can’t forget about cats, it’s worth noting that this Illinois yoga studio recently had the genius idea of bringing six shelter cats into a yoga class. It’s not only relaxing for the animals (and humans), but also helps boost awareness for the shelter and increase adoption rates at the same time.
I can’t tell if this video is serious or not, but here’s an interesting (and very cool!) demonstration of doing yoga with your cats (the cats definitely don’t seem to mind):
What do you think of doga (or cat yoga)? Have you tried it?
This fascinating article in The New Republic declared 2014 the year of mindfulness. Because meditation is such an important (and beneficial) part of my life, I love that it’s starting to take off in such a big way and that people in general seem more open to this idea than ever before. But the article left out a very important factor: animals. In my work with Reiki, I’ve realized they just “get” meditation and the idea of living in the moment more than we ever will. In fact, by following their lead, it’s easier than ever to find that mindful “ideal” we’re all striving for.
With that in mind, here are some easy ways we can all practice daily mindfulness with our animals (a.k.a. our best meditation teachers):
1. Savor the sun and smell the roses. Yes, it’s cliché. But next time you’re on your daily walk with your dog, instead of rushing through so you can get back to your next task, take a few moments to experience everything around both of you in nature. Smell the salty air, breathe and feel the sun on your skin. Resist the urge to do your daily walk on autopilot. You can even wander in a new direction; the two of you can just enjoy the moment and see where it takes you. If you’re more of a horse person, take the same approach on your next trail ride with your horse.
2. Give 100 percent full attention to your animal. This isn’t always easy. Next time you cuddle with your cat and talk sweetly to her, do so without any other distractions—no TV, laptop, phone, magazine or the like. When grooming your horse, focus on the moment and truly take it in: the sweeping of the brush, his nickers, the shine of his hair. Sit with your dog and give him your 100 percent attention. Really try to feel and embrace every aspect of the moment—sights, sounds and so on—instead of letting your mind fall back on other distractions, like your to-do list or what you’re cooking for dinner tonight.
3. Practice mindful eating—for both you and your animal. We all know the benefits of thinking about what you put into your body. Support your health by eating fresh, wholesome foods—and support your animal’s health, too, by doing the same and serving natural, nutritious foods. Thankfully, due to consumer demand, premium and organic dog and cat foods are easier to find than ever before. And when you want to spoil your favorite dog, whip up some easy (and deliciously healthy!) homemade treats.
4. Meditate and “be” Reiki with your animal. I’ve created a special series of six 20-minute meditations to help you tune into and connect energetically with your animal, with the natural world around you, and with that deep inner space of peace and strength within yourself—all important ingredients to mindful living. Click here to get started.
5. Take 10. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or the very last part of your night, take 10 minutes to breathe, be calm and just “be.” If they’re not already, your dog or cat will probably end up in your lap!
How do you practice mindfulness in your daily life?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year … and also the busiest. Thanks to nonstop holiday planning and prepping, along with the challenges of regular life, many of us feel like we don’t have any time for ourselves to just breathe. But that’s when carving out time for a peaceful moment (or two) is needed the most. With that in mind, I’ve created three micro meditations for the animal lover to help you through these stressful December days. If you have 60 seconds, you have time to be mindful, to de-stress … to meditate!
1. Awaken Share this moment with your animal. Check in with your five senses and also your heart (emotion) to help you appreciate all details that exist right now. Tell your animal three things you are grateful for about them.
2. Ground Sit or stand near your animal. Breathe in through your nose filling your entire body with beautiful healing light, all the way to your lower belly. Breathe out and expand this light out of your body and into the universe. Repeat 10 times. Invite your animal into this peaceful space.
3. Connect See your heart as a beautiful light. See your animal’s heart as a beautiful light. Imagine your heart can expand out like a rainbow to your animal’s heart. Invite them to connect with you in that heart space for healing.
Tell me, how do you lift your state of mind when holiday stress rears its ugly tinseled head?