I didn’t always love to walk my dogs. It used to feel like a chore. One more thing on a long “to-do” list.
I would walk them, sure. But though my legs were taking me around the neighborhood, my mind was somewhere else entirely. Working through a magazine article I was writing that was giving me grief. Or having an in-my-head conversation with a friend I had argued with. Maybe berating myself for not waking up early to go for a run.
At the very least, I was impatient with the dogs as they strained to sniff at every tree, pulled to greet every other dog and barked at every squirrel or cat within a five-mile radius.
And then I began a regular meditation practice.
It wasn’t easy. I didn’t access Nirvana. My legs often fell asleep. Most of the time my mind did exactly what it did on dog-walks.
But slowly, steadily, my mind became quiet. Or at least quiet-ish.
And slowly, steadily, that quiet-ish spread. I was able to access it when kids came home from school — hungry, eager to tell me about their day, talking over each other in a bid for my attention.
I was able to access it at 4 a.m. when worries about my aging father or a sick child or too much work or too little kept me awake.
I could find it when envy crept in to my life. Or defeat. Or guilt.
Slowly, steadily it filtered into all aspects of my day.
And those dog walks became walking meditations. Rather than become annoyed with my pets for incessant tree sniffing, I stopped with them, taking the opportunity to breathe deeply, notice the flowers or the snowfall or the autumn leaves. Determine if the sky was black, gray or blue. And, not always, but often notice these things without judgment.
I, too, would greet those we met, getting to know my neighbors. The dogs’ delight in the moment ignited my own.
My three-legged dog Polar, who continues to revel in his morning walks despite the increased effort required to simply propel himself forward, reminds me daily that this moment is all we’re assured of … so we might as well sniff a tree and enjoy.
Out of a former “chore,” my dogs and I have carved out our own sacred space. Not so much a physical place as a state of mind.
A mind that is finally quiet. Well, quiet-ish.