a blog by Ellen Davies

Practicing mindfulness and walking my dog

Practicing mindfulness and walking my dog

I have been reading a book on mindfulness, and it has inspired me to step up my mindfulness game. Particularly when I’m walking the dog.

The book is “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh.

One thing you should know is that our dog, Zoey, isn’t used to walks. When we adopted her back in 2007, we installed an invisible fence (in fact, it was a requirement before we were allowed to adopt her) so she had a big yard to run around in. We would walk her maybe once a day, but usually we just let her out into the yard, and she let us know when she wanted to come back in.

 

Then we moved. And we don’t have that yard anymore. Which means one of us (usually me) is walking Zoey about four or five times each day. And it’s boring. I’m not talking about a jaunty walk here–that would actually be refreshing.

 

Because Zoey doesn’t “walk.” She takes a few steps, then stops to sniff. If you tug on the leash, she digs in and pulls. So you have to wait until she’s done sniffing, or yank her along, which seems cruel since she also has achey joints. Oh, and she doesn’t just sniff and move along–once she’s found something interesting, she sniffs it like a bloodhound. She sniffs from all different angles. Then she pees on it.

 

All this means that trying to get around the block with Zoey can take forever.

 

I love my dog, but those walks (sorry, I meant stop-and-sniffs) eat up my day. In order to feel like I’m not wasting time, and to preserve my sanity, I started taking my phone with me. While Zoey sniffed every fallen leaf, I scrolled through the New York Times top stories. While she spent hours sniffing the entire circumference of the fire hydrant (which she had just inspected on the last walk), I played Words with Friends. When she dug her “heels” in so she could sniff a clump of grass, I took Snapchat videos.

 

Sometimes I would put the phone in my pocket and try to enjoy the time outside. But mostly I just felt impatient and frustrated. There were so many things I had to do–but instead I was standing in the hot sun, waiting and waiting for Zoey.

 

It’s hard for me to do one thing at a time. I think that comes from being a mom–when the girls were young I was always focused on multitasking and efficiency. To the point where it was becoming a problem. A few years ago, my New Year’s Resolution was to stop doing six things at once. (It’s been on the list every year since.)

 

Which brings me back to mindfulness. In the book, Thich Nhat Hanh uses the word “mindfulness” to refer to “keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality.” He writes about washing dishes, and being fully present to wash dishes: “When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life.”

 

He also writes:

 

“Don’t do any task in order to get it over with. Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention.”

 

“Enjoy and be one with your work.”

 

Okay. I get the message. I will try to walk the dog, instead of restlessly fiddling with my phone. I resolve today to be fully present to Zoey’s stop-and-sniff.

 

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

How about you? Do you practice mindfulness? Leave me a note in the comments section.

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Zoey and me, relaxing after a stop-and-sniff.

 



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