Working with dogs for most of my life, I have come to realize that, even though we are so different, we have more in common than I first thought. Take meditation, for example. Much of what was taught in puppy kindergarten directly translates over and informs my meditation practice. Here are some of the things I learned:
1. Start with minimal distraction. Pick a protected place, where you’ll be able to work with minimal distraction, and set yourself up for success.
2. Don’t overface. Puppy trainings can be as little as 5 minutes at a time. That’s also perfect for a beginning meditation practice. The important part is to actually do it, and make it a regular part of your schedule. Regular practice develops good habits, whether it’s potty training or sitting quietly.
3. Reward for a good job. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way, whether you’re a puppy or a person! Really want that truffle? Five minutes of stillness first.
4. Increase distractions and duration as you become more proficient. In puppy training, the goal is to take the lessons from the classroom (our protected space) out into the “real world.” Same with meditation. While we start our practice on the cushion, ultimately we look to take this state of being with us into our daily life. This happens gradually, as we build proficiency and competence.
5. Practice, practice, practice. This part never stops. We are always working on deepening our practice. The important part to remember is that it helps to practice BEFORE that extremely stressful event happens, so that when we need it, we have the skill set ready and available. If we wait until we are in the midst of a crisis to learn meditation, it’s a less optimum time to start.
In the words of my favorite trainer, “Sit. Stay. Breathe.”