This past weekend, Rico taught me a very important lesson about walking with dogs. We’ve reached the point when walking him and his sister, Roxy, no longer exercises my body. But it can always exercise my mind. Our nature walks have become a walking meditation practice.
Gone are the days when Rico and Roxy effortlessly bound through the woods and fields. We used to go for a few miles – Rico’s never been an “endurance athlete.”
But time hasn’t been kind to my sweet baby bear. Shoulder surgery, arthritis, and a slowed metabolism – not to mention that, because he’s a rescued dog, I have no idea how old he actually is – have slowed him down. He used to prance; now he pokes.
Some suggest maybe he doesn’t need those kinds of walks anymore. They don’t see his eyes light up when the harness comes out.
So instead, I listen to Rico. And I’m learning to let go of yearning for the past and appreciate our new walking meditation practice.
Whether walking with a dog recovering from illness or injury, or one who is aging, here are some insights for making your dog walks a meditation practice:
- Walking slowly allows me to experience how my muscles work in unison to move me. I also feel how they balance me on uneven ground or against the force of the dogs’ movements.
- Along with my muscles, I could feel my heart beating and how it changed as we walked. I could hear and feel my lungs working as I breathed.
- Rico’s frequent stops to sniff – hence another nickname, Sniffenstein – give me time to both think about and feel how gravity keeps me connected to this planet. I marvel that it keeps me safely grounded but not immobilized. It’s just right.
- His sniffing sessions also give me the time to be still and gaze out over whatever scene lies before me. Like studying a painting. Appreciating the colors, shapes, highlights, midtones, and shadows. But not naming anything because I don’t want to judge whether or not I like what I see – just as I didn’t want to think that I didn’t like the new way we walk.
I had done a walking meditation class before. But when I practice with the dogs, I feel compassion in it. I’m not practicing for myself. I’m practicing for them.
I don’t know about you, but I suspect that I’d be half the human being I am now if it weren’t for the dogs who have blessed me with their presence. How lucky man is to have this best friend.