How a Dog Can Teach You to Live in the Present

There’s nothing like a napping pet to inspire serenity and spiritual equilibrium.

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Posted in , Feb 8, 2021

Gracie and Edward relaxing

Gracie, my golden, is curled up sleeping on the couch while I work. Outside the wind sways the trees, causing the winter sunlight slanting through the west window to ripple across her.  We just got back from a cold, snowy hike in the hills of Western Massachusetts. She plowed through drifts and vaulted over fallen trees. Plunged her snout into snowbanks, seeking out some scent I could only guess at. Raced up steep icy trails then paused patiently for me, slipping and scrambling, to catch up. At the summit she sat and leaned into me, panting steam, staring out past the tree line at the distant snow-covered checkerboard farm fields, fences half-buried.

I can’t help but stare at her now. She is so peaceful, so serenely relaxed. I doubt I have ever achieved such a state of complete rest. At least not as an adult. My mind is too restless, as if my brain paces even when I am sitting. I envy this dog and her gift of tranquility. What must it be like to feel so safe? 

Deep, slow breaths rise and fall in her chest. It is hypnotic to watch. I try to breathe with her, syncing my breathing with hers. As the minutes pass, I feel a peace come over me, as if I am tapping into her serenity. I relax, internally and externally, body and soul. I experience something like spiritual equilibrium rippling through me.

Not everyone has a dog. Not everyone has loved one. For most of my life I have. For us dog lovers they teach us to live intentionally, to live with gratitude and optimism (is there a creature more optimistic than a dog?), to find peace in the stillness of the moment. Gracie reminds me that life doesn’t take place in the future. 

In a minute, my mind will turn itself back on, and I will go back to work. For now, I want to breathe with Gracie, to achieve that state of being completely present, at peace in the moment.

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