Adventure Pup Mindfulness Challenge!

If you follow Adventure Pup, you may have noticed I bring up “mindfulness” and “being present” pretty often. I’m a big advocate for bonding with your dog and giving them the joy of your attention when interacting with them. I love being able to disconnect from the chaos that is human life, and reconnect with my best friend. His simple curiosities in the world, his tenderness with those around him, his ability to just be. 

My dog Link is an inspiration to me every day. He inspired me to grow my dog care business, to quit drinking, to further my meditation practice, and to live mindfully. He gave meaning to my life when I was at my lowest point, and he continues to give my life meaning every day. My wish is for everyone to find meaning, to find joy, love, & safety in this world. Even if you’re one of those people that find that sentiment “gooey”, “lame”, or “weak” I still wish you joy, love, & safety. And though I know not everyone should have a dog, I wish that everyone could find the joy, love, & safety that a companion animal brings. It’s something pretty special. 

If you have a dog, are thinking of getting a dog, or work with dogs you might benefit from some of our mindfulness activities & practices. In order to help you bond with your dog & find joy in their companionship I’d like to offer some weekly challenges over the next couple of months. These challenges will be simple and might even seem boring at times, but each practice will bring you closer to your pup and possibly closer to yourself. You don’t have to prove to anyone that you did the challenge, simply enjoy the activity with the one you’re practicing with. And remember, it’s a PRACTICE. If you continue to utilize these practices your bond will continue to grow. If you struggle with a challenge, it’s encouraged that you go back and try it again. And again. And again.

(Please note: I am not a meditation teacher or professional. I have been practicing Buddhist Meditation for several years and would simply like to pass on my experiences with others. I have certifications in various fields of energy work, and have found my meditation practice to be beneficial in these areas. If you find these practices interesting/helpful/useful I urge you to look into meditation & mindfulness classes to further your journey. Feel free to reach out to me for any guidance on where to begin.) 

Adventure Pup Mindfulness Challenge #1 – Walking

For your first Adventure Pup Mindfulness Challenge I’d like you to take two leashed walks with your dog. These walks can be your regularly scheduled walks, and should be done on two separate days. 

On the first walk I’d like you to do everything you normally do on a dog walk, but pay attention to what you’re doing. Are you walking slowly, normal, quickly? Do you stop when your dog does or do you keep him moving along? Are you looking at your feet, the sky, your dog, your phone? Do you notice the squirrel when your dog does? Do you notice your dog suddenly pull toward something, but you’re not sure what? Do you talk to yourself, talk on the phone, talk to your dog, or stay silent? Do you praise your dog for desirable behaviors? Do you notice when he performs desirable behaviors? Did you notice that rainbow, that sunflower, that smiley face drawn in the snow? These are all the things I’d like you to take in. If you spend the entire walk face down in your phone, pulling your dog along and getting frustrated when he sniffs, note that. Remember, you don’t have to tell anyone about this exercise, you just have to tell yourself the truth. You are only accountable to yourself.

On the next walk I’d like you to try to stay completely engaged with your dog. Leave all distractions behind: your phone, your kids, your spouse. On a mindfulness walk, the goal is to pay attention to each and every sensation you experience. You walk slowly and note each step. The feeling of your foot touching the earth, your ankle rolling into the next step, your shin taking the impact, your knee supporting your body, your thigh tightening, your belly rising and falling with the breath, your chest rising and falling with the breath, your throat contracting against the cold air, and the bare skin of your face, hands, and arms against the breeze. 

On a mindfulness dog walk you pay attention to all these things, but you also include your dog’s movements in your awareness. You can’t feel what he feels, but you can watch his paws pad at the ground as he walks, hear his tags jingle or his panting breath, feel the nylon leash in your hand. You can connect to him through this awareness. 

Sounds simple? I can assure you it’s not. Before you know it, your mind will be wandering and your thoughts will come pouring in without you even realizing it’s happening. That’s ok, just realize your mind has wandered, bring it back the moment, and start again. And again. And again. And again. Seriously, you will notice your mind wandering very often, most likely between each and every step! Your mind is meant to think, your goal is to note the thoughts as they arise, quiet those that aren’t useful to this activity, and sharpen your focus on those that matter. 

If this activity is giving you nothing but grief, if you notice your mind nonstop wandering or you begin to beat yourself up for having a wandering mind, try going on a mindfulness walk on your own. You can do this in your house or yard if you’d like. Pay attention to you steps and how your body feels. Allow thoughts to come and go. Once you get the hang of it, go get your pup and try a mindfulness dog walk.

After completing the two walks, compare them. Did they feel the same? Did you notice any frustration, sadness, or joy on either walk? Or perhaps after either walk? Did your dog’s behavior change between the two walks? Are you having a hard time remembering the walks altogether? There is no wrong answer. Be honest with yourself. If you noticed a higher level of frustration while holding your phone and the leash at the same time, note that. If you noticed no difference and both walks were equally as exciting or boring, note that. 

Personally, I have noticed that when I have my phone in my hand, or even when I’m lost in thought, I get a lot more frustrated when Link pulls on leash. When I’m actively paying attention to him, he doesn’t pull, because I’m engaged and walking with him instead of separately from him. When I’m walking with my partner and chatting, I notice Link gets bored and begins eating sticks or pinecones. If I’m grumpy or in a rush, Link tends to walk from side to side, cutting me off and bumping into my legs. When I am just with him and leave all other distractions behind, Link is a fantastic walking buddy. He walks at a nice pace, takes time to sniff things, politely says hello to passing dogs, and exhibits all the behaviors I wish for on a dog walk. 

Not every walk I take with Link is a mindfulness walk. I am a human in this human world after all, and I have different moods just like everybody. But when I am able to set aside my human world and give him and our walk all of my focus, I notice an elevation in mood, a strengthening in our bond, and a calmness that pours over both of us. 

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