As a nation of dog lovers we spend a staggering 15.6 billion a year on training and caring for our precious pets. I often ask Dog owners what the consequence would be of living with an untrained Alsation or Labrador? The answer is: Total chaos.
It’s strange that we spend time, money and energy training our dogs to behave, but we take no time at all to train our own misbehaving minds. But your mind is just like your dog. If you don’t train it, it can ruin your life.
What’s the method?
We are all encouraged to develop positive mental and emotional health, however there’s often a complete lack of detailed instruction on how to actually achieve it. To change our limiting habits and wake up to what the poet Mary Oliver calls our “wild and precious life,” we must start with our relationship to the mind – the untrained dog which is constantly yanking us away from our present moment experience to chase imaginary bones.
It is hard to be productive, creative and efficient in our jobs, roles and relationships, if all our mental and emotional energy is being constantly pulled into the latest drama. The events of last year have shown us how a restless and wild mind can make a tough situation even worse.
And yet, there is a way to stay calm and focussed during the storm of Zoom calls, homeschooling and future uncertainty.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be compared to an internal operating system which enables us to train the mind to be happy, calm and kind, in spite of ever-changing circumstances.
There are a wealth of effective Mindfulness practices to help us boost mental and emotional health, but they all begin with the basic ability to remain calm. If you can’t get your dog to stay, it is very difficult to get it to do anything else.
To develop a calm mind we just need to boost our capacity to pay attention to one thing, rather than 10,000 things, and one of the simplest ways to do this is to focus on the feeling of breath in the nose.
Try it now
Close your eyes and track the raw sensations of breath flowing in and out of your nose. At some point your mind will wander into thoughts, and that’s fine. But as soon as you catch yourself thinking, shift your attention straight back into the sensations of breath.
You can listen to my 10 minute guided version here
Not only does this simple practice develop our concentration power, but tracking the breath helps drop the mind, body and emotions into a state of calm. Just 10 minutes of practice every day can strengthen the brains capacity for present moment attention, which acts as a powerful antidotes to work stress, anxiety and overthinking.
Training our mind in this way enables us to be more present in our lives and thereby increase the quality of our relationships.We can step back and find the space from which we can connect, create and even thrive, regardless of the external situation.
All we have to do is train our doggone mind to sit, stay – and eventually – roll over.