Posts tagged ‘mindfulness’

February 14, 2013

Show Gratitude For Your Relationships

by Dave P.

LaughingCoupleOur relationships are what make us happy. People who have good, healthy, close, personal relationships are generally happy people. Have you ever met a lonely person who was happy? I don’t think one exists. When you’re lonely, you’re in pain. When you have people in your life you can count on and who provide unconditional love, you feel like you can do anything. Or you’re willing to at least try to accomplish great things.

We can enhance our existing relationships simply by showing gratitude. Focus on the good aspects of the people in your life and discount the negative. Of course, if you’re in an abusive relationship, get the hell away from that person. When we first start dating someone or become friends, we see that person through rose colored glasses. We filter out the bad and show appreciation for the good. But over time, we start taking people for granted. We go through tough times, have fights, and develop a past — sometimes negative and hurtful.

We can be happier by living in the present. We can learn from the past and plan for the future, but our well being depends on our ability to live in the present. That especially applies to our relationships. If you continuously bring up the negative and complain about things that aren’t so perfect, you’re not going to be happy and the person you’re complaining to isn’t going to be happy. Find common interests. Have fun together. Remember why the two of you got together in the first place.

There is a common misconception that healthy relationships are about compromise. While compromise is necessary in politics, it’s not so good in relationships because when you compromise, nobody really wins. Have you ever compromised on a movie? One person wants to see an action-adventure while the other wants to see a romantic comedy, so you settle on a mediocre movie that has both?

Healthy relationships depend on taking turns getting what you want. If you’re lucky, you both want the same things. This time, watch what your wife wants to watch. Enjoy it, simply because she enjoys it. Doing so demonstrates that she is important in your life and that you want her to be happy. Next time, she should watch what you want to watch. Take turns getting your way. That is how everyone wins.

So on this Valentine’s day, show gratitude for the people in your life. Let them know that they are important to you. Have fun together. Let the other person win.

Advertisements
February 13, 2013

New Improved Closed Eye Oscillation Thought Stopping Technique

by Dave P.

Closed Eye Oscillation Thought Stopping (CEOTS) has shown to be effective for many people, but it’s not that easy to use for some. A few people who participated in the study said it made them dizzy.

This morning, I woke up early and was unable to fall back to sleep. With my eyes closed, I moved them back and forth, but to no avail. The worries kept coming back into my my consciousness and I was unable to fall back to sleep.

So I decided to try some new techniques. First I imagined an eraser clearing my thoughts. Then a squeegee. The squeegee seemed to work better than the eraser, but it wasn’t working well enough to help me sleep. Then I imagined windshield wipers oscillating back and forth while I followed them with my eyes, and voilà! I was asleep in just a few seconds!

WindshieldWiperStart of by observing the sound of your breathing, and observe the sensation of cool air flowing in through your nostrils and warm air flowing back out. Any time a thought enters your consciousness, imagine windshield wipers slowly flapping back and forth, and follow them with your eyes. For thoughts high in emotion, imagine the windshield wipers oscillating at a faster rate. When the thought is completely gone and you experience calm, return your focus to your breath. Repeat whenever a thought enters your consciousness.

You can try various techniques to see what works for you. Try the windshield wiper visualization technique and see how that works. There are few things more frustrating than not being able to sleep. I hope this helps some of you out there.

February 12, 2013

The PERMA Model For Happiness

by Dave P.

MartinSeligmanMartin Seligman, researcher and author, came up with a theory of happiness that he calls PERMA. The acronym stands for Positive emotions, Engagement (flow), Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments.

Positive Emotions

Dr. Seligman originally called this element “pleasure,” but we can experience pleasure but still not be happy. People who have emotional problems often seek out pleasure from alcohol, drugs, promiscuous or illicit sex, or fatty foods. That kind of pleasure is fleeting because the underlying problems still exist. It’s more pain relief than actual pleasure.

Read more…

February 7, 2013

Sleep for dummies

by Dave P.

I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink
I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder, should I get up and fix myself a drink?
No no no
~ The Beatles (lyrics by John Lennon)

“I’m so stupid, I can’t even sleep! What’s wrong with me?!!” Those are some thoughts that used to go through my head when I’d lay awake at night, unable to sleep. I’d sometimes get so mad at myself, I’d punch myself in the head. I often wished I could cry myself to sleep, but wasn’t able to. It was pure hell.

Insomnia is a horrible condition. It leads people to drink, do drugs, and give up on life. Michael Jackson suffered from severe insomnia and required medically induced sleep. It eventually killed him. The great American blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield had the same problem. It destroyed his career. He turned to heroin for relief, which eventually killed him.

Unhappiness and discontentment often cause insomnia. When you don’t have something worthwhile in your life to look forward to, it affects your sleep. When you have strong meaning in life, you tend to sleep like a baby.

Everyone suffers from an occasional sleepless night, but when the problem becomes chronic, you begin spiraling downward — out of control. Every task becomes arduous. You can’t think clearly. You feel lousy. Your speech becomes slurred. You can’t remember anything. You don’t feel like talking to anyone. You become irritable. You can’t pay attention. All you can think about is going home and going to bed, but then when you’re in bed, you can’t sleep, and you think about all the things that are going wrong in your life. You dread the coming day.

People who suffer from insomnia often spend a lot of time reading books about insomnia. While proper sleep hygiene is important, spending an inordinate amount of time reading about insomnia isn’t going to help and can actually make your problem worse.

When people are unhappy, they often do things that reinforce their unhappiness, like reading about depression, insomnia, or other problems. They do so because they can relate to the material. We experience temporary pleasure when we connect with something. Even a good cry provides us with pleasure by stimulating the release of endorphins in the brain.

The problem with spending too much time learning about your problems is it strengthens the negative thinking part of the brain. What is needed is the opposite — the exercise of the positive thinking part of the brain! But that’s a bit difficult when you feel crappy due to lack of sleep. But there is hope.

First of all, take a step back at your life and ask yourself where you want to be in five or ten years. What are your goals and aspirations? Don’t factor in your insomnia because we’re going to solve that problem. What do you want out of life? Friends? Family? A career? A nice home? Hobbies? Don’t say, “a lot of money.” While it takes money to acquire some of the things we want in life, it in itself will not make you happy. And be realistic. Setting a goal to learn how to fly will only lead to disappointment or worse if you actually try to fly!

Goals provide us with meaning in life. Now, what would it take to achieve those goals? Set a course. Again, ignore your insomnia for now. What will it take? Training? Additional education? Just hard work? Map out your path. Remember to keep it positive. At this point, it may seem futile because it’s hard to do anything when you can’t sleep, but that is simply an obstacle that can be overcome.

Next, we’ll address sleep hygiene.

Wind down before going to bed. Write down anything that’s bothering you or problems that you need to address the next day. That will cut down on the ruminations and worry.

Meditate before going into your bedroom. Meditation actually gets you into a pre-sleep state with increased alpha brain waves.

Keep your bedroom cool. Your body releases tryptophan and increases serotonin levels as it cools, which cause drowsiness. A hot shower before bed will raise your body temperature, and you’ll feel tired when it cools down. Exercise also raises your body temperature, so don’t engage in any strenuous activities before bed. Sex may be the exception.

You can meditate while in bed to help you fall asleep. Simply observe the sensation of air flowing through your nostrils — the cool air entering and warm air exiting. Listen to the sounds of the night. Feel the comfort of your bed. Just observe.

If you live in a noisy area, some earplugs can help. A sleep mask can provide you with a dark environment — even during the day.

But what do you do when your brain won’t shut down when you’re trying to fall asleep? After all… it’s dark and quiet — the perfect time to think about things without any disruption! We seem to get some kind of satisfaction from rehashing our problems, but it also generates anxiety. There is also the worry about not being able to sleep, which, of course, prevents you from sleeping.

Many people resort to sleeping pills or alcohol to help them fall asleep, which often do help you sleep, but they affect the quality of sleep. You’ll spend less time in deep sleep and not feel refreshed when you awaken. Personally, sleeping pills always made me feel worse than if I didn’t sleep at all. I’d feel dizzy and spaced out the next day.

If you’re not really worried about anything but your mind just won’t shut down, often simply observing your breath can help. But if your thoughts are high in emotional content, extra strength thought-stopping techniques are needed!

I’ve written about this before, but it works well for those who have tried it. Get into a comfortable position and simply close your eyes and slowly and gently move them back and forth. You can combine this technique with mindfulness practice. Observe your breath, but when a thought enters your consciousness, move your eyes back and forth to erase it. Then return to your mindfulness practice. If you’re feeling anxious, move your eyes back and forth until you have calmed down. Then go back to your mindfulness practice.

If you’ve suffer from severe, chronic insomnia, you might benefit from SSRIs such as paroxetine (generic Paxil). They cause drowsiness and reduce anxiety. Ask your doctor if it might help.

Once you get your insomnia under control, you’re free to pursue your goals and reach your potential.

February 7, 2013

Exposure therapy: Experience life

by Dave P.

You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play
~ Steve Forbert

There’s only so much progress you can make by reading or listening to advice. You can develop an understanding of your issues, and you can accept them. You can recognize that it wasn’t your fault if you were abused or bullied. But you’re not going to overcome your problems unless you get out there in the world and experience life.

An obvious application is that of public speaking anxiety. You can develop your skills and self-efficacy that you can deliver a speech competently. You can deliver your speech to your dog, your family, or friends. But until you get out in front of an audience, you won’t be exposed to the elements that cause public speaking anxiety, and those are people!

People, for the most part, are harmless. The chance that anyone in the audience is going to cause you any physical harm is minuscule. Emotional pain activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain, though. Having the right attitude is essential to avoid a negative reaction, and that deals with not worrying what people think about you. People might not like your physical appearance  your voice, or your style. No matter who you are, there are going to be critics. If you like yourself and you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter what others think.

The DISH Method applies to all aspects of life. DISH stands for: Develop your skills, Incorporate your personality, Stop the negative thinking, and Have fun!

To be able to enjoy yourself in social situations requires social skills. You need to be able to carry on a conversation, have something interesting to say, and be able to say it. Some people claim that don’t know what to talk about, which is why they hated socializing. The world is a fascinating place. There is a lot going on out there. All you need to do is open your eyes and learn about it, whether it has to do with people, places, or things. Develop a passion for learning and understanding. Learn how to convey your interests to others. If you have a passion for what you’re saying, so will others. If you are trying to impress others with your knowledge, though, you’re not going to win friends or influence anyone.

Incorporate your personality into everything you do. Your individuality is what makes you interesting. Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Live authentically. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, you’re wasting time by not living up to your potential.

Stop the negative thinking. People with low self-esteem too often discount the positive and focus on the negative. They think people are just being nice if they get a complement, and they believe that their successes are anomalies. Failure is their natural state of being. They learn that they are helpless — that no matter how much effort they exert, they’re destined to fail. Because of that, they often do fail.

You are the star of your life. Until you accept that, you have very little chance of being happy. Sure, we want others like us;  our relationships generate happiness and allow us to manage stress. But the main thing is that you like yourself, and you can only do that by being the kind of person you would admire and respect. It involves dignity, self-respect, self-assertiveness, and self-growth. It’s about setting goals — both short and long term, and working towards their attainment. Goals lead us forward in life. Never stop learning.

Plato once said, “Life should be lived as play.” I repeat that quote fairly often because it’s too easy to forget and get bogged down in the muck and mire of life. We have the ability to experience pleasure in almost any activity — even work! One of the keys is living mindfully. Even the act of washing the dishes can be an enjoyable experience when performed completely in the present. Observe the sensation of the water running over your hands. Observe the sounds and smells. If you become efficient at the task, you can achieve a state of flow, which generates even more pleasure.

Attitude is everything in life. If you go into a situation so afraid to fail that you’re anxious, you are not living up to your potential. But if you recognize that you are the star of your life and that you’re not here on earth to live up to someone else’s expectations, you can’t help but win. But as the old saying goes: “you cannot win if you do not play.”

February 6, 2013

You are the star of your life

by Dave P.

Take it as it comes, specialize in having fun.
~ Jim Morrison

No matter what happened in the past, you can’t change it. There are no “do overs” in life. But we can learn from our mistakes and use them to help us grow. People who don’t get to experience mistakes often develop a fear of failure. We don’t need to be perfect. Our imperfections are what make us human.

Put your mistakes behind you. You are the star of your life. If you were writing a script for today, you wouldn’t decide to spend it ruminating and worrying. That would make for a boring movie!

Ruminating can become a bad habit if you do it too often. The parts of your brain that you use most develops strong neurological connections. The more you do something, the stronger the connections become. That’s what you want if you’re trying to learn how to play the piano, but it can take a serious toll on your state of mind if it involves maladaptive thinking.

Research psychologist Martin Seligman found that people who ruminate a lot are prone to depression. Ruminators often suffer from low self-esteem, which is why they seek the approval of others. When they don’t get it, they obsess, worry, and ruminate, which results in the loss of respect from others and the diminishment of self-respect.

When you find yourself ruminating, try this. Simply close your eyes and move them back and forth fairly rapidly — about twice the speed of a clock pendulum. Don’t try to block the rumination, but instead, try to ruminate while oscillating your eyes. You’ll find it to be extremely difficult to think about anything since the process of moving your eyes back and forth requires a fair amount of concentration; there’s not much processing capability left over to process other thoughts. Any time the maladaptive thought enters your consciousness, simply close your eyes and move them back and forth.

I did a study on this technique, which I call Rapid Eye Oscillation Technique, or REOT, and the people who tried it reported it to be effective. I use it all the time to help me fall asleep and to stop ruminations that would otherwise disrupt my day. Nothing else has ever worked for me.

You can be the star of your life if you stop worrying so much about what others think about you. While we all want to be liked and respected, if your sense of self-worth depends on the approval of others, it will have the opposite effect; people will like and respect you less.

Be yourself. Be authentic. If you don’t like yourself, work on self-improvement. Develop your conversational skills. Make an effort to learn new things every day. Show gratitude for your relationships and the good things in life. Work on being a positive person. Try to make the world a better place. Take it as it comes. Specialize in having fun.

February 3, 2013

Path to the present: Find meaning in life

by Dave P.

Do you suffer from existential nausea? What you may need is some Existential Alka-Seltzer — a pill the size of an automobile hubcap that, when dissolved in water, takes away the queasy feeling induced by too much awareness of life. You may also find it helpful after eating Mexican food.
~ Adapted from Woody Allen’s The Condemned

How much time do you waste ruminating about your past or worrying about your future? Do you spend a lot of time daydreaming?

People are happiest when they’re absorbed in what they’re doing, but events from the past can interrupt or prevent a state of ‘flow.’ You may have been abused as a child, which damaged your self-esteem. You may have been bullied at school or work, which damaged your sense of confidence. You may have a learning disability, which affected your self-efficacy. Any of those things can give you social anxiety, which affects your ability to form close relationships.

One of the keys to living in the present is finding meaning in life. Meaning can come from a variety of sources, but most comes from a desire to improve the world in some way, whether it’s helping people overcome their problems, teaching, political activism, environmental causes, or even self-improvement.

When you have strong meaning in life, the small, negative things don’t bother you. You don’t spend a lot of time ruminating or worrying because you’re content in the present working towards a goal. Meaning pulls you toward a specific destination. When we’re not living in the present, we need to be pushed. We need to be pushed out of bed, pushed to clean up the house, pushed to go to work, pushed to do most everything. When you have a strong pull towards something positive, you have strong, natural motivation.

Pull is sometimes negative. When you’re in pain, you seek out pain relief, so you might be pulled towards alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuous sex, cutting, or other sources of pain relief. Those types of activities might relieve the pain for a little while, but afterwards, they leave you feeling even worse. They’re like the Sirens’s song, luring you in with a promise of ecstasy, but then leaving you shipwrecked on the rocky cost of life.

May 19, 2011

Living with pain

by Dave P.

I’ve been having a pretty severe pain in my knee for the past week or so. I don’t remember banging it on anything or straining it, but it hurts like hell — especially after I’ve been sitting for a while and then get up and walk. I played a tennis match a few days ago and played with the pain. It was the only break in the rainy weather we had for a while and I wanted to take advantage of it.

A few minutes ago, our dog came into my office looking like she wanted to go outside. As I got up, I grimaced a bit from my knee pain. But then I decided to just accept the pain as an interesting sensation. As I walked down the stairs, I observed the pain without judging. It was just there. And as soon as I did that, my suffering diminished. I was still stiff and it didn’t stop me from limping (we can’t control our autonomic reflexes), but it was no longer excruciatingly painful.

When we’re in pain, much of the suffering comes from rejecting the pain. If we accept it, we eliminate the fear and anger. We relax. The muscle tension that causes much of the pain subsides and we suffer less.

Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced the practice of mindfulness for treatment of chronic pain back in 1979. He calls it Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR, and it has been effective in treating chronic pain and anxiety. Today, there are mindfulness treatment and learning centers around the world.

May 6, 2011

Thought Stopping Techniques

by Dave P.

by Dave Pollack

“I can’t believe I said those things at the office party last night! Everybody must think I’m a total idiot! I’m never going to hear the end of it and everybody at work is going to hate me!”

You lay awake in bed, tossing and turning, afraid to face the coming day. The next morning, you feel horrible from not having slept. Your eyes are bloodshot, you’re not thinking clearly, you’re in a bad mood, and you want to call in sick but you can’t afford to miss any more time off.

And so, you go to work, expecting the worst. But it turns out, what you said was no big deal. You weren’t the focus of everyone’s attention and hardly anyone noticed if you said something inappropriate or “stupid.” So you wound up making yourself miserable for nothing.

Worrying can become habitual. It might arise out of some genuine crisis. Maybe the company bully set his sights on you and made your life miserable. Afterwards, you started blowing any little snide remark or conflict out of proportion and you felt like the whole world had turned against you. Your relationships deteriorate and you begin to hate getting out of bed in the morning. You’ve become miserable and you’re making everyone around you miserable with all your complaining. You lose your comfort base. You snap at the slightest provocation. Your habitual worry turns into insomnia. Your friends no longer want to be around you. Your world is falling apart because you can’t stop those damned obsessive ruminations and maladaptive thoughts. You need help.

So how do you stop obsessive worry and ruminations? There are several methods and they can be used individually or in conjunction with each other. They do take a bit of self-discipline, though. You would think that it would be easy to control your own mind, but it’s usually quite difficult – at least in the beginning. We seem to derive some kind of satisfaction from rehashing events in our minds, which makes it difficult to stop.

Many people who suffer from insomnia have a hard time shutting down their minds when trying to fall asleep. Unless you’ve suddenly thought of a cure for cancer or have an idea that would make a perpetual motion machine possible, your thought doesn’t need to be processed when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep. Thoughts related to work can wait. Ruminations and worry can definitely wait for another time.

The cognitive approach to thought stopping can be effective in stopping the unwanted thoughts. When a thought pops into your head, ask yourself, “Do I really need to process that thought? Is that an important thought or am I just needlessly obsessing over something that doesn’t really matter? If it’s an important thought, does it need to be processed right now while I’m trying to sleep or can it wait until tomorrow?”

You can make a note to yourself to think the thought the next day after you get up. If you’re laying there worrying, tell yourself that right now you’re going to sleep, but you’ll be sure to worry about it in the morning when you get up. Make a note to yourself to worry, just in case you forget. Chances are, when you look at the note the next day, you’ll realize that whatever it was anything worth worrying about in the first place.

You can also do a cost/benefit analysis on your thought. What do you gain by thinking that thought? What do you lose? Sometimes thinking a thought has no positive value other than you gaining some kind of satisfaction from thinking it. Obsessing over things creates anxiety. Living in the present creates peace and equanimity. When we ruminate about someone who has done us wrong in some way, it doesn’t hurt the other person but it definitely does us harm, so what’s the point?

Ruminations often have their roots in self-loathing. You’re mad at yourself for allowing someone to do you wrong. You didn’t defend yourself the way you think you should have. So you go over the event over and over, perhaps imagining a different outcome.

The only way to get over a bad experience is through forgiveness. Forgive yourself for not defending yourself. Forgive the other person for causing you distress. That’s not to say you should become passive and let everyone pick on you. On the contrary, if you are at peace with yourself, you have a better self-image and can more easily defend yourself. And when you like yourself, people are less likely to pick on you. Bullies tend to go after those with low self-esteem.

After doing an analysis on a few maladaptive thoughts, you can simply tell yourself “It does me absolutely no good to process that thought and it actually makes things worse.”

Some unwanted thoughts will inevitably reappear, even after you’ve made the deliberate decision to not think about them. There are thought stopping techniques to stop them in their tracks before they’re fully formed.

One way most commonly recommended by therapists is to issue the “stop” imperative as soon as the thought begins to form. You can also visualize a stop sign. Another common method is to pinch yourself or snap a rubber band on your wrist when the thoughts start.

Then again, if you’re upset that someone treated you with disrespect and then you start yelling at yourself or hurting yourself, that might not make you feel any better. But there are other techniques at your disposal.

Bob Newhart did a funny skit in his TV series. On his show, he played a psychologist and a woman went to him for advice on how to get over her fear of being locked in a box. His advice was to “stop it. Just stop it.” Here’s a link to the video on YouTube.

While that’s not quite the same as issuing the “stop” command, a little humor can go far in diffusing negative emotions. When an unwanted thought appears, just imagine Bob Newhart telling you to “stop it.”

Another technique is to visualize your thought being sucked into a vacuum cleaner. You could also imagine zapping it with a Taser gun or perhaps it being eaten by a Pak-Man character. Or perhaps imagine a swashbuckler fighting the thought with his sword. You could visualize a Martian zapping it with a ray gun. Add some sound effects to your visualizations for more comic effect.

Humor can be extremely effective in weakening the negative emotions connected to your memories. The memories that are most vivid and most easily retrieved are the ones with the strongest emotional content. That’s why most people can remember where they were when they heard about the 9/11 attack or perhaps the Kennedy assassination, for those who are old enough to remember that.

We are most at peace when we’re living in the present – not rehashing past events or worrying about the future. People often go on vacation to clear their minds by sitting on a beach somewhere or camping out in the wilderness. We can do the same thing any time of the day by practicing mindfulness.

Many Buddhists practice what they call metta or loving-kindness meditation. It’s treating yourself with love and being fully in the present, usually focusing on your breath. You observe the sensation of the cool air passing in through your nostrils and the warm air flowing out. It gives you an object of focus and since your breath is always with you, you can be mindful of your breath at any time and any place.

You can also divide your attention between your breath and the task at hand. If you find that you can’t concentrate on a book you’re reading or a movie you’re trying to watch because of incessant ruminations, try observing your breath while engaging in those activities. When the extraneous thoughts subside, put your full attention on the task at hand. If the thoughts come back, return to dividing your attention between your breath and the task.

Many people have experienced good results with visualizations. Imagine yourself at a beach, the gentle waves rolling in and out, seagulls flying overhead… Or you could imagine yourself getting a massage or walking through a rainforest where you’re surrounded by vegetation and beautiful streams. There are many books dedicated to visualizations alone and you can find guided visualizations on the web and in media outlets.

A technique known as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has been effective in treating PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Originally, EMDR consisted of visualizing the traumatic event and at the same time, moving your eyes rapidly back and forth. The theory is that it stimulates both sides of your brain at the same time and that weakens the emotional connections to your memories.

EMDR machines have been developed to stimulate both sides of the brain using sounds through earphones and vibrations through vibrating objects that you hold in your hands. You simply visualize the troubling event while hooked up to the device and the emotional content is weakened.

Thought stopping techniques can demonstrate their efficacy almost immediately. For severe problems with a racing mind or ruminations, it may take days or even weeks to get the problem under control. It does work, though, and the practice of thought-stopping along with meditation and mindfulness can actually change your brain chemistry so that your natural state of mind is one that’s relaxed and content.

May 6, 2011

Mindfulness – Right Focus

by Dave P.

by Dave Pollack


The Molly Lama

Every morning at about 9:00, I take our dog Molly out for a walk around the neighborhood. Molly is a German Shepard/Chow mix – a beautiful, feisty (at times a bit goofy looking) animal. I’ve gotten into the habit of practicing mindfulness on our walks and it sets the tone for the rest of my day.

This morning was sunny and mild – in the mid 50s, but windy. We’ve been having a windy spring here in Denver this year. Part of global climate change, I guess.

So Molly and I left the house a little after 9:00. As usual, she was anxious to explore the neighborhood. She ran down the walkway from our front porch and yanked me forward when she got to the end of her retractable leash.

“Hold on, Molly,” I told her. She looked down the street with a big smile on her face, tail wagging, as if to say, “Oh, boy! We’re going for a walk!” Dogs derive so much pleasure from the simple things in their lives. They live almost completely in the present, although I think she dreams of chasing rabbits when she sleeps.

As we started off on our walk around the neighborhood, I focused on my breath flowing in and out of my nostrils. It was windy and I observed the sensation of the cool air on my face and hands. The sun was beginning to heat the ground and occasionally a bit of warm air caressed the exposed parts of my body. So many things to be mindful of on this splendid morning in Denver.

The whistling from the steady breeze overpowered the traffic sounds from the busy street a few blocks away. Our neighborhood is a little oasis in Denver proper, with its two story houses and majestic, half-century old trees lining the streets. The sounds of traffic typically seem like an invader into our peaceful community, but on this day it was inaudible.

Molly suddenly started barking frantically as she lunged from the sidewalk into the street. I pressed my thumb down firmly on the leash brake to stop her progress, but she was already a good ten feet into the road. A German Shepard sat peacefully on the other side of the street – the object of Molly’s aggression. I backed up in a tug-of-war attempt to pull her out of the street with everything I had. At about 70 pounds of muscle, she’s a handful.

Just then I saw a van speeding down our side of the street directly towards Molly. I spun my body around, pulling on the leash. The van came within a foot of hitting Molly and continued down the street without slowing, seemingly oblivious.

“Damn it Molly!” I yelled, pulling her back to the sidewalk.

“Sorry about that,” came a voice from across the street. The owner of the well behaved German Shepard stood next to his dog, obviously concerned.

“That wasn’t your fault,” I replied, angry with myself for not being vigilant of my companion.

Molly is generally fairly well behaved, but she sometimes lets the Chow in her come out and can be a bit aggressive – never towards people, but often towards other animals. She likes to play by jumping on the other dog. That’s just her disposition. When the other dog responds in kind, the two have a good-ol’ time wrestling and play biting. Sometimes the other dog gets agitated, though, and they wind up fighting. She also goes after squirrels, rabbits, skunks (she’s gotten sprayed a few times), and I need to be mindful of her while we’re out on our walks. It’s not difficult to anticipate her moves. An attack is always preceded by an intense stare and a crouched stance, and generally, all that’s required is a firm “no” and my thumb on the leash brake to stop her from getting out of control. To do that, though, requires my mindfulness to be focused on her.

So this was a good lesson for me. While it’s important to be mindful, what’s also important is what we’re mindful of, especially when it involves the people and animals we love.

Tags: ,