I am always joined for meditation at home by our two cavoodle dogs, Daisy and Rosie. They seem to love it and are always keen to sit on the mat and then the zabuton and then the zafu as I put them down and I have to chide them out of the way so that I can get them all setup for my meditation practice. I sit and as soon as the gong goes on my timer to start, both dogs settle down on the smaller zabuton I set for them in front of me and mostly just go to sleep. Or what appears to be sleep. Their presence is not as you might think a distraction but provides me with a number of lessons.
Dogs I think are permanently in the “here and now” that we humans strive for in just periods of meditation. I don’t think dogs spend much time, if any, thinking about the bones they might have got in the past, or planning for what they might do later in the day, or week, or month. They are just living for what happens now. They have conditioning that comes into play but no regrets and no planning, it is just what is happening now that matters. Even in the midst of what appears to be deep sleep the dogs will immediately react to any noise that might need to be attended to or indicate a threat. They are always listening. Sometimes when we are in meditation one or both will put their heads up in instant attention when some new noise is heard from outside. They assess it then let it go and drop back into sleep. When teaching meditation I suggest to my students that they not only focus on their breathing but to also “turn their ears on” and be aware of all the noises, or lack of, around them. Not to follow the sounds into thought but to just notice them.
As I practice Zen meditation, zazen, it also suggests that I have my eyes open and quietly focused on a point in front of me. The object for me in meditation then is not to shut myself off from the world and just be introspective but to be fully present in the moment and connected with the world around me with all senses functioning. I am also as aware as possible of what is happening in my body at the same time, a sense of the inner and the outer being one. I bring awareness of the present to the foreground and send the monkey chatter of my mind to the background, a reversal of my usual day to day life. The dogs are lucky, they appear to be in this place all the time. Maybe they are not really sleeping but are in what we would consider a state of meditation much of the time. The presence of the dogs contributes to my awareness of what is around me.
Perhaps they like the peaceful energy that is created when I am deep in meditation or maybe they just see it as their natural state. But rest in it they do. All of this is probably not too surprising given they have grown up with me meditating all of their lives to date. It is the joining with me in the process that has evolved.
Sometimes at the end of a meditation I am gifted with the most beautiful sign of love and gratitude. I have a timer bell sound to signal the end of my meditation time. Just after that sounds and I make the first slight movement while still sitting, my little dog Daisy senses that and sometimes rises and puts her front paws on my chest and her face into mine as if giving me a kiss. I take it as a sign of love and affection and I think, gratitude. Thanking me for the peaceful time and space that we have just shared. It might also be for her just a signal that it is time to get up and get on with the day.
We are but simple humans without the ability and knowledge to really understand other species accurately. So I simply prefer the love and affection explanation of this photo and it warms my heart.