Meditation and me
I’ve recently returned from a meditation retreat in India where my mind and body was put through an incredibly intense experience in a quest to find inner calmness. There were 50 others on the retreat but interaction through speaking or eye contact was completely prohibited, a practice which was called the Noble Silence.
Deep in the heart of the countryside in Kerala were 50 people, walking, eating and sitting in complete silence. A strange environment for me but not it would seem for one of the local street dogs who seemed to enjoy this calm and tranquil part of the neighbourhood. Scratchy, as I named him, (alas a common name for those poor itchy street dogs) would often appear some time after our 6am breakfast and would spend the best part of the day hanging out with these silent humans.
Since the food served at the retreat was all vegetarian, it wasn’t table scraps that drew Scratchy’s attention and it certainly wasn’t the human attention since everyone was forbidden to speak or touch him. So it got me thinking about what was so appealing about this strange and silent place to India’s cutest street dog.
A few days into the retreat I started to notice a pattern to Scratchy’s behaviour and I noticed that he was initially drawn to certain individuals and it seemed to be the people that had visited meditation retreats before… the experts as I called them. He would follow them around and once they sat down and started to meditate he would lay in front of them and close his eyes. As the 10 days went on I noticed that Scratchy was widening his contact pool and had started sitting alongside other people. Then on day 7 he came to me.
It was pretty obvious what had changed for me on day 7. After days of intense and patient practice I’d finally started to experience the sensation of body vibrations. Alongside these body vibrations was the sense of inner peace and calmness. The fact that this same day Scratchy came to sit in front of me couldn’t have been a coincidence. I believed that in some way, Scratchy could sense the sensations that I was having in my body and it was having some positive and calming effect on him too. An experience that he liked and actively sought out.
This wasn’t such a wild conclusion, given that dogs can be highly sensitive to the emotional and physiological state of their human companions. Subtle changes in mood can alter our sweat and pheromone production which can be easily detected by the acute canine smell receptors. Our dogs know when we are happy, sad, angry or anxious, so it only stands to reason that they can also sense when we are calm.
Upon returning to the UK I’ve continued my meditation practice and as an experiment I invited my own dog Dolly to sit with me. Once she had sniffed, rolled and sat on the meditation mat it did appear that she relaxed into a sense of calmness during my practice. She also seemed to favour my basement meditation room as her favourite chill out spot during the day which was a new and unusual place for her to relax.
The possibilities of mediation in people are well realised, but the use of this technique in dogs hasn’t been well explored or documented. My initial experiences suggest that this could indeed be a practice that could benefit both pets and owners alike. Perhaps in your path to inner peace you could take your best friend with you!
So the next time you meditate put out two mats instead of one!
“This feature came to you from our very own TV vet Paul Manktelow. Paul is our lead expert at Vital Pet Health who has a wealth of knowledge and experience from his extensive professional career and media involvement.”