This simple meditation can bring peace and comfort during the last days of a dog’s life. It can also provide comfort and healing for the human even long after the dog has passed away. A reader, Robin, experienced that. This is what she wrote to me:
“Mary, I just wanted to thank you for your book, Grow Young with Your Dog, and the Connected Breathing Meditation.
“My 17 old dog, Emmi, had survived a year and a half from cancer and losing half her liver. Last July she started to decline and was having respiratory distress. I did the Connected breathing meditation with her. She seemed to relax , her breath eased. She passed a week later but the meditation gave us both relief, and connected us forever . She died peacefully asleep next to me.
“Thank you so much. It is hard to describe the comfort and peace I received. I still have two dogs and we meditate and do yoga together.” – Robin Robertson
Would you like to access this powerful connection with your dog? Whether your dog is a frisky youngster or a senior dog with health challenges, this easy-to-do meditation can lower your stress and help you forge a deep, timeless bond with your dog. Read on to learn how.
You’ve no doubt noticed that your dog is sensitive to your moods and emotions. That means that if you’re stressed, your dog most likely is too. We all know that stress contributes to illness and anxiety. Not to mention it just doesn’t feel good! But we live in fast-paced, challenging times. How can we reduce our stress so that it doesn’t harm us – and our dogs?
Meditation is a time-honored stress buster. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, and help preserve the aging brain. Scientists also think meditation can bolster the immune system and reduce high blood pressure.
If meditation was a drug, it would be considered a wonder drug. So why aren’t we all meditating?
Stressed and busy, meditation becomes another thing that we should be doing. But we don’t. And that makes us feel even worse.
Fortunately, there’s a solution.
After a life-altering experience with a geriatric Australia shepherd many years ago, I created a meditation that helps people connect more deeply with their animal companions. I call this process Connected Breathing.
Connected Breathing is a meditation that you do with your dog. Now you no longer have to choose between spending time with your dog and taking care of yourself. You can do both at once.
And there’s more. By focusing on the love you have for your dog, it’s possible to get the health benefits of meditation plus the benefits of deepening your connection.
The human-canine bond not only feels good, it’s good for your health too. When you turn off the mind chatter and tune into your dog, you can experience a profound sense of well-being. I’ve found it to be a blissful and mutually healing state.
Connected Breathing helps you and your dog become sensitive and attuned to each other. You are in present moment awareness, with no past or future to fret about. This is a powerful state. Connecting with your dog in the now allows you to tap into an energy that is greater than yourself, creating a wellspring of healing, hope and love.
Note: this exercise works equally well with other companion animals, such as cats and horses. And don’t worry, you can do it with your horse standing up!
Find a quiet time and place with a minimum of distractions so that you and your dog can focus on each other as you enjoy the exercise.
With your dog lying down quietly on his side, sit behind him so that you are facing his back. If your dog would rather not lie on his side at the moment, allow him to choose another position. If sitting on the floor is not comfortable for you, sit on a large pillow or rolled up blanket to help relieve strain on your hips.
Alternatively, you can place your dog on a couch or bed and you can sit on a chair before him. You can also sit next to your dog on a sofa or bed. Remember that your comfort is important when doing Connected Breathing. If you are uncomfortable, adjust your position to afford yourself maximum comfort and ease of movement.
If it is impossible for you to get comfortable right next to your dog, you can still do Connected Breathing. Simply sit on a chair or sofa, and when you get to the part where I suggest that you put your hands on your dog, simply imagine that your hands are lightly resting on your dog.
Don’t touch your dog yet, but simply sit near him and focus your attention on yourself. How are you breathing? What parts of yourself move as you breathe? Your ribs? Your belly? Your back? Your sides?
Do you feel centered and relaxed? If distracting thoughts enter your mind, just let them float on by. Don’t judge them, or yourself. Instead, breathe comfortably and take a few moments to notice your physical sensations. Then follow the steps below:
2. Breathe in a relaxed way, imaging that the air is coming into and going out of your heart area.
3. Feel the love you have for your dog. Let the feelings of love and appreciation fill your heart.
Consider that the breath you exhale becomes part of the air that your dog inhales. Your dog’s exhalations then are mixed with the air you breathe in. And yet air is only a fraction of the unseen that we share with our dogs. The energy of our emotions, for example, affects our animals in many ways. That is why generating positive feelings, such as love or appreciation, matters so much to our dogs. And those positive feelings help us to be happier and healthier as well.
Consider how soothing turquoise waves wash up on a beautiful beach. A wave comes in; then it goes back out to the ocean. The ocean would soon lose its power and majesty if the waves never returned.
Love is like that too. Your power develops from both sending and receiving love, yet too often we get so busy caring for our loved ones that we forget to nourish ourselves with their love and appreciation for us. We need those waves to be both coming onto the beach as well as going back out, so don’t forget to take in the waves of love from your dog! Let those waves wash over you and relax and comfort you.
6. As you maintain this breath connection with your dog, lightly put the palms of your hands on your dog’s ribcage, with your hands slightly apart from one another. If your dog is very small, you can place one hand on his ribs and the other lightly on his hindquarters.
Keep in mind that your dog knows the difference between a listening touch and a corrective one. It is the listening touch that we wish to develop in Debono Moves. I have found that the more we humans listen to our dogs, the more our dogs listen and respond to us.
Notice any changes in your dog’s – and your own – breathing. What parts of you move as you breathe? Is your breathing slower or faster than when you started? Be mindful of any images or thoughts that spontaneously occur to you. Many people become more “tuned in” to their dog through Connected Breathing because its emphasis on listening and “not-doing” helps open up a channel of communication between you and your dog.
As long as both you and your dog are comfortable, you can spend as much time as you’d like enjoying this close connection.
You can also put your hands on other parts of your dog’s body. While we generally start Connected Breathing with the ribcage, your canine may appreciate a supporting hand on his hip and one on his shoulder blade. Or two hands on his back. Or one on his back and one on his chest.
Try various places on your dog’s body and notice where your dog seems to welcome your quiet hands. Make sure you maintain your comfort and ease throughout. When either you or your dog want to get up, you can simply take your hands off your dog while you maintain the feeling of gratitude.
Even a few minutes of Connected Breathing can be healing for you and your dog. Many people start with three to five minutes and progress to longer sessions as they gain experience with the exercise.
The more consistently you practice Connected Breathing, the more healing benefits you and your canine companion will derive from it. Just remember to relax and enjoy the experience and don’t worry about trying to get it “right” or keeping track of the time. Simply feeling love and gratitude is enough.
What if your dog isn’t nearby? Or has passed over?
If you are stressed, Connected Breathing is a great way to change your emotional state. But what if your dog isn’t nearby?
Fortunately, you can still benefit from this exercise. As you follow the steps of Connected Breathing, simply visualize your dog breathing with you.
Can you imagine what your dog feels like as you softly place your hands on her ribcage and breathe together? You may be surprised at how this exercise can relax and refresh you.
Connected Breathing not only deepens the human-canine bond, but it can reduce your stress. Try it when you are waiting in line at the grocery store or if you are having trouble falling asleep.
Many people experience a spiritual connection with their animal companions that does not diminish over time and space. It can be comforting and healing for grieving people to experience Connected Breathing while visualizing their departed dog sharing love and light with them.
I hope you enjoy meditating with your dog and I’d love to hear about your experience. Please consider sharing this post with your friends, so more animals and their humans benefit. And remember, you can do this meditation with any animal, not just dogs. Please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to read each one. Thank you!
Please note: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical or veterinary advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional if you have any concerns about your health or that of your dog.
To reach more people (and their dogs!) around the globe, I’m now offering online consultations and courses.