I have the luxury of being able to work anywhere, as long as I have my laptop and phone. The flexibility is a huge plus— especially on the days I work from the oversized chair in my sunroom.
You wouldn’t think I’d need to fight for work space in my own home, but most days I have to literally shove Tula, our 70-pound Pit Bull, out of the way. As she slowly moves over to the ottoman, (which is literally like a six-inch trip, max) she stares at me the entire time with her big brown eyes, letting me know she is only shifting her weight because I am making her.
As I settle in with my coffee and computer, my second furry employee, the tiny but mighty Monkey, reports for duty. I don’t remember including “must sleep through 96 percent of your shift” in the help-wanted ad, but somehow they landed the job anyway.
They both snuggle in, making sure a paw, chin, or at least one body part is touching me and proceed to nap—stopping only for bark breaks—for the next few hours. For the majority of the time I am working, but I find myself frequently stopping what I’m doing, and staring at them instead. I watch intently as they do pretty much … nothing.
Why is this so intriguing? What captivates me about the way they sleep? I watch as their eyes twitch, blink, and flutter—they seem so safe and content as they dream.
As I think about what it is that draws me in, I begin to notice the feelings and thoughts I have as I sit and observe them. I realize that just a minute ago I had a jumble
of numbers, names, words, and dates swirling around my head. But, as I stop and soak up the calmness of my dogs—right here, right now—my mind quiets down.
I am taken by their ability to breathe deeply, allowing complete peace. Then I make a connection: This still place has no judgment, only acceptance. Telling myself I’m wrong or bad, or shaming myself throughout the day for errands I may have forgotten, emails I didn’t return, or a ballet costume I forgot to sew in time has been a pattern that comes so naturally to me I don’t even realize I am doing it. But I am committed to learning a new way—noticing my behavior and getting curious about it as opposed to judging it. “What can I learn from this experience?” I now ask myself. “How can I shift this negative belief, and let it go?”
Animals are often my role models for behaviors I want to incorporate into my own life (minus the scratching inappropriate places in public). Tula doesn’t say to herself, “Oh, I’m so bad, I’m sitting in mom’s chair and won’t move until she makes me. I’m selfish. I should be nicer. I am a horrible dog.” Nor does she hold a grudge with me for kicking her out of her comfy spot. Rather, she let’s out a big sigh, still loving me and herself, and moves on.
I now practice this each time I find myself drifting from my work, stopping to pet my dogs. Instead of beating myself up for slacking off or not working hard enough, I accept that I am taking the time I need to tune in to their mindful state, and then refocus my energy back to the task at hand.
I do enjoy working in a “real” office surrounded by humans, but my four-legged colleagues are the best mentors I could have. Their message is simple: Love, and be loved—no matter what it takes.
I am a devoted student and strive to attain their level of Zen. It got me thinking: Could I get so present that I run up to my husband and hug and kiss him as if he’d just returned from a long overseas trip … when in reality he just walked back in from taking the garbage out? Then I will know I have mastered the “in-the-moment” mindset of a dog!
I’m hoping this canine flu epidemic slows down soon so I can see you at the dog beach this summer.
Be safe and have fun—