Dogs seem to instinctively know how to enjoy the simple things in life, don’t they? They love to play and they don’t worry about tomorrow. When you think of it, this is what zen is all about. What if we could learn important and useful zen lessons from our four legged friends?
Even though we try to adjust them to fit our needs and wishes, dogs will always be dogs. At a first glance they can seem rather stupid when the only thing they seem to enjoy in life is smelling things and running around digging up our gardens. But we are missing out on the bigger picture here. When it comes to enjoying the best things in life, dogs might have superior skills compared to us humans. We just don´t always see them that way.
Today I want to introduce you to a way of living a fulfilling life according to zen. By observing my little dog I found out she has a lot of zen wisdom to offer if we just take a closer look, and she is happy to share this wisdom with you today in 9 life changing zen lessons.
Zen lesson 1: Enjoy the simple things in life
Dogs enjoy the simplicity of life. Their attitude towards life is pure zen. They don´t need expensive cars and high tech devices to feel satisfied. A simple stick will do.
How can we learn from this?
Many of us clutter our lives with too many things we don’t need. It can be gadgets as well as thoughts. To get rid of them all at once can be a hard thing to do.
I suggest you make a list of the things you absolutely can’t live without, and go from there. Toss out the things you don’t need or use. Of course there are things you enjoy owning even though you don’t really need them. I for instance, own tons of pens and markers that I use for my bullet journaling. I also collect way too many notebooks. I can’t say I really need them all, but since they improve my creativity they get to stay.
Toss away the “what if” mindset
If your current mindset doesn’t help you, it’s time to toss it away and make room for something better. Make a list of the negative thoughts and fears that are currently holding you back. The “what ifs” are usually a good indicator of fearful thoughts. Make a list of the “what ifs” in your life and find out what it would take to let them go.
Zen lesson 2: Use your senses
Dogs naturally use their superior sense of smell which of course can be hard for us humans to match up with. But by trying to consciously smell, taste and feel the texture of the food we eat, we can discover nuances we weren’t aware of before.
An exercise you can do is to shut one of your senses off in order to expand the other ones. Shut your eyes when you taste something new. This will open up your sense of smell and taste, and you will also begin to feel the texture of the food you´re eating.
Let´s face it, dogs may not be the smartest creatures alive. But they know how to make use of the gifts that are given to them. My dog has a slight seeing disability, but that doesn’t stop her from enjoying life to the fullest.
Zen lesson 3: Eat simple food and don’t be picky
This lesson might not be totally valid, since I am the one providing my dog with food and she has to eat whatever I give her. But the point is that my dog isn’t especially picky when it comes to eating. She is happy to consume whatever leftovers I give her.
Switch to a healthy diet to help you bring zen into your life.
Zen lesson 4: Accept life as it is
Dogs have a magnificent ability to enjoy life the way it is. I think this is by far the most valuable life lesson we can learn from our four legged friends. They adapt to almost any situation, accept their reality and cope with it. Many of us would gain so much joy in life if we could only realize this.
Oftentimes we tend to stick to the difficulties and obstacles we receive in life. If we can accept life as it is, we can also start to see the beautiful things that also are a part of our reality. By accepting that things are the way they are we can begin to let things happen, and not be overwhelmed by the small obstacles standing in our way.
Zen lesson 5: Worship the sun as well as the shadow
When it comes to sun worshiping, dogs have a few things to teach us. They just seem to enjoy every moment of every day, especially if they get a chance to be out in the sun. We know that moderate exposure to sunlight can be healthy (among other things the sun rays help us to produce the vitamin D), and of course dogs have the answer to not getting burned by the sun. By shifting between the sunny spot and the shadow, they can see to it that they don’t get exposed to too much sunshine.
If we see this in a metaphorical way, we can learn another valuable life lesson: Eternal sunshine might be something we dream about, but we must rest in the shadow once in a while if we don´t want to get burned. We can learn to embrace the shadows, failures and tough lessons life gives us. Resting in the shadow once in a while can be an important way of learning how to fully enjoy the sunny days.
Zen lesson 6: Rest when needed
Most of us are really busy. We almost never give ourselves the time to reflect on how we live our lives. We don’t even have time to reflect on where to have lunch. We have so much to do that we hardly ever sit down and contemplate what we are really doing with our lives.
When you rest you reload your brain. If you don’t seem to find the time for a nap, consider closing your eyes and breathe deeply for a couple of minutes. Inhale and hold your breath for a second or two. Then exhale loudly with a deep sigh (this helps your brain to produce endorphins to your body).
If you want to learn how to relax, study how a dog does it.
If you´re a cat person I can hear what you are thinking: Aren’t cats the real masters when it comes to doing nothing 22 hours a day? I can only agree. This is the one life lesson you can learn by glimpsing at a cat´s direction to see how it´s done properly.
Zen lesson 7: be exited when meeting new people.
Dogs naturally want to hang out with others. They are friendly and lovable by default. I always get in a good mood when I walk my dog and she sees someone on the other side of the street. She could do anything just to say hello. In my dog’s opinion, strangers are friends she doesn’t know yet. The sooner we get to know each other, the better. She doesn’t judge anyone which can be a life lesson for most of us.
Note: If you are an introvert it can be overwhelming and exhausting just thinking about meeting new people. It´s never a good idea to force yourself to meet new people if you feel anxious about it. Being an INFJ myself, I´m always anxious when I have to meet new people or be in a crowded place. I have learned that the best way of coping with this is to practice with small steps. Nevertheless, if I get out there and challenge my comfort zone I always feel greatly rewarded afterwards, so I highly recommend you to do the same.
Zen lesson 8: Exercise
Even though dogs are great at resting and sleeping, they also want to move their bodies once in a while. They just know by instinct that it is good for them to run around in order to be fully satisfied.
A dog can walk for miles without getting tired. In the wild, dogs wander long distances each day to get food and shelter, and our domesticated darlings are no different. If you are a dog owner you have already committed to taking long walks every day. As a bonus you get the exercise for free.
Zen lesson 9: Zero Waste
Dogs are all natural and they teach us a valuable lesson on being in tune with earths resources. They don’t over consume and they live in harmony with nature. Their waste is biodegradable. If we would learn how to consume less and leave less waste, we could reduce our ecological footprint during our visit on earth. A true zen way of living.