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Warning: naughty language.
Not long ago, I adopted my dog, Miles.
I’m not exactly sure why. Because, quite frankly, I was never a dog person.
Growing up, my family had a cat, Spanky. I loved Spanky. My parents loved Spanky. My sister loved Spanky. Everyone else thought Spanky was a colossal bitch. Fuck them. Spanky was my best friend.
I’d never understood why anyone would want a dog. I always thought:
They’re just big pains in the ass, and they drool, and they all act the same, and they just stand there with their tongues hanging out like fucking idiots. You have to train them and walk them and bathe them and give them constant love and attention. But, not cats. Cats have personalities. Cats are awesome. They do their own thing, and they’re smart, and they clean themselves, and they’re kind of mysterious, and they don’t need your goddamn attention. Plus, they shit in a box. How sweet is that?
Well, since adopting Miles, I’ve experienced all the commonly reported benefits of owning a dog.
I get out of the house more. I get more exercise. I laugh more, because Miles is hilarious. I meet more people. I’ve even scored a few dates…because, well, Miles is a kick-ass wingman.
But, there’s one benefit to owning Miles that has been truly life-changing. And, it was totally unexpected.
Owning Miles has significantly tamed my monkey mind.
In case you didn’t know, you have a monkey mind, too. Your monkey mind is that endless stream of varied thoughts that swirls around in your head every day.
You might call it a wandering mind. Neuroscientists call it the Default Mode Network (DMN). One of my mentors, Dr. Robert Glover, calls it the “ruminating brain.” (He also says I could be the poster child for it.)
Call it what you want. But, a monkey mind is often an unhappy mind. And, a lot of us wish we could just fucking turn it down a smidge.
Our minds are here to protect us. But, they have a funny way of beating us up and making us feel bad about ourselves.
I believe my monkey mind is the primary cause of almost all my problems, both past and present. It’s at the root of my depression, anxiety, anger, jealousy, self-loathing, procrastination, occasionally antisocial behavior, and low self-esteem. I believe my monkey mind is why I’ve often failed to live up to my potential.
Over the last few years, and on my journey to becoming a personal coach, I’ve learned to tame my monkey mind through a regimen that includes things like: meditation, mantras and affirmations, gratitude journaling, setting weekly goals, practicing abundance, and observing my thoughts instead of believing them.
To my surprise, however, nothing has tamed my monkey mind more effectively than being the proud owner of a six-pound little furball who licks his own butt.
In the morning, I no longer hit snooze and sullenly ponder the hours ahead. I get up and take Miles for a walk. (Dude’s gotta shit, after all.)
If it’s a particularly busy day, I no longer let stress get the better of me. I simply take a break, get some fresh air, and watch Miles piss on the shrubs in the front yard.
And, when I get home at night, I no longer sit and stew about life’s injustices. How could I, when Miles is furiously trying to lick the inside of my ear?
Taking care of another creature, it turns out, has been a tremendous practice in mindfulness.
Of course, Miles is hardly a cure for my troubles. The monkey mind is always there, always active, spinning and swirling in the background, eager to latch onto the next distraction. But, having Miles has forced me to become more adept at ignoring my monkey mind, while bringing my thoughts back to the now.
Yes, much like a mantra or the sensation of breath, Miles has become an anchor to the present moment. Which isn’t just great for me, it’s great for him. Because, without this little arrangement, there’s a good chance he’d get hit by a car.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: if you have a monkey mind like I do, if you’re feeling down or depressed or a little lost, if you find yourself wanting a bit more out of life…
Consider getting a dog.
If you can’t get a dog, then get a cat.
If you can’t get a cat, then get a pig. (Lots of celebrities are doing it!)
If you can’t get a pig, then get a chinchilla.
If you can’t have a pet at all, then go down to your local animal shelter and volunteer. Or, simply do something that will allow you to get out of your head and serve others.
I guess you could have a kid. But, I’ve never understood why anyone would want one of those.