7.3 Editor's Pick
May 20, 2019

My Mind was a Humping Puppy—until I found Mindfulness.

 

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Who doesn’t love a puppy?

Those big, hopeful eyes, floppy ears, and the way they tilt their heads to one side when they hear a new sound. Aw, I want one!

Oh but also, they chew doors, hump your slippers (even the girl puppies), whine all night, bark at parked cars, and puke, poo, and wee a lot!

Much like a puppy, my mind is also capable of creating utter devastation in my life if I don’t keep it on a short leash. So I have learned to train my mind much like I would train a puppy—with mindfulness.

What have puppies got to do with mindfulness?

What is mindfulness?

It is observing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour in a loving and non-judgmental way and then returning your attention to the present moment. And that’s how you train a puppy: with love, attention, and discipline. A distracted puppy must be brought back to the present moment, paying full attention to you.

I used to think that I was in charge of my mind. How could I not be? It was in my head! Nobody else had control of it.

But just because a puppy is in your house, that doesn’t mean it won’t go completely crazy and rip all your curtains down. I was labouring under the illusion of control when, in fact, my puppy was controlling me.

So what has your puppy mind been up to?

Has your puppy mind eaten you out of house and home?

Overeating:

Puppies love to eat and chew everything. They do this to learn how to eat solid food and to discover where the boundaries are. But mostly, puppies eat everything because there is nothing better to do. Ever stood looking in your fridge with no precise idea why? Hello puppy!

Just like a puppy, we don’t always know what we want. I like the HALT system of self-analysis: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. I would add another T on there for Thirsty. When you start eating but you know you’re not even hungry, ask yourself what you actually want. Are you thirsty or maybe tired?

Has your puppy mind been barking at every damn thing it sees?

Internal conversations:

I don’t know about you, but my mind is excellent at wandering into imaginary conversations and conflicts. I can create whole scenarios in my head where I tell certain people exactly what I think of them. They are, of course, helpless to respond and can only agree with my every point. I can do this for ages!

Much like a puppy barking at passing cars or its own reflection, internal conversations are often a complete waste of time and energy. The noise inside my head can be overwhelming and it takes me away from being in the moment.

Maybe your puppy mind humps everything it sees.

Pleasure seeking:

Puppies mount slippers, legs, and other dogs (often four times their size) and they have a good old rub. Well, if it felt good the first time ’round, then why not keep doing it over and over?

And I see myself in this shameful behaviour. No, I wasn’t secretly mounting the arm of the sofa! I am talking about pleasure seeking. For me, it was alcohol but for some it’s drugs, excessive shopping, sex, or gambling. These activities are often embarrassing, unflattering, and shameful, but us pleasure seekers don’t care about how we look. We just want to feel good!

Does your puppy mind chase wildlife?

Overthinking:

My actual dog Esther used to be a nightmare for chasing deer. She would see one and that was it. We were dead to her. Literally, she was three fields away in the space of a minute, in hot pursuit of something she would never be able to catch. A deer can outrun a Golden Doodle!

In the space of one minute you can have about 50 thoughts. That’s a lot of ground covered, and the longer you let that puppy go, the further away from you it gets. When your mind runs away with itself, chasing a memory or a fear, you need to get it back long before it’s hopped the fence.

So how do you train your puppy mind?

Just like you train a puppy! With love, your full attention, and by never letting it stray too far from you. You need to be mindful of the puppy mind’s desires and impulses—observant of habits and forgiving of mistakes.

Notice when it is suddenly alert to a negative thought and wants to pursue that thought down a rabbit hole. What has it seen? A past regret? Anxiety over someone’s opinion of you? Whatever it is, stop the mind before it bolts and make it return to heel.

Bring your mind back to the present moment. Deepen your breathing and smile. Say to yourself, “Nope, we’re not doing that right now. We’re doing this and all is well.”

You wouldn’t drug a puppy…

Drugs, alcohol, porn, whatever the indulgence, these are all ways we numb our minds to silence the noise. You wouldn’t drug a puppy to stop it yapping. You wouldn’t lock it in a cupboard while you get sh*tfaced.

By numbing your puppy to its innate “puppyness” you deny it that expressive energy you first fell in love with. When you numb your brain, you dim its light, its innate “youness,” Fall in love with yourself again, but do so with boundaries.

A puppy needs love and attention or it will develop aggressive, defensive, and unpredictable traits. Your mind needs love—to be shown (by the ways you behave) that you value it and have time for it.

Practice mindful self-care.

Self-care is about giving yourself time and attention. Instead of rushing in from work and opening a bottle of wine to shut your yapping mind up, try meditating for just a few moments. Have something healthy to eat and get in a lovely bath. Do some yoga, go for a walk, or offload to a friend.

Your puppy mind needs reassurance that you love it and want to spend time with it because it’s an awesome, inquisitive, creative, and lovable mind. The easiest way to stay in control of the mind is to keep bringing it back to the present moment. Don’t let it wander too far.

Mindfulness isn’t an instant fix.

It takes lots of practice and plenty of disappointments. You will have accidents! That’s okay. Mindfulness is a lifelong process of self-training, but it’s hugely rewarding. When you can spend time with yourself and not want to reach for something to dull the noise, that’s happiness.

Liz Horsman

author: Liz Horsman

Image: @ElephantJournal

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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