What is mindfulness? This is a question I get asked quite often. And have been answering even more lately with the FDSA Webinar I have coming up Feb 7/2019. The webinar is about using mindfulness to become a better dog (or horse!) trainer.
Mindfulness in its most accepted sense is an ability to focus on nothing but the present moment and achieve a heightened awareness of self. Meditation and yoga are often seen as classic components of true mindfulness. It’s Buddhist in origin. Mindfulness has been in North America since the late 1970s when Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced it to us.
As a person who works with animals there are many elements and tenets of mindfulness that can help you become better at your chosen passion.
“What we think we become” sounds so obvious – and a little ‘wooey’ too. But, there is an essential element to this statement that is always worth considering. If you see your animal partner as difficult, or troubled or any other negative label you train them differently than if you believe they are smart, gifted and cooperative. The study was done with humans – but it’s a pretty short stretch to apply it to our animal friends. The same holds true for you too. For example if you think you are motivated (even if busy and struggling to find a routine) it’s much easier to realize you have three minutes jump up and train, as opposed to surfing social media for three minutes because of the belief you are lazy.
The goal with mindfulness can be expressed as being better – not just feeling better. This becomes important to us as animal people. It is aspirational in nature – do we intend to be like Charlie Brown loving on Snoopy for comfort, or do we want to be Dave Munnings, Hannah Branigan, Ward McLain, Shade Whitesel, Carl Hester, or Julie Flannery? (Or any of a long long list of people I want to emulate that I struggled to weed down so you’d read this paragraph!) It’s important to enjoy the Charlie Brown moments; but it’s also critical to understand that feeling good is not all there is to life. Of course, there are times that needs to be a priority, but over all … it’s not only OK it’s important to set goals and embrace our passions with the understanding that things won’t always be peaches and ice cream. How good a you are you able to be?
To further explore this concept, mindfulness embraces a full experience of life. The goal is not to be happy or joyful. There are complexities and layers in true mindfulness that often get missed in the media’s quick version of it. Mindfulness can help build success, and it does; more importantly though it can help build from disappointment and challenge. Things all too familiar to the animal sports people I know, and am. How do you respond when things don’t go perfectly, when a partner is injured, when you make a frustrating choice or forget the plan? These are the times that mindfulness can be the MOST help.
Making thoughtful choices becomes a priority in mindfulness. Understanding your role in the world around you and considering your impacts on your training partners. These things matter. These elements move performance from adequate to excellent.
You may have heard me say slow is smooth, smooth is fast before. Let me offer you this today: power is thought, thought is choice, choice is success. I hope you can join the webinar where I’ll review 10 specific mindfulness tools and techniques that can help you be the best animal sports person possible! And, if there is spill over that helps you live a happier, richer life – well that’s pretty awesome if you ask me!