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Living In The Moment

By guest blogger, Meagan Gauthier

If you’re a dog or horse owner, you might know they are each creatures of the present. We’ve all heard terms like live in the moment and mindfulness. But how many of us practice it? Animals do this on a regular basis.

But what does living in the moment look like? For me it involves finding comfort and safety within both your mind and body and is the ultimate balancing act. It is staying alert and aware of your surroundings while mindfully relaxing at the same time. It is focusing on the sounds, sights, smells and environment you are in…taking it all in, so to speak.

If you’re anything like me, you might find it hard to do things like relax and live in the moment when you have a laundry list of things to do. I sometimes find it especially challenging on the weekends when the list is long. I like to get everything done before I take time to do anything relaxing. But the hard truth we must accept is that the list is never ending. Grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, yardwork, household chores, errands, taking care of children, paying bills, the list goes on and on. And on top of the daily to-dos, we battle everyday stresses, adversity, trauma from the past, fears about the future and all the roadblocks life can bring. Being present can be very challenging when your mind is consumed with all of this. If you’ve actually sat down to try mindfulness, or any other form of meditation, you will know how difficult it is.

But there is another way to ease yourself into living in the moment, one which I find a whole lot easier- going for a walk. Lucky for me, I have a dog that forces me to go even when my depression is laying it on thick that day. Afterall, that walk may be the highlight of their day. But if you don’t have a dog or horse (or even a cat), going for a walk by yourself or a loved one can also be very meditative and therapeutic. It can really put you in the moment if you let it.

My dog Charley is a gentle soul. In the time we’ve had him we have learned what he wants or needs based on where he is standing and how he is looking at you. In the chaos of some mornings, I might be overwhelmed with things I need to get done, or stressed about whatever the upcoming week might hold. But Charley is thinking about going for a walk with me. So he politely comes up to me, looks me straight in the eye and sits down…can we go now? How can I ignore that sweet face? Do you think our dogs care about our laundry list? Quite frankly no, no they do not. Your pets have needs and most are not only creatures of habit but also creatures of the present; we can learn a thing or two from them.

When I take Charley for a walk, I don’t wear earbuds because it takes me out of the moment. I sometimes observe people walking their dogs with their heads down and their eyes glued to their phones, not for a short moment, but for a good while. Now of course, you never know what is going on in someone’s life. I also understand listening to music or podcasts can be very therapeutic or perhaps even amp you up for exercise, so no judgements here. But if you are walking your dog, try unplugging for a while. Experience the world with your dog! These are the moments I find it the easiest to rest my mind and live in the moment with my canine companion. This is partially because I train him while walking him and am focusing on his body language, what he is smelling, where he is looking etc. When I feel my mind wandering, I gently pull it back to my dog and my surroundings, back to our moment. It’s a joyful time for both me and Charley.

By now I’m sure you recognize the power living in the moment can have on your mind, but it can also be important for your physical safety. As a horse owner, you might be acutely aware of how important it is to stay alert and aware of your surroundings while you’re riding. All it takes is a single moment of distraction for things to end badly. Living in the moment is a huge way horses survive in the wild. It can literally mean life or death for them.

The lesson in all of this: Try not to dwell on the past, because you can’t change it. And try not to wish your life away by focusing too hard on the future, because you might miss something. Instead, try living in the moment. Because joyful moments are fleeting. The more you can live in the moment, the easier it is to be grateful for the gift of each day.

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