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August 3, 2016

It seems like the amazing, life-changing magic of meditation is almost all we hear about these days.

"It's so beneficial!" researchers state. "It can change your life!" our yoga teachers exclaim. "You should give it a try," our doctors prescribe.

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Many of us have experienced the magical power of meditation and believe it really is a helpful way to manage our emotional and

physical health. Yet it can be really, really difficult to maintain a consistent practice.

The thing about meditation is that in order for it to actually work, we actually have to meditate.

So here's the million-dollar question. How do we find time for meditation on top of all the other daily practices we're doing? Between working, exercise, healthy eating, and caring for family, friends, and pets, meditation can slip down the priority list.

Well, listen up, dog owners. I've got great news for you. By combining your dog walks with walking—aka Mutt Meditation—you have time to meditate every day.

Traditional walking meditation is usually practiced without the goal of "getting anywhere." Walking in the present moment is the only aim.

In fact, it's often taught within a quiet area devoid of obstacles and distractions.

My daily dog walks, on the other hand, take us around the busy streets of a midsize city, where I need to navigate curbs, cars, and other

dogs; deal with the weather; manage my time and—most distracting and seemingly unmeditatively of all—pick up his poop!

It turns out that Mutt Meditation is a helpful way to be in the present moment while attending to the needs of our loyal canine companions. Still not convinced?

Here are three reasons dog meditation is a great way to incorporate mindfulness into your day:

1. You don't have to block out any time to meditate.

As a responsible dog owner, you're already committed to walking your pup every day, usually multiple times per day. By bringing a bit

of mindfulness to this repetitive task, you can get more grounded, calm, and focused, all while checking off a to-do from your daily list.

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2. Dog walkers are already healthier.

Research shows that dog walkers are healthier than those who don't walk dogs, so any motivation for dog walks is a boon to our physical and psychological health.

Dogs can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and dog owners are 69 percent more likely than non-dog owners to participate in any kind of leisure physical activity. When you add that to the scientifically proven health benefits of meditation, walking our dogs nurtures both the body and soul.

3. Buddha might have Mutt Meditated too.

While some may see the combination of meditation and dog walking as a form of multitasking, there's nothing modern about it. Bringing

mindfulness to our everyday activities is one part of the Buddha's teachings, still taught by many meditation teachers today.

In the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha taught the Four Foundations of Mindfulness including the Four Postures (one of which is walking), educating us on being mindful of breathing and all the activities of life.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in addition to his magnificent (and deceptively simple) teaching on mindful dishwashing, answered the question "And how does a practitioner remain established in the observation of the body in the body?" with the following: "Moreover, when a practitioner walks, he is aware, 'I am walking.' When he is standing, he is aware, 'I am standing.' When he is sitting, he is aware, 'I am sitting.' When he is lying down, he is aware, 'I am lying down.' In whatever position his body happens to be, he is aware of the position of his body."

Bringing mindfulness to our mundane tasks has been shown to be an all-around life booster. A study in the journal Mindfulness suggests that mindfully washing dishes significantly increased mental stimulation and decreased nervousness, with a 27 percent decrease in feelings of stress.

By slowing down and bringing mindfulness to our everyday actions, whether that's walking our dogs or washing our dishes, we can deepen our lifelong meditation practice. Bringing our loyal furry friends to walk alongside us makes the path that much more meaningful and fun.

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