Posted by: jude49 | May 23, 2014

Wisdom From Our Canine Friends

Hello All,

Dr. Daniel Siegel and his colleague, Dr. David Rock, created The Healthy Mind Platter (see below) as a helpful tool to identify seven mental habits that, when practiced consistently, result in optimum well-being.


As I have thought about this useful tool lately, I have realized that dogs, our canine friends, model these seven essential daily mental activities much better than we humans!

According to Drs. Siegel and Rock, the seven essential daily mental activities are:

 Focus Time. When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.

Play Time. When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, which helps make new connections in the brain.

Connecting Time. When we connect with other people, ideally in person, or take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, richly activating the brain’s relational circuitry.

Physical Time. When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, which strengthens the brain in many ways.

Time In. When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain.

Down Time. When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, which helps our brain recharge.

Sleep Time. When we give the brain the rest it needs to consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day. (Excerpt from Announcing the Healthy Mind Platter by Dr. David Rock in Psychology Today, June 2, 2011)

Now, let’s look at how my dog, Gemma, models these mental activities.

  • Time In.  My patio doors are usually open, and a few times a day, Gemma will head outside to the balcony and sit on her flowerpot or her mat.  From her flowerpot perch, she can feel the sun, hear the sounds of nature, smell and see nature. I don’t know what Gemma is feeling or thinking.  What I do know is that she, on her own, irregardless of what I’m doing, finds her way to the balcony at least once or twice a day. (And, no, she does not use her “pot” for a bathroom.)


  • Physical Time.  Gemma is an energetic and enthusiastic Jack Russell.  She loves to run and explore.  Here she is at the off-leash dog park close to our home.  She loves to climb over logs, roll over in the grass and dip her toes into the water.


  • Focus Time  One of Gemma’s favorite activities is to chew, with great gusto, the big rawhide bones I buy her. Another enjoyable activity is demolishing, with great glee, her inexpensive stuffed animals.  As you can see from the photo below, she is focused on tearing a stuffed duck my sister gave her for Christmas.  By the time we left later that afternoon, there was little left of the duck!


  • Down Time  Here is a picture of Gemma after a good run.  She’s on our bed (I say “our bed” as I am lucky if I manage to sleep on 1/4 of it!) just “being.”


  • Connecting Time  Gemma enthusiastically greets humans and other dogs.  She usually doesn’t stay around to “chat” much, but she does like to say hello.  A few times, she will wrestle with the other dogs, but she’s happiest when she’s running and exploring. She tries to connect with the geese, birds and cats, as well, but they are skeptical of her intentions! The picture below shows Gemma and her friend “connecting” at a Dogs Hallowe’en Party.  (Yes, she did have a costume, but she wriggled out of it quickly!)


  • Play Time  As I have a home business, Gemma is always present.  She is terrific at playing independently.  She can always find something to keep herself occupied.  Here she is in her chair alternating between chewing her bone and ripping apart a rope toy.


  • Sleep Time  I always know Gemma wants to sleep when she curls up in a ball.  Usually, she curls up beside me in bed and, in a few minutes, she’s sound asleep.



What meaning do I make of this?

Gemma has been my dog for close to two years now.  She is about 7 years old.  She is a healthy, cheerful, good-natured, enthusiastic, calm, obedient, loving and empathic dog who seems to enjoy life to the fullest.  Yes, she is bothered by aggressive and barky dogs, but, instead of engaging in a tussle, she obeys my command to keep walking.

I am so grateful I was fortunate enough to find her.  She has enriched my life and taught me much about the principles of mindfulness.  Her well-being and happy “self” has enriched my life, and I know I am a calmer, less reactive woman because of her.

My challenge to you is, “What mindful qualities about your pet(s) that can help you live a calmer and emotionally healthier life?

As always, comments are welcome.



I gratefully acknowledge Dr. Daniel Siegel.  I visit his web-site often and re-read his books frequently.


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