How to Meditate with Your Dog
An Introduction to Meditation for Dog Lovers
The first time most people hear the title of my new book they smile. Or smirk. Or do a double-take. Then they realize that the book isn't a joke (although it is funny). I hear comments like:
“Dogs are natural meditators.”
“I guess I’ve been meditating with my dog for years—I just never called it that.”
“Wow—what a great idea, how do I start?”
How to Meditate with Your Dog is the book for any dog-lover who wants to de-stress, slow down, enjoy life more, have better mental focus, increase concentration and feel an overall sense of well-being. But that is just the beginning. The non-dogmatic form of meditation described in the book can change people’s lives forever.
“I think this works not only for dog lovers BUT ALSO for people who think that meditation is for Serious, Purer Souls (like my sister). I know I had that hurdle, myself—that meditation was for someone OTHER than me, because I drink Diet Coke by the 12 pack and eat cake for breakfast, and drive too fast. If I could get her to see that meditation is taken seriously by someone with a sense of humor, it might get her to look at it more deeply.”
– Cindy S., Seattle, WA
Meditation is also good for dogs – it’s something they do naturally, and they love it. Meditating with your dog can: calm excitable canines, enhance training, help relieve separation anxiety, and increase the bond you and your dog already share.
I believe that meditation is the single most important thing you can do to live a healthier, happier life and meditating with your dog is the most loving thing you can do for your pet.
“Meditation with my dog is an activity I had never thought of. I have a fantastic bond and closeness with Bonnie, and she is very well trained as it is. I am always looking for new things to do with her. Love your work, thank you!”
– Donna B. , New York, NY
My name is James Jacobson and (like lots of folks I know), I am a big dog lover. On this page, I am going to share with you how I transformed the love my dog, Maui, and I share into the heart of a meditation practice and how meditation may have miraculously saved her eyesight. But first, a little on meditation…
What is Meditation?
The word “meditate” is often misunderstood and veiled with all sorts of mystical meaning. Nearly every religion advocates some sort of meditation or inner-contemplation. Doctors say it’s good for you.
But, what does it mean to meditate?
The dictionary defines it this way:
intransitive verb to empty the mind of thoughts, or concentrate the mind on one thing, in order to develop the mind or spirit, aid contemplation, or relax
That’s a good definition, but there are also concrete, tangible benefits you gain from meditation.
Medical researchers at some of the top universities and institutes (such as Harvard and the National Institutes of Health in Washington) have studied the positive mind-body connection that meditation has on patients. The research shows that meditating is good not only for helping to heal illness, but can help prevent illness in the first place.
“The first thing I do when I feel a bug coming on is double the time I spend in meditation. I don’t know how it works, but it does—the cold or flu is stopped in its tracks. My immune system works better when I’m calm.”
– Molly T., Missoula, MT
Slow the Aging Process
Meditation can actually help slow down and, in some cases, reverse the aging process. There is exciting and pioneering research that shows that meditation impacts at least three brain chemicals that are tied to aging: DHEA, Melatonin and Cortisol.
People who meditate regularly have higher levels of DHEA and Melatonin and lower levels of Cortisol. (According to studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine, this is good news.)
More Happiness, Calm, and Ease
Would you like to “be in the flow” of your life, rather than fighting the current? Meditation cultivates an appreciation for living in the present moment. It gives you the tools to calmly go about your day and handle nearly any unexpected event or circumstance with ease.
Meditation doesn’t prevent traffic jams, but you’re less likely to “stress out” about them.
Stress is not just an emotional state. It’s a physiological state—based in the body. When you’re stressed out, your body produces chemicals that (among other things) make you feel unhappy.
Meditation, on the other hand, can actually produce brain chemicals that make you feel happy and promote an overall sense of well-being.
Just like taking vitamins can ensure that you have internal resources for healing your body, meditating every day builds up your reserves of “happy” chemicals.
“Beautiful idea and concept. I have used my dog for years for meditation. Not in the usual sense but taking a hike off leash and just watching connecting it never ever ceases to open my heart and connect it to my brain (chemistry) and makes my day better and me a better person. What joy.”
– Sheryl G., Ashevile, NC
How about a boost of self-confidence? After just a few sessions of meditation—I recommend 10 minutes to start with—people notice a calm feeling of self-assurance. You feel better connected to yourself and others and that increases self-confidence.
And the good news is that the benefits are cumulative.
The more you meditate, the better you feel about your ability to handle whatever comes your way. With this new view of self, many people discover they have the tools to take on new projects they never thought were possible. For others, meditation gives them the confidence to say “no” to taking on other people’s projects and priorities.
“This is a fabulous topic for a book. I have tried meditation but always felt I was doing something wrong. As I consider my dogs and meditation I almost instinctively know I could really do the meditation and never be concerned about 'right way' or 'wrong way'. A dog just is and that is beautiful.”
– Sue H., Plainville, CT
Be Smarter, Improve Test Scores
People don’t talk about it much, but meditating can actually make you smarter. A regular meditation practice 1) cultivates memory; 2) increases concentration and; 3) improves the ability to learn and grasp new concepts.
Students—whether in elementary school or college—can score higher on tests if they meditate just before the exam. People of all ages can learn things faster and with greater ease.
Make Better Decisions
Meditation not only can make you smarter, it can help you make better decisions. That is because by meditating, you gain clarity and get perspective on what really matters most in your life. You are better able to prioritize and make decisions that are rooted in “knowing” rather than “guessing.”
“Meditation calms me and makes me feel more in control of my emotions, thoughts, and decisions.”
– Michelle B., Boston, MA
Heal “Mental Blocks”
Oftentimes in life there are “mental blocks” or “programs” that hold us back from accomplishing great things or celebrating our own magnificence. Through meditation, you gain the tools to heal these blockages and unplug these self-destructive programs. You can attend seminars or spend thousands of dollars on specialized training, but a regular meditation practice is often all it takes to harness your innate ability to transform these limiting beliefs.
A Power Nap Without Sleeping
Sometimes you just feel exhausted because so much is going on in your life. Naps can be a cure, but aren’t always practical. A 20-minute meditation session can have the same restorative feelings as one, two or three hours of sleep.
OK—But Why Meditate With Your Dog?
Those are some of the reasons you might want to meditate. But with a dog??
You wouldn’t be the first person to ask me that question. But if you know dogs, you probably have already figured out that dogs are natural meditators. Here’s why.
“Your book will be a tremendous help to many people to develop the discipline of meditation. People need something to hold their focus and expand their breathing capacity and slow down their minds. Dogs are great teachers.”
– Kendall T., Atlanta, GA
Dogs Are Masters of the “Hound Lounge”
In my book I discuss the natural state in which dogs spend a good part of their life. I call it hound lounge: the zone between half asleep and fully awake. When they hound lounge, dogs are very present and “in the moment.” They don’t feel stress, their anxiety melts away, their body relaxes and they mellow out. Even the most active of dogs hound lounge at some point during the day.
The state humans enter while “sitting” in meditation is our own version of hound lounging. But most of us have to force ourselves to make time for that state during our busy days. Why not let dogs—the master hound loungers—be our teachers and guides?
Dogs Are Mindfulness Master Gurus
Dogs know how to live in the present moment. They don’t hold grudges, and they don’t get anxious about future events. When I arrive home, my dog Maui eagerly greets me with a wagging tail and an open heart, whether I’ve been gone a few hours or a few days. She continually reminds me of what it means to be here now. Whenever I forget, I can look at her and get an instant reminder. Meditating with her strengthens that reminder. It also provides both of us with quality bonding time.
“God = Dog, it all depends how you look at it! I've always felt that our animals are a lot farther along the path than their humans; we can learn a lot meditating with our animals and that is what you show in this amazing book.”
– George C., Santa Fe, NM
Calms Excitable Dogs
Any dog trainer will tell you that your state of mind and emotion influences your dog. The calming, authoritative presence that meditation introduces into a dog’s life can have a positive impact on an otherwise anxious canine.
Beginning with short meditation sessions, an anxious dog begins to relax and chill out for a few minutes at a time. Over the course of several sessions, the amount of time the dog enjoys in meditation with you increases. After a while, you can take on a meditative mindset anywhere—and that is often all it takes to calm an anxious dog.
Good training is based on respect and rapport. A regular meditation practice enhances both of these elements. When you begin to meditate with your dog, you employ some of the same “techniques” that you might use to teach him to “sit” or “lie down.”
Many dogs pick up on meditating easier than more traditional “dog tricks.” In terms of rapport, there is no better way to build the bond you and your dog share than by sitting together in meditation.
Multi-task: Increase Your Bond While Meditating
“Multi-tasking”—doing more than one thing at a time—and “meditating” are terms that aren’t frequently put in the same sentence, I know.
Busy people are looking for ways to do more than one thing at a time. Meditators, on the other hand, want to be with just one thought at a time. Meditating with your dog marries these concepts beautifully. Take the bonding time you already spend with your pooch and transform it into the heart of a meditation practice.
The benefits of meditating together play out well beyond the time you spend meditating with your dog. They extend into your busy day. Meanwhile, your dog leaves a session more secure in your love than ever before.
“I am studying Buddhism, and what you said about using the love of your dog as a meditation object fits with what I have learned about the meditation of compassion. It makes sense to start with the compassion and unconditional love that dogs exude and then expand on that feeling.”
– Jake M., Minneapolis, MN
Helps Relieve Separation Anxiety
If you leave your dog alone while you go to work or go shopping, meditation is a perfect solution to separation anxiety. Spend just ten minutes with your dog shortly before you leave your home and you can establish the calm, reassuring framework that can eliminate many of the undesirable behaviors associated with separation anxiety.
It’s (Probably) Good For Your Dog’s Health
There’s been little veterinary research on the effects of meditation on dogs or any other animals. I am not a vet or an animal behaviorist, but I am a life-long meditator.
We can turn to the world of humans and look at volumes of research studies on the body-mind connection and fairly conclude that meditation is also beneficial for man’s best friend.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt…
I mentioned earlier that I think meditation may have helped cure my dog of a sudden onset of blindness known as SARD (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration). In the introduction of the book I share how shortly after moving into a new house Maui went blind literally overnight and was diagnosed with this very scary ailment.
Instead of panicking, we went home from the vet and meditated together. Harnessing the calm presence of mind that is cultivated through meditation, I researched the disease while Maui rested on the floor in total blindness. Hours went by, and then suddenly, as quickly as it had come on, Maui’s blindness that the vets called “incurable” had disappeared. She could see!
I don’t know if it’s a meditation miracle or not, but I certainly attribute my calmness in dealing with the situation to the fact that Maui and I meditate on a daily basis.
“I'm excited about your book. When my 14 year old dog, Ernie, was diagnosed with a ruptured disc in his neck and given a grave prognosis, I decided to try meditation which had helped with my health problems. The poor dog couldn't raise his head, walk or eat. I'm a self-taught meditator, but hand to paw we did ooma, ooma. The dog really seemed to get into it. Within three days, the dog was up and eating and chasing squirrels and has had no relapse.”
– Tim E., Broomfield, CO
It’s Fun And Simple
Meditating with your dog does not require any special tools, accessories, or furniture. You can do it anywhere—including on your dog’s bed.
At first, your dog may think it’s a new game—and it is.
It’s one where both you and your dog win by spending quality bonding time with one another.
Do For Your Pooch What You Won’t Do For Yourself
While researching the book, I found astonishing studies that show that many dog owners are more likely to take their dog to a vet if their dog is sick than they are to take themselves to a doctor when they’re ill!
Dog lovers truly are a breed apart.
Whether serving their dogs homemade delicacies, letting them sleep in bed, or celebrating their birthdays, dog lovers will do anything to keep their pooch happy and healthy.
Meditating with your dog is good for both of you—but knowing that it’s good for your dog may be all the inspiration you need to get started.
“This morning I practiced with Lilly and she is very open to it. When she refuses to eat her tablets, I just need to caress her and then she eats them. After meditating with her, I had my tea and she started whining and looking at me. I felt, she wanted more of my attention, petting and love. So we continued for a while. She absolutely loves it and I am in total peace. It works.”
– Martha B., Old Greenwich, CT
What's In the Book?
How to Meditate with Your Dog is a 200-page hardcover book. It walks you through the process step-by-step (or bone-by-bone). It is written in a fun, conversational style.
My co-author, Kristine Chandler Madera, is one of the most amazing fiction writers I have ever read. We collaborated on this book because not only is the message important, but it is important how it is delivered.
This is not another boring "how-to" book. There is a narrative tale (or should I say "tail"?) that runs through the book to keep readers interested. This is a new style of writing that we've pioneered and we're calling it "narrative non-fiction."
Several best-selling authors--including novelists--who've read the book, give it a strong "paws up" not only for content, but for shear readability.
Here is what Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean (which was the first pick for Oprah's book club) says about our book.
"Okay, meditation with dogs, especially Jack Russell terriers, sounds absurd. But stroking a dog has been proven by medical research to lower blood pressure and banish anxiety. Can How to Meditate with Your Dog by James Jacobson and Kristine Chandler Madera prove that man's (and woman's) best friend can actually help us purify our hearts and clear our minds as well as comfort through the ups and downs of ordinary life and work? James Jacobson and Kristine Madera suggest that dogs can help us do just this. I don't know about you, but my mixed-breed Hobbes and I are practicing cleansing breaths. Seriously, the techniques these two authors suggest in this first in a series of books may help pet owners bond even more fully with our most steadfast companions."
–Jacquelyn Mitchard, journalist and author
Best-selling author Alan Cohen says:
"At last - a clever, insightful, and humorous book that brings together two vital spiritual portals: meditation and dogs. James Jacobson presents a wealth of wisdom and techniques in a uniquely attractive way. Here is a man who loves his dog, and if you do, too, you will find riches between these covers. This excellent book belongs in the homes and hearts of all who recognize that dogs are angels and gifts from God."- Alan Cohen, author of Are You as Happy as Your Dog?
In addition to fun writing, you will find a dozen bone-tickling cartoons from publications such as The New Yorker and from cartoonists like Charles Schultz who brought us Snoopy.
The book also includes a FREE meditation CD. In it, I guide you through the process of relaxing and getting into a meditation mode. There are several tracks including a 10-minute and 20-minute guided meditation. The music on the CD will help you move into a meditative state and was especially created and mastered by Niko, who is an extraordinarily gifted and talented musician.
Why I Wrote The Book
I have meditated since I was a child. I was initially self-trained, but over the years I have studied a lot of meditation techniques and have taught introductory meditation classes all over the country.
When I was a kid, I would sit alone on my bed cross-legged. I would sometimes spend as much as an hour in quiet stillness following my breath and clearing my mind of thoughts as they would occur.
I remember my dad popping his head in the room and asking, “What are you doing—contemplating your navel?”
In fact, sometimes, I was. I recently learned that there is a word, omphaloskepsis, which means “to meditate while contemplating your navel.”
"Congratulations! Your work is amazingly timely ... I applaud you for your compassion and thought-provoking subject!”
--Tracy P., Clayton, MO
From Omphaloskepsis to Dog Meditation
Time went by and I continued to meditate all through my high school and college years. Meditation became a powerful ally that I could turn to whenever I faced a stressful situation or just wanted to be more centered. (I am sure it was a big help before tests and exams.)
After my school years, I started an entrepreneurial career path. I built several businesses, some with friends and some alone. In small business, there are lots of ups and downs. Meditation was a tool I turned to regularly to keep me focused and on track.
Thirteen years ago I got a Maltese puppy who I named Maui, after my favorite place in the world. I was meditating one day when she jumped on my lap and I decided to try meditating with her. It worked. She liked it, I liked it, and it meant we could spend more quality bonding time together.
Maui is now a senior citizen in the canine world, but we still start most every morning with our meditation practice. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.I believe--without a shred of doubt--that meditating is the single most important thing you can do for yourself to live a healthier, happier life. I would like as many people to experience it as possible. This book is a great way to introduce meditation to legions of dog lovers who might not have discovered how simple and fun meditating can be.
“I have a new pup (my first) and I never understood dog love until about a week ago when Schnapps turned 5 months old. I am deeply, truly, madly in love with him. And yes, he has forced me to slow down and look at the moon, the stars, the sky, the flowers.”
– Ted K., Philadelphia, PA
Sharing Dog Meditation with the World
I wrote How to Meditate With Your Dog because I want to share my love for dog meditation with other dog lovers.
The book launches officially on my birthday on October 30th. Its already on sale at some bookstores and online retailers such as Amazon.com.
It is already getting a lot of media exposure. A week ago Friday, I was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on a segment called "Pitch to America." I talked about the book and they showed me meditating with my dog. The studio audience loved it!
I have appeared on a number of TV and radio shows. The hosts and news anchors often start the interview with a bit of incredulity and disbelief that meditating with dogs is for real. By the end of the segments--especially if there is a dog in the studio I can demonstrate with--everyone seems convinced this is the real thing.
It just happened last week in Los Angeles on Leeza Gibbon's syndicated show. The producer brought in his beautiful (although very excitable) 95-pound Newfoundland that had been jumping all over the studio. Within a few minutes of demonstrating the meditation techniques, both he and Lucy were calm and blissed out. Leeza said,"Wow--this is amazing!" and invited me to come back and show her how to meditate with her two dogs.