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Active Compassion in Times of Crisis: How Your Dog Can Help

By James Jacobson

We all watched the recent tragedy of hurricane Katrina, most of us from the comfort of our living rooms. The devastation of so many lost homes and shattered lives was heart wrenching. But the part that made me hug my dog tight was watching the agony of people who were forced to leave behind their pets.

People have a special connection with their pets, as evidenced by the thousands who would not leave their dogs and cats behind in order to evacuate to higher ground. This sacred bond of unconditional love is a natural starting place for healing after tragedy, for the victims and for the rest of us, too.

After you send in your money, donate clothes or open your home, there is one more thing you can do to help: meditate. Even more helpful, you can meditate with your dog.

Meditation is compassion in action, and it isn’t just for the esoteric few. Meditation is a profoundly practical tool that enhances everyday life. It decreases blood pressure, heart rate, and the production of stress hormones, promotes relaxation and sharpens mental focus, all of which are of great help in modern society. But regular meditation has the power to transform panic and powerlessness into healing on a global level.

Scientists have recently studied distance healing, the practice of using intentional meditation to promote physical healing for a person, animal or plant that is miles or even thousands of miles away. They’ve found that distance healing works. In the same way that meditators in the studies improved the health of people with heart disease, meditating with the intention of improving the lives of the hurricane victims can help the continuing recovery effort and affect victim’s lives beyond meeting their material needs.

There is no one right way to meditate. Many meditation traditions utilize single-minded focus, or devoting full attention to a particular thing such as the breath, a word, or the light of a candle. The Dalai Lama meditates on compassion, and that is why compassion seems to emanate from his pores.

One of the most powerful ways to meditate is in a group. When two or more are gathered together united with a single intention, their efforts combine synergistically, meaning that together they have a greater effect than each person meditating alone.

But what if you don’t have another person to meditate with? James Jacobson, author of How to Meditate with Your Dog: An Introduction to Meditation for Dog Lovers, presents a simple, non-dogmatic meditation method that shows how to use the love that a person has for his dog as a synergistic force in meditation. When doing an intentional meditation like healing for the hurricane victims, sharing your meditating time with your dog creates a stronger intention than if you were to meditate alone.

Does meditation replace donations of money, time or work? Of course not. But it augments them. Regular meditation enriches our everyday lives and provides hope and healing in times of crisis.

James Jacobson and Kristine Chandler Madera are authors of How to Meditate with Your Dog: An Introduction to Meditation for Dog Lovers, which presents a non-dogmatic approach to meditation. To fetch a free chapter from the book - chapter 3 “The Three Un-Dogmas - and the introduction from the audiobook go to