Dog Days of Summer (Part 2)

Max has certainly taught me how to boldly face the uncomfortable heat of these dog days of summer, as I shared last week. But he has also taught me that moving and keeping busy is not the only (and not always the healthiest) way of dealing with the heat.

Max most truly embodies the image of the dog days of summer as he spends much of the day plopped down on the cool tile of the kitchen or bathroom. And there is a beauty and art to Max’s flopping down on the nice cool tile floor in the middle of the hot afternoon. It’s not the slobber pattern he leaves on the ground, however abstract expressionist it may be, but rather the intentional way he takes a break.

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Such rest is important, not only in these dog days of summer, but at every time. And as important and life giving as that rest is, both Max and I are not great at it.

Max is so eager to get attention and be in the middle of the action that he easily wears himself out without even thinking about it. Several years ago we took a day hike around a nature trail on a really hot mid-Spring day. After a long time, we finally turned around to go back to the car, and for most of that trek Max was eager to keep up and take everything in. Yet, even with plenty of water stops, he finally got so tired he had to stop and rest. He just plopped down right in the middle of the trail.

I think it is the only time I’ve seen him stop in the middle of an activity – and it was clear we had both pushed ourselves too far by that point.

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Even on our walks around the neighborhood, I can tell when he is overly tired from the heat, but still pushes himself to keep going. And Max has taught me to look into myself and recognize the same pattern.

Max has taught me that I too have a hard time taking a break. I don’t like to sit still for long, even when I am tired. I don’t like naps, because why would you when you can just drink more delicious coffee?

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And yet, Max has also taught me the danger of not taking breaks. During that day hike when he just stopped, Max scared me. It was so weird to see him lay down in the middle of a walk and it was immediately clear that we had pushed it too hard.

The beauty and art of his plopping down, then on the trail and now on the kitchen tile, is the way it is a window into the reality and danger of fatigue, which is only emphasized by the oppressive heat. In that one motion he is able to convey so clearly the state of things and how consuming exhaustion can be.

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But the beauty and art of his plopping down also extends to showing the deep value of rest. Max has taught me that those moments of rest are not just lazy or selfish or weak. They are signs of being deeply in tune with needs and they are a way to embrace life-giving restoration that will positively impact me and all the other people I come in contact with. Such rest helps me recover and find peace and even prepares me for those other times when I do have to go out and boldly face the heat.

In the midst of Max’s restorative, dog days of summer embracing, peaceful way of life, he has helped me learn the value and importance of rest. When I push myself to constantly be doing things, Max reminds me to be. When I am over-busy, Max teaches me to chill.

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And often, in the middle of the heat of these dog days, the most helpful and healthy thing to do is to chill.

So thank you Max, for teaching me the honest truth that I am often bad at resting. And thank you for reminding me of the important, restorative purposes of plopping down and taking a break. It is a lesson I know I will need to be taught again, but it is a lesson I know you are happy to teach.

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Freeing the Mind

Max and I go on a lot of walks. (This is probably not news if you have read some of this blog before).

There are many reasons we go on these walks, but one side effect has become more and more apparent. As we walk, my mind becomes clearer and I am able to think of things in ways I hadn’t been able to all day.

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I often sit in front of my computer for hours and grow frustrated with a lack of productivity and creativity. And then I take Max for a walk and suddenly what I couldn’t come up with in the hours before immediately pops into my head.

Max has taught me the very valuable lesson of freeing my mind.

He has taught me that sometimes I just need to give my brain a break from the strain I put it through. I need to tear my eyes away from the computer screen that is desperate to fill my brain with useless information.

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Moreover, he has taught me that I need to let my mind roam free. I sometimes come up with the best ideas when I am not trying to answer a specific question or address a particular problem. When I let my mind roam, I engage in a type of childlike creativity in which my mind can do some exciting new things.

But too often I constrain my brain and keep it trapped in a gridlock of constant work. I understand that people operate differently and some people need strict frameworks to think through things and come up with great ideas. Obviously, I am not that kind of thinker.

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But what seems to apply across the board is the value of not overworking brains. Instead, it can be beneficial to indulge in a freedom of thought that eases the overworked, overstressed state I think many of us find ourselves in far too frequently.

Often, Max literally begs me away from my home desk in order to go for a walk. And though I begrudgingly take him outside, I soon realize how inspiring and empowering it can be to have that small break and allow my mind the rest and freedom it needs to operate at full capacity. I could even say the same thing for my body, which also needs rest and leisure in order to do its best work.

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Allowing my mind this kind of break also helps me to see things from other perspectives. Max has taught me that when social media sites keep feeding me the same shortsighted lines over and over, I need to step away and both let my brain digest all that it has been taking in and get a bigger picture of the world.

Max has taught me that a mind at ease can be much more productive and have much better quality thoughts than a mind pushed down a narrow path as fast as it can go.

 

So thank you Max for teaching me how to free my mind and for forcing me outside where I can experience a quickening breeze of refreshing thought.