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.

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Max is not a Wizard

Max cannot read minds. He is not a wizard. He does not have access to that kind of dark side of the force power (please, no one put him in contact with Kylo – also, thank you for indulging me, Star Wars references are done…for now).

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But too often I act like he should. I expect Max to know exactly what I mean when I tell him to do something. What’s even crazier is that, even when I do nothing to express myself to him, I am frustrated when he does not do something I want him to do, or does something I do not want him to do.

And on the flip side, I cannot read his mind. First, he is a dog and I literally cannot know how a dog thinks, because I do not have access to internal dog brain functioning. But I also don’t even understand fellow human minds much of the time.

So, why do I expect Max to perfectly understand my every desire? Why do I expect Max to behave exactly how I think he should behave when he often does not even know what I want him to do?

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Now, I do think Max comprehends a lot of what goes on and can be quite compassionate. I believe that (most) dogs are very smart and intuitive. And I also think it is good to train dogs and teach them ways to behave.

What I am questioning is my expectation that Max behave exactly how I think he should and my frustration when he does not.

I question that expectation, because I realize that I project the same thing onto other people. Too often I expect other people to act or think exactly how I think they should. Too often I get frustrated when people don’t do something I expect or do something I don’t desire; and far too often this happens without me communicating anything beforehand.

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Max has taught me what a silly paradox that kind of thinking is. He has taught me that other dogs and people (as far as I know) cannot read my mind. He has taught me that it makes no sense to get mad at people when they don’t behave the way I think they should.

He has taught me that instead of worrying myself over the way others are not following my grand vision of the way the world should work, I should try my best to see things from their perspective. I should try to walk in their shoes and display compassionate acceptance rather than frustrated judgment. That doesn’t mean I condone everything that happens around me, but it does mean that I don’t get frustrated when the traffic does not work perfectly in my favor. It means that I understand people may just not see things the way I do and that they definitely don’t know what I’m thinking without me saying something.

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And Max has taught me that ultimately I need to communicate more so that I can better convey what is important to me and so that I can better understand what others are doing and why.

So, thank you Max for trying very hard to read my mind, but ultimately teaching me that you cannot. Thank you for helping me curb my expectation of how people around me should act. And thank you for helping me see the value of communicating the things that are important to me.

Sometimes you just gotta sit and stare (version 2)

Often, Max just sits and stares.

I’ve noticed it more lately because we have both been stuck at home more often with all the snow and ice.

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The first version of this observation had to do with a response to the overwhelming amount of tragic events occurring in the world. That is unfortunately still very true, but I see another element to Max’s sitting and staring now.

When I join Max, I find the practice to be quite peaceful and healing. When we sit and stare we let our minds wander and rest, something that happens far too infrequently in my busy life.

I am often coming and going rapidly for work or personal matters and it never seems to stop. There is never a reprieve or a perfect time to get away from it all.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job and I like to be busy, and I even get restless very very easily. But staying on the move is tiresome especially when event bleeds into event and there is no time for a breather in between.

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Then, the snow and ice fell and I was stuck in the apartment for several days the past two weeks. I still had plenty to do, but I also had a little more time to observe Max and see the benefits of a life at rest.

And I joined him in his sitting and staring and let my mind relax. In fact, I’ve been able to intentionally set some time aside everyday to push aside responsibilities and duties and just sit and stare and be.

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Max has taught me that sometimes I just have to sit and stare. Sometimes my mind needs a break. Sometimes my mind needs the freedom to explore things in new ways. And most of the time that does not naturally happen.

Max has taught me that I need to allow myself the time to wander through thoughts and experience the peacefulness of the moment.

Sometimes I have to buckle down and get things done, but that is surprisingly much easier than taking time to sit and not worry about things. Sometimes I need to sit back and know that things will be ok and that I am not defined by all the things I get done.

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And sometimes I need just to be present, resting with my friend.

So thank you Max for sitting and staring with me. Thank you for teaching me the importance of resting my mind and wandering through peacefulness.