Following Our Noses vs. Following Our Dreams

I have turned into a dog walker. I don’t have a dog. I just have been taking a dog on walks. Long walks. It’s a temporary job while my sister-in-law is away for a week.

My first reflection on my temporary career is—it is awesome. Getting out in nature in the morning for an hour-long walk is great. Where I am staying is at the bottom of a ski hill, with a huge forest all around—so the environment I am in provides a huge boost to the experience.

The dog’s name is Caelan, and as a general rule he is wonderfully trained. But he is a dog, so when I am near civilization, he is kept on a leash. But when we are back in the woods he is off leash, to allow him the freedom to wander around, sniff and explore, i.e., to do what dogs do best. Just recently, for example, he sniffed out three wild turkeys a few yards from where I was walking. It was simultaneously surprising and memorable.

We all know that dogs are known for following their nose, and from what I have been observing, it is certainly true—particularly a collie. For example, in a very recent walk he got too close to a commercial garbage bin—and while he had been off leash in the woods, we were too close to civilization, and as a result he detected it and ran off before I could stop him. It took me quite a while to convince him to get back on leash—the final solution was when I got down on my hands and knees and gently coaxed him close.

This whole dog-walking experience got me thinking. We are often encouraged in life to “Just do it!”—as Nike so famously coined. And while I am a huge fan of action, I am concerned that we are increasingly becoming like my companion in the woods—running around sniffing out the next thing around the corner. Our interrupt-driven society is heading us in a direction of chronic activity and chronic stress. The statistics on stress-related health disorders are all the proof we should need to help us determine to change our ways before it is too late.

One of the differences between dogs and humans is our advanced ability to think before do. We can literally create in advance without risk, by envisioning something before it happens. We can plan, visualize and recreate over and over—before anything outside of our thought life—before any physical activity takes place.

Are we using it? Are we taking time to experience a moment—to make sure we are in a positive, calm, quiet and wonderful place in our thinking—something we often write about called mindfulness? Do we spend healthy, positive time “in our heads,” creating, planning and dreaming?

While I definitely am not talking about thinking yourself into inactivity—which can certainly be a problem for many of us—I want to reinforce the need to think before you act.

Here is a little exercise to try:

1. Start with mindfulness. Take some time to just experience the moment. Go for a walk in the woods (with or without a dog). Sit beside a stream and listen to the water running. Stare at a flower and take it all in (stop and smell the roses really is good advice!). Try to just let your mind go. You are preparing yourself for the wonder of clean-slate thinking and dreaming.

2. Take time to reflect. Consider the past 24 hours. Or even the past week. What did you learn? What was wonderful? What new thoughts and new ideas came to you? Focus on the positive. Find the good.

3. Take time to dream. Consider the next 24 hours, or even the next week. What is something wonderful or new that you can “create in your head” before it happens?

dog and flowersTry this out every week, or maybe even more often. Get in touch with your inner self. Create things in your mind before creating them “in the real world”—it’s a powerful, healing and life-changing experience.

It may be just the prescription for what ails you.

– David Sigler

David has been working with Jake Carney,  founder and CEO of The Alternative Daily, since its inception. He is a business coach as well as a passionate health food advocate. David is also a writer and editor at The Alternative Daily. He has four adult children and two grandchildren and lives in sunny Florida with his wife.

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