Ever have trouble meditating? Including your pet in the process could be the key to success, says Elisabeth Paige, a research associate at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine and the co-author of The Petitation Companion: Enhance the Lives of You and Your Pets with Mindfulness Meditation (Joanne Leslie, March 21, 2016).
Paige says she began "Petitating" with her two dogs when she was told to meditate to help with her bipolar disorder.
"I was told to mediate as a way to help with mood regulation, stress, and anxiety. I had a lot of trouble with breathing meditations when I first started—my mind went all over and I couldn’t focus," she reveals.
But by introducing her two Schipperkes, Pago (who inspired The Petitation Companion) and Pippi, into her practice, Paige found she was able not only to Petitate, but to expand into more conventional meditations, too.
"I think it’s easier because you don't have to focus on something so obscure. You're focusing on something very concrete. In a lovingkindness meditation, it's much easier for me to think about how much I love and cherish my pet than to start with lovingkindness about myself," she says.
In the below Q&A, Paige offers guidance on why and how to meditate, plus shares one of many Petitations from The Petitation Companion.
Yoga Journal: What is Petitation?
Elisabeth Paige: Petitations are pet-centered meditations. You start with your pet and expand to other types of meditations. A regular breathing meditation starts with your breath. A Petitation starts with petting your pet, feeling your pet's heartbeat or breath instead of focusing on your breath. In the Pet Scan Petitation, instead of scanning your body as you would in a body scan (body scan is a common type of meditation), you scan your pet's body with all of your senses. In the Gratitude Petitation, instead of starting with being grateful for things in your life, you’re grateful for your pet, then you focus on other things in your life.
YJ: What are the benefits of Petitation?
EP: I meditate and Petitate an hour each day. It definitely calms down my anxiety, helps me sleep a million times better, and helps with my moods for sure. It's soothing and relaxing.
YJ: How is Petitation great for pets, too?
EP: Right now we are studying Petitation with anxious and fearful dogs. The preliminary results look like it's helping dogs, and some people are reporting that it's helping them, too. It helps me so much with my pets too, with my bond with my pets, because I give them this undivided attention. I feel really close to my pets.
Try It: The Petting Petitation
1. Find your Petitation posture, with your pet either in your lap or right next to you. You should be comfortable, but not so comfortable that you’re going to fall asleep. Take 3 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Scan down your body, recognizing any sensations or emotions you are feeing.
2. Choose either a short, medium, or long Petitation from the website. Or choose your desired length of time and set a timer.
3. Start by petting your pet the way she likes it best. You may want to change where you stroke your pet if she gets restless. You can also choose to focus on your pet’s breathing or heartbeat. Every time your mind wanders label it as observing, planning, remembering, judging, or worrying and then refocus on stroking your pet. If your thoughts fall into more than one category label them as both. If they all outside these categories, label them as none. It’s not what label you choose that matters, just as long as you label your thoughts and go back to paying attention to your pet.
3. When your time is up, scan down your body again, recognizing any sensations or emotions you are feeling to assess how the Petting Petitation impacted your body or your mood.
Adapted from The Petitation Companion with permission