From time to time in meditation classes at Sunrise, one can hear the sweet barking of our mommy dog, Honey Pie, or her pups. (She had a litter of four on February 26th, the night of The Academy Awards and we are presently soliciting Oscar-themed ideas for their names.) Noise is a part of life and while some prefer a completely quiet spot to meditate, others find that the challenge of sitting amidst the actual sounds of life can deepen their practice, as it’s a more realistic representation of our day to day. But this post isn’t about meditating, it’s about puppies.
Our puppy program continues to gain in popularity, enough so that we are installing a puppy cam. What is it about puppies? Ethology, the study of animal behavior essentially links our puppy love to an innate sense within us to (immediately and uncontrollably) fall in love with our young in order that we might sufficiently care for them. Babies (and Puppies) are a great deal of work and need to have adequate buy-in from us to guarantee their survival amidst sleep deprivation, long hours and seemingly non-stop needs. The science further exerts the idea that love for our young and their incredible cuteness extends to other creatures with adorable features. So big eyes, small noses and large round cheeks are the Trifecta of Cute and thus, we are the proverbial putty in the hands ..er paws, of a puppy.
But don’t be dismayed by your weakness for cuteness. A Japanese study showed that repeated exposure to puppy pictures positively effected cognitive abilities, such that our ability to answer questions correctly went up in the presence of the aforementioned puppy pics. Other people saw kittens, older dogs, delicious food—but alas, no comparison in the improved brain function department to the puppy exposure.
At Sunrise, we typically end meditation with an intention setting—an intention for the moment, the day or for a longer projection of time. With puppies barking intermittently in the background, they often serve as the inspiration for our intention. I remind the class that our minds can be seen as and often act as a puppy does. Puppies get into mischief, gnaw their sharp teeth into piano legs, they pee on the carpet, they eat your Aunt’s wedding ring. They do all manner of puppy like behavior, but we would never think to harshly punish or scold them. Rather, we pick them up, we nuzzle our noses to theirs and we kindly, with love, redirect them to a different way of interacting with their world. The same is true for our minds. They, too, get into mischief in the form of thought patterns and concepts and constructs. Most of which are based upon ideas we have about life and ourselves that we formed years prior typically in an effort to be safe in our worlds, but in most instances, these ideas no longer serve us in our present lives.
It’s National Puppy Day. May the recognition of cute rooted in our DNA remind us to shower the easy love of a puppy onto ourselves and others…even complete strangers (and their puppies!).
Michael Schroeder, Lead Counselor, MA, LMFT
Michael received undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Printmaking from the University of California Santa Cruz. He then studied graphic and furniture design at Parsons School of Design in NYC and trained as a Yoga Instructor at New York’s Integral Yoga. For many years, Michael worked as a fine artist with gallery representation in New York City and Santa Fe. Art led him back to psychology, and he received his Master’s Degree from Pacifica Graduate Institute, graduating summa cum laude. Michael has strived to maintain the connection between art and psychology in his career and personal life. He is a licensed psychotherapist (LMFT) in California and New Mexico and has worked extensively with couples and kids.