Mindfulness and animals - me feeding some swans

Can animals help us be more mindful?

For decades now I’ve practiced mindfulness intermittently to help me deal with good times, bad times and everything in the middle. I find whether 5 minutes or 50 the ability to be in the present moment can often bring me moments of gratitude and enlightenment – while it doesn’t happen often when it does it leaves me feeling energised and revitalised.
Some people practice to reflect on the past or anticipate the future, while others practice to be closer to their inner self and come into the present. A someone who surrounds themself with and adores animals, I’ve often wondered, since other animals and species are always in the present would we say they are always mindful?

Nadya feeding geese and swans
The more time I spend in nature, with my own fur babies and with other animals it has begun to occur to me that important examples of mindfulness exist right before my eyes, every single day. These beautiful creatures, while in the wild, live in a space that many of us often try to reach, free of worry, responsibility, or any tasks to complete.

While they’re eating, they focus solely on that task. While they groom, once again it’s just on that task they focus. I mean, when was the last time you did something and were able to remember every sensory experience of it? When was the last time you did something and couldn’t remember how you started let alone how you finished?

I look back on previous events in life, everything from a small journey from home to work or the large task of writing my dissertation for my Masters. Just over a year ago I’d make that journey from home to work ignorant to how I actually made it. Unaware of the temperature, people who passed me on my journey or new things I’d seen. And rewind to writing my dissertation I couldn’t tell you how I wrote 80% of it. I look back now regretful of being unaware of how I truly felt writing what I did. That was a huge part of my life.

Fast forward to the present (oh, the irony!) and I’m more mindful than I ever have been and very aware of my surroundings. Sometime a brief 5 minute mind break to talk myself through things that sit on my desk – a quick people watch – or check in with my posture or how my body feels it all it can take. Other times it takes some breathwork and silence. I take in my surroundings, I smile at people on my journey to work and I can tell you how I feel while writing this blog post.
Some days I feel closer to my animals instincts when I practice mindfulness. I can experience an awareness of the present and at times more vibrancy than humans who have little capacity to live in such moments. I use my past self as a comparison.

Today I walked down to the river, sat and fed magnificent swans, geese and ducks. I watched them being mindful as they ate, absorbing the moment, quacking away and happy in the present. Together with them, I did the same.
Whether embracing that moment or just simply being in it, savouring your favourite things or being aware of how silly thins are or how much fun you’re having, next time you’re around animals just take a moment to witness how they focus on each and every experience they’re having and how mindful they really can be. You, like I, might learn something new about being mindful…

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