THE BLOG
06/20/2013 07:30 pm ET Updated Aug 20, 2013

So Many Roses, So Little Time: A Mindfulness Practice My Dog Taught Me

"So many roses...so little time" -- MacDoodle Jones

Have you ever been in such a hurry to get where you are going that, upon arrival, you could not recall any part of the journey you just completed? If so, perhaps that is because your mind was way out in front of your body, working on coming attractions rather than appreciating the show that the present moment was offering. It is easy to separate our minds from our bodies when we become so focused on the destination that we go unconscious and fail to appreciate the gifts that life is constantly laying at our feet. Of course our "destination" isn't always a physical location -- sometimes it's a place in our minds called the future, where worry, anxiety, anticipation and fear can take on a life of their own. Anything that can seduce our minds out of the present moment, be it ten minutes or ten years from now qualifies. There is a remedy for this problem. The cure is to be found in a song I used to sing in the 70s; a catchy country tune, written by Mac Davis and Doc Severinsen, and recorded by Mac Davis, titled, Stop and Smell the Roses. The first verse and the chorus had such a great hook I still remember them to this day:

"Hey Mister, where you going in such a hurry
Don't you think it's time you realized
There's a whole lot more to life than work and worry
All the sweetest things in life are free
And they're right before your eyes...

You've got to stop and smell the roses
You've got to count your many blessings everyday
You're gonna find your way to heaven is a rough and rocky road
If you don't stop and smell the roses along the way."

I had an experience recently that proved that the song was more than just a catchy tune with a metaphor attached -- it was an invitation to practice mindfulness in a very meaningful way. I have often said that one of my greatest teachers is my dog, MacDoodle, and this truth became obvious again recently while on our daily walk. We live in an area where the main streets throughout the development are lined with the most vibrant, red rose bushes I have ever seen. While doing our "power-walk" Mac had recently decided he wanted to stop at every rose bush along the way, give it a good sniff, and then leave his personal "mark" if you know what I mean. I told him it was entirely a waste of time and energy, because even long after he was out of "ammo" as it were, he was still going through the act and giving each rose bush a thorough sniff. Suffice it to say he didn't seem to care about my opinion. About 20 minutes into the walk I realized that I was constantly having to stop and physically pull him back onto the sidewalk to maintain "our" pace, which only served to irritate me more. Then it hit me; "our" pace really wasn't ours -- it was mine. If this was really "our" walk why wasn't I allowing him to enjoy it in a manner that honored his needs as well as mine?

This awareness really hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to stop and ponder the lesson: The metaphor of taking time to stop and smell the roses became a realtime mindfulness practice that day. As usual, my master teacher was reminding me that being present in the moment was a lifestyle, not a "when it is convenient" sort of practice. I was focused on the finish line, he was focused on the roses. My mind was already back home enjoying a cold drink and getting back to work, his mind was enjoying the experience, roses and all. Point well made: Since that day I do my power-walks on the treadmill as he lies peacefully next to it. Oh, we still take "our" daily walks, but now I stand by peacefully as he expresses his love and appreciation for every rose bush on the street. It's really a win-win for both of us. I get a walking meditation and he gets a chance to stay in touch with all his rose-loving canine buddies.

While "stopping to smell the roses" may look different for all of us, the lesson is one with which we an all relate. Mindfulness means slowing down and allowing our mind and our body to be in the same place at the same time irrespective of where we are or what we are doing. Where in your life might you want to, metaphorically, stop and smell the roses? The practice is to slow down and mindfully call your mind back to your body and enjoy the moment. It's really the only moment you have, so why not be fully present in it? Be one with the moment at hand; stop and smell the roses along the path you walk today; you'll discover they really are quite lovely and MacDoodle can testify to that.

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