Zen and the art of falling asleep.

I had one of those nights last night, you know the ones, when you’re tired but you can’t fall asleep? There was no real reason for my inability to fall asleep, aside from listening to two little snoring dogs and one very large dog who was tossing and turning and panting because the heat in my room was working (trying to counter the ridiculously cold temperatures outside) at keeping my room at a balmy 63 degrees. He is not a fan of heat, and his definition of hot is vastly different than most.


I get a lot of good thinking and planning done in these sleepless hours which is awesome, aside from the fact that I never write any of those thoughts or plans down and come morning I can’t remember any of it. So last night I decided to just clear my mind of any thoughts and hope that would help me fall asleep faster. Doing that didn’t immediately bring on sleep, but it did bring in my cat, which is what usually happens when I am able to slow the thoughts in my head and just “be”.

In the animal communication school where I am a TA, we refer slowing down our thoughts to that place of just being as energy management. And since the day I learned how to manage my energy (why isn’t this taught in schools??), I noticed that ever time I do, my animals come to my side. It’s seems they are drawn to my energy when I’m in this place. And I think that is true of all animals.  Cat and dogs (and animals in general) definitely know how to “just be”. They live in the moment, and they try to get us to live in the moment too. And when we aren’t, they let us know. The problem is, not everyone understands how to interpret what they are saying to us through their behavior. So instead of trying to change ourselves, we try to get the animal to change their behavior.

In my work as a therapy dog evaluator, I tell handlers that their stress travels down the leash to the dog, so they need to take a deep breath and try to be in the moment instead of worrying about what might or might not happen during the test. While this works as a great explanation, the truth is that even if you don’t have your dog on a leash, if you are stressed, your dog will know it and will try to draw your attention to the fact that you are stressed in whatever way they can.

So the next time you are relaxed and chilling out on the couch or in bed, notice your animals. Is their demeanor or behavior different as a result? If you are genuinely in a relaxed place (and not just trying to be), my bet is they are. And if it’s late at night, you might just fall asleep with your cat or dog laying by your side.

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