Try taking a few moments to slow down next time you are with a companion animal and simply be with it. Focusing without expectations, you may notice your thoughts quieting down. You may experience a sense of wonder, as you deepen your connection with your friend. Touching their skin or fur, you may notice your heart opening. You may even notice a smile appearing, as you let gratitude fill your heart.

Companion animals are gifts of awareness. Being in the presence of a cat or dog love can bring us alive to the present moment. As they love us unconditionally, we might learn to do the same for ourselves. Their playfulness can invite us in, and their aging can remind us of ours.

They also teach us about ourselves in other ways – when we are paying attention. Our four-legged and winged live-in companions are so completely dependent on us for food, shelter and loving care that we have opportunities every day to feel our openness or resistance in responding to their needs. We might even notice the difference between our ease in caring for them compared to people in our life, and sincerely wonder what that’s all about!

Feeling the blessing of the animal life in our care can certainly be a gift of awareness.

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Try this the next time you are aware that you feel stressed and want to quiet down the inner chaos quickly. Walking, driving, standing still or sitting, quietly say while breathing in, "I am breathing in, and I am at peace." Say while breathing out, "I am breathing out, and I am at peace." Focus attention on what happens. If you become distracted, simply return your focus to your words and notice what's happening within. Repeat until you notice a shift, and are ready to stop. The cells of the body receive thought as instruction, and they are willing followers to whatever we think. Saying we are at peace allows the body to shift from feeling rushed around, to slowing down, so we can feel quieter inside. With the goal of maintaining balance in all things, use this practice with care, and let awareness be your guide. Sometimes this practice is helpful, and other times, it can be used to distract us from exploring mistaken beliefs that keep us rushing around. Remembering awareness is a gift to yourself and others.

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