Is it OK if you meditate with your dog?
What if your cat always tries to crawl into your lap when you’re meditating?
Is it OK?
Many of us find that our pets are very in tune with our practice. Some pets even fully support their person’s practice by keeping them on track with the morning schedule. Get up, go pee, get some coffee, then meditate, and the cat comes to snuggle in. If we deviate from this routine then we get disgusted looks from the kitty who’s expecting you to be where you’re not.
Many spiritual teachers speak of their affinity with animals. Ramana Maharishi, a saint in India last century, was famous for his relationships with and especially his respect for the animals who came to his ashram. There were dogs, a cow, a crow, many others who were part of daily living and welcomed into the fabric of the lives of his disciples. If you visit today, you will see memorials to these precious beasts and hear stories. Of course it’s OK to meditate with your pets!
I have heard of some teachers advise against it, though, which is the reason for writing this post. I can see where perhaps an animal might be a distraction — say, if it’s a very young puppy and always wants to play, or it needs to be monitored at all times because it’s still being trained. Or a restless animal, or one that is very sensitive to noise and who barks at any provocation from outside. Yes, of course, if the pet is very active and can’t settle down, then it’s not a good choice to have with you during meditation.
But for the animal who wanders over and curls up in your lap, or rests its head on your foot as you’re sitting on your cushion on the floor, no problem. As long as it does not serve a distraction to you.
In real meditation, you are going within. You lose awareness of your physical body, and you experience new realities that unfold within the depths of your mind. This natural going-within process will mean that any external stimulation is forgotten, provided it stays static. If your pet moves around a lot or is prone to disruption then you’ll need to evaluate if the strength of your practice is such that it can absorb these things without breaking you out of your meditation completely.
A healthy meditation practice can take nominal disruptions in stride. A noise from outside or even the doorbell ringing should not cause you to leap off your mat if you’re not done with your meditation (hopefully there’s someone else around to answer the door, or that you’re able to brush off the thoughts that will invade about who it might be coming to visit!!!). When starting out, or even as part of your typical practice, you would want to turn off your cell phone completely and silence the computer so no distracting bells and whistles invade your space during meditation. But if you’ve become established in your practice, then even if you forget one day to turn off the phone, you won’t be broken out of the meditation completely if it rings. You’ll hear it, notice, then push it aside and go back to what you were doing.
The same works for a dog or cat who’s part of your practice. As long as they are generally calm, then they can snuggle in with you during your meditation and not cause a distraction — and even when they are busy or disruptive one day, it won’t be the end of the world. You’ll be able to deal with it and keep chugging along with your meditation.
Having a furry friend as part of your practice? I think it’s fine! But it depends on you, and the friend, and where you are with your meditations. See if it works. If not, then it’s fine to meditate on your own instead!