Pick Up the Puppy
“Concentration is never a matter of force or coercion. You simply pick up the puppy again and return to reconnect with the here and now.”
Jack Kornfield (A Path With Heart)
Jack Kornfield, meditation teacher and writer, uses the metaphor of holding a puppy to teach his students to return to the breath. Sitting meditation is not something that comes naturally to many of us, but the image of picking up a warm puppy does. Who doesn't love a puppy? Who doesn't want to pick one up and snuggle it? Puppies open our hearts and make us all tender and squishy feeling. When we hold one, our attention is totally focused on it.
For almost everyone, meditation is a valuable tool for spiritual, mental, and physical health, but it takes practice and incremental steps to achieve. Just as we don't learn to play a musical instrument in three sessions, we won't learn meditation in three attempts. Some of us have a hard time just sitting still for five minutes, much less concentrating on our breath. Many of us give up too soon and feel like a failure because we cannot force our mind to stop talking. Like everything, it's a process. Force and coercion do not work in this arena.
Using imagery—holding a puppy, sitting on a beach with gentle waves—is one way of helping ourselves to simply slow down and focus. Another way is music. Quiet music, classical music, music without words, or music sung in a language we don't know helps us to concentrate without being distracted. If all we can manage is to sit quietly and look around us, noticing what is there, our attention is brought into the here and now. Even that small step is helpful to body, mind, and spirit.
I hope today, you will make some time for quiet contemplation. If sitting is not your style, walk, but walk slowly, focusing on the details of your environment. And, most of all, be gentle with yourself. Be easy. Just pick up the puppy and return to the here and now.
In the Spirit,