Going to a Happy Place

I’m requested to meditate.
During a recent Reflexology session I was asked to go to a happy place; that is, to meditate, while I was being grounded out. We all have happy places. Events, snapshots of times when we felt loved, protected, on purpose, one with everything. In times past that I’ve created scenarios from my imagination, they were all joyful and effective exercises for transporting my imagination into a meditative state.
What I imagine
I’d decide on a theme and insert myself into it. It would be my illusionary touchstone for peace and security. Here are some examples. I’d be quietly sitting in a sunny spot in a green pasture. I’d be surrounded by a beautiful vista: forests with deer, a stream, blue skies with fluffy clouds drifting above. Another joyful image would be looking out from a mountain top over a vast panoramic view, craggy silhouettes of hilltops receding into the blue horizon. In another, I’d be gazing up at the star filled sky, feeling one with the immenseness of it all. In another, I’d be basking on a beach in the warm sun, listening to the waves flowing in and sliding back out. As I write this I see how trite and mundane all these images are. They could be from any of a thousand movies from my childhood.
This time it’s different.
This time, when was asked to go to happy place, I was spontaneously transported back to vividly reliving scenarios that surfaced from my treasure trove of memories. As I reclined there in the reflexology chair, steady hands holding onto my ankles, I felt the movements of gentle rocking in my hips. My pelvis and low back melted into the slow rhythms as my saddle rocked. I was walking along with Gant, my last Arabian. It’s been almost 20 years since we transitioned onto different trails.
As the floodgates opened, we were everywhere at once. Gentle, quiet, meditation? Oh, right! We were on a ride! 
Ride of my life
Wading across a stream, boots up on my horse’s shoulders, concerned that I might have left the martingale attached; meandering in silence over the carpet of pine needles along a deserted forest path; trotting along a frozen trail, watching our plumes of breath, me, all warm and cozy inside my layers of winter gear, hearing the gentle tick, tick, tick of hail falling on my jacket and hat; reaching over my horse’s withers to scratch his itch with my curry comb, smelling the exquisite fragrance of equine sweat; standing, one foot up on the rail, coffee colored rough hewn wooden fence, bridle in hand, watching him race in circles around the paddock, tail plumed high with excitement.
When I arrived home Anastasia, who’d just returned from a PT session, asked “What was your session like? What did he work on? Did you feel anything shift?” 
“It was great,” I answered. “We were just horsin’ around.”
Dogs open up
When we place our hands on our dogs in a PetMassageTM, we are asking them to go to their happy place. Actually, we are giving them permission to open their eyes. In our hands, they tap into their private troves and emerge with all kinds of memories. No one knows what they see.
It would be like my asking you what your most memorable experience was. Was it joyful, scary, humbling, spiritual, and/or exciting? I can think of a couple that all of these would apply.
Dogs memories could be products of their imagination. They could have been real events. Either way, they would be impressions of what the dog interpreted as real at the time, and they would be shaped by the way the dog remembers them.
Dogs have issues
They could be happy-go-luckiest Golden Retriever kinds of images. Or, they could be tapes that continue to be replayed in which they’d been harmed, or ones in which they felt like harm was imminent. Whenever these kinds of tapes surface, dogs’ bodies respond by producing the protective fight or flight chemicals that cause the body to flex and recoil. Their imaginations follow the lead of their hormones and they are off at the gallop. Paws frantically trying to locate their stirrups, reins dragging loosely in the dirt, and a real likelihood that the worst that can happen, will.
When this happens, it is easy to share the ride with them. Oh, poor baby! 
Leading them to safety
And, there is a reason we are there with them at this moment, supporting them in their painful throes. if we can empower them and move them through this trauma, we know they will feel relief. 
We cannot be of any value to them until we’ve led them to a place where they can be, and are, safe. 
In this scenario, the dog is already on the PetMassageTM table. This works with dogs on the floor as well. With your feet firmly grounded on the floor, knees slightly soft, your hands, thumbs in front of shoulders, resting securely on the dog’s body (wherever he is comfortable receiving touch –usually on the collar and mid-back); with your back straight yet relaxed, shoulders lowered beneath your ears, focused completely on your breath. 
The dog is safe in your hands. He is not going anywhere. It is okay to put everything outside of your breath on autopilot.
Breathe to lead.
Breathe slowly. Mindfully. Feel your whole body expand with your inhale. Feel your whole body contract with your exhale. Feel your heart rate slow. Watch for signs and signals from the dog that he is feeling the shift. He is absolutely aware of your anxiety level. When you assume control of yours, he will know it is okay to assume control of his.
Once again, through your touch and your breathing, ask your dog to go to his happy place. It is okay, you are a steady hand, like the one I felt on my ankles. While there, he will be free of his demons. He will be finally and blissfully present and available; ready to get the most from your PetMassageTM.

1 Comment

  1. Mary Kay on January 13, 2016 at 9:30 PM

    Oh my God, Jonathan. How exquisitely beautiful was this post. I was with it as if a journey in my own meditation, it was beautiful and Relacing yet totally fulfilling to me, and made me feel happy. And it TAUGHT me so much! You are SO Awesomely Spiritual and gifted! Cheers!

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