Animism and the Art of Dog Walking


Lately, the inanimate objects around me have been alive.

To explain, let’s go on a walk with my dog, Fiyero. Now, previous to my new relationship with inanimate objects, there were just two of us on this walk: me and the dog. Now, there’s three of us: myself, the dog, and the leash.

The leash is black, plain, nylon. Fiyero is generally great on the leash, but sometimes reverts to older, leash-pulling ways. This launches me into a whole novel of irritating narratives, from “if I have to pull on this leash any harder I’m going to damage my wrists and ruin my career as a massage therapist” to “I can’t believe I’ve been training you consistently for three years and this is how you repay me?” And while I’m deep in my story, there is plenty of distraction that allows me to pull on that leash just a bit harder than absolutely necessary, a momentary lashing out that feels good for only a split second.

Yet, if I practice imagining the leash as warm-bodied and sensitive, something changes. Before, when the leash just hung slack between us, no more than a strip of nylon, it allowed me a sense of separation between us. He was dog and I was owner. This meant an action that felt separate and easy in the split second moment – yank on leash – could be performed before becoming fully aware of its outcome on another being – cowering dog. When the leash becomes alive between us, I am reminded there is no action without reaction, and that my imagination of separation between me and the dog is just that – a figment of my imagination.

All actions have results – it’s the law of karma. Consistent practice of considering the immediate result touch is having on everything around you – the keyboard, the chair, the floor, puts you in a better frame of mind to be cognizant of your actions when they really really matter, with your family, your coworkers, your spouse.

Some might call it animism, a religious practice of regarding the inanimate as animate. Some might call it complicated and out there. And yet, as a practice, I’m finding it’s actually quite simple and instinctual. As children, we regarded everything we played with as alive, and only learned the distinctions, plastic versus puppy, later.

I heard a famous gentleman (I’m hoping you can remind me who…) would ask the kitchen for assistance in making toast and tea. There is a Buddhist practice of walking meditation in which each footstep is a kiss to the earth. In doing these things we become deeply receptive, in an unending conversation with what’s happening right now.




About madyoga

Yoga Teacher and Massage Therapist in Sacramento, CA
This entry was posted in Mindfulness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Animism and the Art of Dog Walking

  1. Jeannie says:

    needed to read this today. plastic vs. puppy. love it!

  2. Ramona says:

    each footstep is a kiss to the earth.

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