How My Dog Taught Me Walking Meditation

By Michael Dorausch, D.C.

People increasingly ask me what kind of mediation I practice. While I don’t have a formal name to describe my methods, I have combined (and modified) a number of techniques over the past several years.

Thanks to a furry angel in my life, I currently incorporate an ancient sacred paw method of contemplative walking forest mediation. Here’s a story of a meditation master and her student.

About 7 years ago I moved from the city of Los Angeles to the Southern edge of the Sequoia National Forest in Kern County, California. I had 3 aging Labrador retrievers at the time, two yellows, and the youngest one a chocolate lab named Jubilee.

Chocolate Labrador with Stick

Jubilee was my everywhere dog, she traveled with me on commutes to my chiropractic office near Venice Beach.

Back in the forest, she was incredibly fond of walking the numerous deer trails that crossed our land. Our routine was to get up at 5 am, have breakfast, and go for our first morning walk. Jubilee would always lead the way.

Jubilee had a method of choosing what trail to walk (and when) that was only known to her, I just followed along. Deer, coyotes, bear, lions and bobcats used the trails at night, providing her much sense stimulation during the day.

About the same time I moved to the forest’s edge, I had increased my mediation practice to 3 times per day. Initially, I found myself eager (impatience) to get these “dog walks” over with so I could get back home and sit in silent meditation.

Slowing her pace, or stopping for a long sniffing session, Jubilee had no part of it. She’d occasionally turn and give me a “we’re not done” look and then continue on deeper into the woods. My frustration always ended in loving surrender.

We did this 3 times a day, without fail. I could be chopping wood or shoveling dirt midday and she’d walk up to me with that “let’s go” look. I’d stop what I was doing and we’d head off into the woods, only to repeat the routine again before sunset.

Sometimes we were gone for an hour. I’d be in the forest, following this crazy dog to nowhere, bending my body under bushes and branches, along trails made by four legged forest dwellers. When it was time to turn back she’d change direction and head for home. I followed.

One day I decided to carry my mala beads and repeat a silent chant while we walked the forest. Up to this point I had been doing “bead meditation” every morning for about 15 minutes, usually sitting in a chair or on the edge of a couch.

As my methods progressed, I became aware that the words used during my walking morning chant were “playing” in my head (like the last song you’ve heard) regardless of what I was doing. This continued long after the walking meditation was over. Old thought patterns became chant patterns, and chant patterns became new thought patterns. I began to hear thought far more clearly (or differently) than before.

After several months of this practice, I eventually graduated into a contemplative state while in walking meditation. I was aware that Jubilee knew something that I didn’t, or that I wasn’t seeing. This led to an awakening in relationship to all the wildlife of the forest, and the forest itself. My eyes (and ears) tuned.

Late February 2019 a big storm came through on a Saturday night. Sunday morning Jubilee was eager to hit the path, even though she was near 14 years old and her daily pace had slowed significantly. On this particular morning she practically bounced about while returning from our walk, grabbing a stick along the way and trudging through our flooded muddy driveway (see above photo), on the way back to the house.

As Jubilee aged, I’d watched her struggle along the path (as she had watched me), but on this day she was celebrating life like I hadn’t witnessed before. Back in Los Angeles two days later, while another thunder and lightning storm electrified our atmosphere, Jubilee passed away.

It was several days till I was home in the forest, placing her cremated remains in a jar on the porch (next to the other dogs), and hanging an engraved “Jubilee” wind chime a patient gave to me after hearing of her passing.

As the wind blew softly the chimes began to sing, and a “let’s walk” voice resonated the air. I began walking along a trail into the woods, silently with thoughts of love and jubilation for all the angels in my life. I was about a mile in when I simultaneously became aware of deciding to turn back, and the presence of my dog looking back at me from further up the trail, signaling to keep going.

Like the snake and the rope (absolute reality and the reality we see), I could see Jubilee on the trail ahead, and I continued on. I bent under the branches of an oak tree and stood to face a mule deer buck paused mid step and staring back at me.

The eyes with which I saw this deer, were the same eyes that looked back at me, we both just stood and gazed. At some point I waved and he decided that was too much movement, he turned and hurried off.

While returning home I was aware of a pull back to known reality, while my now fading from sight dog walked by my side saying “that’s what I’ve been trying to show you.”

By the time I was home my meditative state was being challenged by conditioned ideas, the strongest being that this phenomena I had experienced was random chance and emotion, not to happen again. Seeing the dog was illusion, and the deer, just a deer.

Known reality conditioning persisted, but I also felt markedly different, I was tingling for hours. I’ve experienced meditative phenomena before, but this was new.

Evening came and educated me became convinced it was best I do walking meditation in a completely different direction, so that I wouldn’t have a similar experience, or bother the deer. Less than a quarter mile in (and still tingling)  I look up from my meditative path and there’s a buck looking back at me.

I didn’t speak, I didn’t wave, I didn’t chant. He twitched his ears towards me and flared his nostrils, but otherwise remained still. Maintaining eye contact, he turned to the right and then the left, and calmly walked off the trail.

To someone watching this from a distance, or viewing it on a trail camera, this may have all appeared rather ordinary. I’ve since discovered the extraordinary is often times hidden in the most ordinary of outward occurrences.

I awoke the next day and began in a seated meditation, purposely not walking. I was aware of hesitation and excitement, and my conditioned mind was unsettled.

I could feel a challenge arising. If this was truth you’d have walked in mediation, conjured up a dog and a deer, and thought you were so cool. But you aren’t cool, this isn’t real, and you’ve been wasting a lot of time. Prove me wrong, I dare you.

This was me, talking to me, in my own head, and it was nasty. Prove me wrong played in the background for about 5 hours, until I finally headed off to walk the forest.

What up to this day had grown into peaceful contemplative walking mediation, was now me walking and trying to meditate, while someone criticized me the entire way. I walked. Where’s your deer now? I walked. Dumb ass. I walked. It ain’t gonna happen. I walked. Nothing. I returned back home. Some walking mediation that was. You even asked for a sign, how pathetic.

I stood in my driveway, the tormentous mind battle now over, and oddly feeling a deeply incredible sense of calm. Life was normal (mundane existence) again. Anyways, I had chores to do.

A mind at ease, I turned and… a buck, in the driveway, walking directly towards me. He approached and paused about 8 feet away, holding my gaze. There was no criticism, no celebration, no chatter. There was a deep tonal calm.

That moment opened a doorway on my meditation. My walking mediation has since advanced beyond what I had ever anticipated, and I’ve been able to carry the vibration over to my day activities. It’s a lifetime work in progress.

If I look (project outwards) for things, they may not be seen. If I am receptive, I see (receive via sight) wonders unfold.

We’ve been taught that animals can smell fear. My experience says all emotion (and thought) can be sensed. Anger, greed, lust, hate, disgust, trust, awe, surprise, etc.

I’m working on being a better smelling human.