Written by: Linda Allen-Hardisty, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Less than 48 hours after an unexpected loss in the family, I find myself at a total loss for knowing what to do for my daily morning mindfulness practice. I actually do not know what to do with myself to start the morning without her. I find myself in unfamiliar territory. I couldn’t even leave our bedroom by myself this morning to walk downstairs, with no sweet face greeting me with that look in her eyes “Let’s go on our walk, Linda! Grab that coffee faster, I can’t wait.” So, I waited for my husband to wake up so we could reluctantly move together downstairs to rest our eyes on an empty living room.
Our Irish Wolfhound, Coco, passed away unexpectedly this weekend. Her decline was fast and furious. Our morning began as usual 48 hours ago, with our morning walk together – my daily mindfulness practice for which dogs are absolutely magical for providing. Everything went as per routine, one poop bag later. We ate our breakfast together – she inhaled her dog food as I shared my banana with her. The day proceeded as normal.
Mid-afternoon, my heart sank the moment I arrived home without her instantly waiting for me at the door as I walked in from the garage. It didn’t take long to decide that she needed to be examined by a vet. Once I saw that x-ray at the vet clinic, I knew exactly what lay ahead. What I didn’t expect is the overwhelming loss of knowing how to manage the next morning without her. And that feeling has not left me.
The definition of mindfulness is really personal, in my opinion. Ask ten people how they define mindfulness, and you will likely hear ten different definitions. For me, the Oxford definition of mindfulness totally hits the mark for me:
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved
by focusing one's awareness on the present moment,
while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique (Oxford dictionary).
Therapeutic indeed. Moments later, my Apple Watch prompted me to open my Mindfulness app. I clicked “open.” What inspired me to write this article right now is this prompt:
Think of something that brings you joy. Remember how the joy feels.
Be guided by that joy.
Coco brought me joy. I sat with that statement for a long time because I couldn’t stop. As I remembered how the joy felt, I was immediately transported back to the day, July 4, 2015, when we met her for the first time. She was a 6-month-old who was in her third home (unreal!), and even though she didn’t have her for long, Kasia knew we would give her a wonderful home. So, just like that, we became her Forever Home. She blended in well with our Irish wolfhound, Gracie, and life with two began. At first, I would say we rescued Coco along with Kasia’s efforts; however, I soon realized that Coco actually rescued me. Her demeanor kept me present so I could calmly acknowledge my feelings and thoughts, especially in the mornings.
In my morning mindfulness practices, I often thought through the challenges of running my own executive coaching business, took time to celebrate the achievements of my coaching clients, reflected on all the beautiful people in my life, and spent time learning how to be with my emotions about some tough decisions. All of this I experienced during my dog walks. When Coco became our only dog in the home, she put my mindfulness practice on steroids! I totally immersed myself in just being present at the moment with her at my side.
So, here we are. We aren’t ready to have the conversation about “next” or “never” however, a dog in our future always remains a question that doesn’t require an answer right now. As her groomer, Janet, said to console me this weekend, “Dogs don’t live in the future. They don’t think about what’s next”. To me, that is exactly why dogs are truly natural at mindfulness practice.
I am lucky Coco found me. She taught me how to truly strengthen my mindfulness practice. Perhaps her departure means I have everything in place now to practice solo. For a while…
NOTE: To adopt a dog, contact your local animal shelter.
Linda Allen-Hardisty, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Linda Allen-Hardisty, is a leader in executive coaching, emotional intelligence, and leadership team performance. After her own corporate leadership experiences left her full of curiosity about development, Linda discovered strategies to dramatically strengthen leaders and their teams. She has since dedicated her professional practice to coaching leaders in the C-suite and on leadership teams to do the inner work of achieving tremendous results. She is President and Founder of Allen-Hardisty Leadership Group, the executive leadership development firm with clients across Canada. Her clients include industries of oil and gas, utilities, aviation, universities, crown corporations, Indigenous business, agri-value, and more. Linda is a lead facilitator in the Organizational Development Program at Queens University IRC, Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation, a keynote speaker and author on emotionally effective leadership, and a national award winner. Her mission: Spark new insights in each coaching conversation