I’ve written a number of times about a particular dog I run into in Central Park on many mornings as I walk to my office. She’s some kind of border collie and finds a great deal of delight in chasing and retrieving a Frisbee her human throws for her each morning. What she adds to her fun is to capture the attention of certain people who walk amongst trees along a small path near where she plays, and her relentless enthusiasm has caused many of us to risk being late to work to throw the Frisbee for her “just one more time.”
One morning, I walked along a different part of this particular area in the park, up a bit higher, amongst some pine trees, and I was able to watch her discover yet another person she chose to be her playmate for that morning. It was delightful to watch her enthusiasm when the woman picked up and threw the Frisbee for her. This dog’s human is always right nearby, but he has also learned that she enjoys including others in her morning ritual of play.
As I walked on across the park, I got to thinking about the many opportunities a day provides to connect with people, animals, plants, critters of every kind. For this week’s practice, I invite you to pay attention to random moments when you might unexpectedly make eye contact with someone and notice a moment of connection. You might want to add to it by smiling, if it feels like a positive connection, or you might want to say “hello”. If you see a child in a stroller, notice if there’s a moment of connection where your face can become a positive mirror for that child, meeting his or her gaze with a smile. Or, if it feels natural to you, you might play with what I do as I walk through the park or along a street, reaching out to touch the trunk of this or that tree and say a mental “hello”. If there are flowers blooming in your area, you might silently thank them as you pass by, offering admiration for their beauty and for what they add to the quality of your day.
The key to this practice is to take time during the day to connect with the living world around you and to notice how this affects the quality of your internal experience. No matter where you live, no matter what kind of environment, there will be opportunities to connect with what is around you, even if only in your imagination. There are times when we feel connected that we can’t express it, but we can knowit internally. Play with how a sense of connection, or lack of it, has an impact on your body-mind, on the quality of your sense of well-being. Then, notice what happens when you increase your participation in moments of connection, no matter how small or momentary they may be. I find that when I finally do walk away from playing Frisbee with my park dog friend, I have a glow that lasts, that resonates within the quality of my internal experience for quite a while.
For those who are interested, you can also find a sense of connection with all the “objects” in your life. I offer thanks and gratitude to all the things I use in my life—computer, phone, office, home, just about everything I encounter in the course of my daily life. For me, there’s connection and life in everything, and I find that this way of moving through the world constantly nourishes me. If it’s a little too far out for you to consider connecting with your gadgets, your coffee cup, and the “objects” around you, you might play with expressing gratitude for the fact that you’re able to have them and for the roles they play in meeting the many needs in any given day. It’s one more way to connect with more of what’s around you.
As with all these practices, be sure to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and remember to pat on the head any judgments, criticisms, or energy-sapping thoughts you may notice, allowing them to arise, move through, and move on.