The power of learning how to notice, completely neutrally, the activity of our minds

neutral noticing Jun 23, 2023

Tegwyn was a very old dog. Like most of our dogs she was a Best Worst Dog. The sweetest and most terribly behaved.

At 15 ½ she’d had a good long life and I’d been expecting her to leave us for sometime now, often saying goodnight with a tear of expectation only to find her smiling at me the next morning somehow raising herself up from a near death slumber to do her early morning circuit of our rambling half acre garden, a garden we bought very much with her in mind and one that has made her very elderly years easier and magical.


Then one Friday a couple of weeks ago she suddenly went from doddery to really not managing and we were faced with the agonising decision all dog owners face at the end of their precious family members' lives.


We sat with her under a bush for most of that evening. Tears were shed. We were saying our goodbyes. But then she rallied and, with help getting up and getting a bit of momentum, she trotted back inside with a sway.


We'd both been through this before. This heart wrenching push-pull of wanting a dog to go peacefully without pain, asleep at home, alternating with the sudden rallying and the delight of getting to spend more time with her and thus avoid the inevitable pain of loss. Every time we have had to face the decision to ease their passing it has felt heartbreakingly impossible. And here we were again facing the agony of deciding when to let a dog go.


And by agony I do mean physical pain. Physical pain in my body caused by the thoughts that the passing of this loved dog will be impossible to survive. That my heart cannot survive another loss this great. That the pain of grief will somehow be insurmountable. Because it feels like my heart is breaking into a million pieces.


On our decided last day together the sun was shining, the weather perfect for spending in the garden together. And the garden was where Tegwyn wanted to be. At one point this dog, who couldn’t get up on her own and struggled to walk in a straight line, came to find me on the settee inside where I’d snuck away to take a break from the grief hanging over us. Somehow she managed to walk all the way from the garden to the sitting room, locate me and get up the step into the room. This was a huge feat for her by that point as her body was failing her. And then she did something extraordinary. Instead of collapsing onto her bed next to me, she paused, looked straight at me and then turned to go all the way back outside, turned again to look straight at me and led me outside. I followed, amazed and sat down next to her again on the grass enjoying those last few precious hours with my lovely old girl. The day was full of love. 


And it struck me at some point that all my agony was being created by my mind - by future-predicting thoughts. Thoughts predicting that the future without Tegwyn would be impossible.That my heart would never mend. Because the truth was that right then in each moment of that last day nothing was actually wrong yet. 


Oh the power of our minds to torment us! And the power of learning how to notice, completely neutrally, the activity of our minds. This is why mindfulness meditation is worth practising. This is why Neutral Noticing works overtime to enable us to lessen our emotional reactivity and find the freedom to be able to respond instead.


Did this insight help with the pain of saying goodbye? Not at the time maybe but definitely and hugely since. Because saying goodbye wasn't impossible. It was incredibly sad but it was full of love and gratitude and joy for having the rich experience of having a Best Worst Dog.


And, a question my coach gave to me recently - “what’s the gift in this?” gave me an insight that spurs me on in my mission to help anyone who’s interested find the value Neutral Noticing.


So, if you’ve not yet embedded The One Minute Marke into your life and found the increasing freedom of Neutral Noticing I'd love you to download it here and give it a go: The One Minute Marke


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