The gift of dogs…and poetry!

Geeta CowlagiA few weeks ago, I concluded leading my second 8-week course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. It was an amazing time, and I was honored to spend 8 Tuesday nights with this incredible group of doctors, therapists, mothers, fathers, educators, and more. I was breath taken at moments by the levels of discovery and vulnerability they were willing to dive into.

Also in the planning of this course, I intentionally tried to create and craft a safe place – a peaceful place – a place where people could meditate, reflect, and support themselves and each others. I imagined a beautiful setting of silence, ease, and spaciousness.

Then came the dogs.

One of the major components of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course is a day long SILENT retreat. I’ve been a participant at numerous silent retreats, so I was eager to host my own. I had it all planned out, the space was wonderful, lunch was going to be nourishing and easily provided. Everyone gathered, and the day began.

And then…the dogs.

As it turns out, the facility we were using also hosted dog training classes on this particular Saturday. So, while I was trying to guide the students through meditation, and inviting them to take meditative walks, there was a constant background of dogs, and trainers.

My brain went crazy! (How interesting, right?) How dare they not tell me this was planned? Why are the trainers so loud? These dogs are barking constantly! Oh no…now all of my class is going to get NOTHING from this. This is ruining MY silent retreat!

I checked in with myself, and in one of the most challenging of situations – began to employ the methods of mindfulness that I teach. I took breaths, was compassionate with myself, and then in turn was compassionate with others. It wasn’t easy, but by the end of the day I could look back and be entertained by the situation as opposed to so deeply triggered.

And what’s even more valuable, is that the students talked about how the day was truly transformative. Some students could completely turn the dogs off, while others invited the dogs into their consciousness. Despite the external situation, each of the students got massive growth and learning out of the silent retreat. That is massively mindful.

I am already anticipating planning the next silent retreat for my Spring class, and am considering bringing those dogs back. 😉

Below I am offering a poem that I recently shared with my Fall class. I hope it serves you.

In gratitude,


Little Gidding V
By: T.S. Eliot

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well