James Jacobson's "How to Meditate with Your Dog" (Maui Media, $16.95) sounds like one of those one-joke throwaways you find by the cash register at the bookstore: "Your Cat as Your Financial Advisor," "The Goldfish Whisperer," "Your Boss Is a Weasel," etc. But as much as any book about meditating with your dog can be legit, this one is. Which is to say, it's not a metaphor or a joke. It explains how to meditate with your dog.
"It doesn't matter that you touch your dog with one or both hands, or really that you touch your dog at all [during meditation]. But the physical contact of our hands on our dogs is reassuring to them. It helps increase the sense of connection between us. . . ."
"Maui's [the author's Maltese] back rose and fell with her breath. My hands rose and fell with hers. I kept my attention on Maui's breath -- I could feel it swirl through her body. In a few minutes, without conscious effort, my breathing synchronized with hers."
Jacobson, a veteran meditator and incurable dog-man, takes full advantage of his two enthusiasms. After delivering the goods -- with such key details as where, when and precisely how to enter the sweet zone with your animal friend -- he explains, at length, why this is a good idea. It can calm both human and dog, he says, and forge a powerful bond. It may confer the known human health benefits of meditation onto dogs. It raises both parties' alertness and enriches subsequent experience. Dogs, the ultimate creatures of the moment, can teach us to be, not do, as the meditaterazi say.
Some tangents will appeal only to devotees: Turning a walk into a walking meditation seems a stretch, especially when Jacobson attempts to tune into Maui's world by focusing on the sense of smell as they move along. (Jacobson does sniff the trash barrel, but doesn't pee on it.) And the bit about meditating without your dog seems, well, unnecessary.
Still, as the author points out, most dog people already meditate with their dogs, but they just don't call it that. This odd little book can, if you do not mind feeling a bit silly in the effort, help you cultivate a new level of closeness. What's the worst that can happen? You take a nap with your dog.
-- Craig Stoltz