I have been of late studying a great deal about mindfulness and meditation. And I’ve been curious about how this topic, which is increasingly valued in human medical and psychological circles, might cross over in some of the work that we do with animals? I wonder what your thoughts might be on this?
I noticed that one of the things people remark on about my animals is their composure and calmness. I see this as a kind of mindfulness and, practically speaking, I believe it comes from teaching the animals how to perform extended behavior calmly, particularly targeting or attention and orienting, helping form behavior that can be several minutes in duration and calmly exhibited. Being effective in this requires a basic behavior conditioning approach of extending each second of the behavior until a fuller duration is accomplished.
But I believe that to set the stage for this much more is needed, in particular the development of trust and understanding about their environment, their relationships, and their caregivers. From a place of no tricks, deception, and limited pressure comes the ability to feel confident and trusting. This supplies the foundation from which behavior extension and calmness are formed.