Recently, my partner and I adopted a puppy from Pet Tales Rescue. She is the cutest thing. Part Basset Hound and part Terrier and about five months old. Puppy stage. Even knowing that this choice may heighten my anxiety, I knew it was time. We have been saving up and mentally preparing ourselves for over a year to adopt a puppy. We named her Dora, after Dora the Explorer, knowing that hounds typically like to explore around by sniffing. So with five-month-old Dora, I can never let her out of my sight. Still in the process of potty-training and not knowing exactly if and what she would chew up, my eyes and my mind are always on her.
I never truly knew what mindfulness was up until a few weeks ago. I know at the Anxiety Resource Center, mindfulness is brought up on many occasions. In the spring, the ARC had a guest speaker, April Hadley, whom is an instructor at the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness. To be honest, I had no idea what she was saying. How could one with anxiety possibly let go of everything and focus only on one particular thing? I didn’t get it.
When outside with Dora on one beautiful morning, I was letting her run around our fenced-in yard while I was sort of reading a book. What is “sort of” reading a book you say? Well after every paragraph I would look up to see Dora and to make sure she was not getting into trouble. Which is very rare (I might add), but I still wanted to be sure she was safe. In one of those moments I looked up to see a big monarch butterfly circling around Dora.
It had seemed like time froze. The world stopped moving for 30 seconds. The beautiful and elegant butterfly and my precious Dora were the only things that mattered. At that moment seeing that butterfly flying around her, I couldn’t help myself but just stare. I felt no anxiety. I felt no worries. I even felt for that 30 seconds like I was free. I remember every exact detail in that moment. Even today I have that visual stuck in my head. The way the butterfly flew around in an angle in which I could always see its gorgeous orange wings and brown spotting. It made me want to stand where Dora was and let the butterfly fly around me. Dora, on the other hand, was very curious as to what this big flying thing was. She just stood there curiously watching as the butterfly circled around her. She even cocked her head several times. The look in her eyes was indescribable. It reminded me of a toddler and a new toy. How a toddler smiles and gets all excited, but also curious at the same time. Dora didn’t chase the butterfly, she just let it be. She turned her body around a few times preparing for the butterfly to land on her.
Before I knew it, the butterfly took off flying in another direction. Dora and I turned our heads, acknowledging the powerful presence of the butterfly was now over and onto it’s new journey. I cannot speak on behalf of Dora how the butterfly impacted her view of life, although I’m sure being so young she’ll have many of those moments of curiosity and wonder. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and how to explain to people why that moment was so powerful and how I will never forget it.
Later that week, I was sitting on my therapist’s couch telling her about how my week was going. Mind you, I have anxiety, so usually our focus is on what causes my anxiety and what coping skills I can use. The butterfly story popped into my head. I needed to tell her this story. I told her the same story about how I felt like time stopped and nothing else mattered. Before leaving the session, she had stopped and went back to my butterfly story. In her non-exact words she said, “You know why you feel this moment was so special to you?” I replied with “I don’t know. Dora and the butterfly were just cute” or something silly like that. “That was mindfulness.”
“Anxiety doesn’t exist where mindfulness takes you.”
I get it now. I totally get it. I now know why mindfulness is so important and why people that teach mindfulness seem so peaceful. If I could live each day of my life being mindful of what’s really happening in the present, the here and now, anxiety has nothing on me. Anxiety doesn’t exist where mindfulness takes you. As silly as it sounds, I am so grateful for that butterfly that came to visit that day. It taught me to pay attention to the small stuff because that one very simple thing that probably happens daily can be breathtaking.