So this week I joined Thor’s new fitness app. Yep the God of Thunder is now my fitness guru.

OK, Chris Hemsworth, and actually it’s a bunch of professionals that he has probably employed or something, I don’t know. I joined because I like looking at Chris Hemsworth I admit. Sadly the app doesn’t have enough of Thor’s face on it if you ask me but what it does have is a genius ex-boxer called Michael Olajide Jr. Not only does he design boxing workouts that frankly nearly killed me on Tuesday morning, he also provides the voice over for some of the guided meditations on the app.

Because this app isn’t just about workouts that make you rethink your life choices up until this point. Oh no. It also provides a meal plan and life advice – like how to forge better relationships (or as I like to think of it, how to not be a complete d*ck) and the aforementioned guided meditations. I’m liking it a lot it’s called Centr if you want to go look at it. There are other geniuses on it – check out Da Rulk, the guy can’t be human……anyway……

Mindfulness and meditation is something I have tried over and over again for the last several years. I’ve never really got it. It all seemed like new age hocus pocus plinky plonky rubbish. No one has ever been able to explain it to me and when I’ve tried stuff like the Headspace app I’ve just got annoyed at the bloke telling me to not worry about my mind drifting off and just come back to counting my breath – because I was happily counting my breaths thanks very much until you started talking about my mind wandering! The closest I got to understanding it is when someone told me it was about focusing on what was going on now – although I still didn’t get it really. I’m pretty good at focusing on what’s going on right in front of me and not having my mind wander. I’ve always been good at what I call pigeonholing my life. This is what I’m doing/dealing with right now, I do that, then I move to the next thing. I didn’t realise that it wasn’t that common, but it doesn’t matter because that isn’t what mindfulness is, or at least that’s not the whole of it.

On Monday, a meditation guided by Michael Olajide Jr was on my plan and I figured I was either in or out with this thing and if I’d decided I was in then really 10mins attempting to “reconnect with myself” whether it worked or not wasn’t going to be a big deal.

Well Holy Sh*t

Now maybe it’s the fact that listening to this guy’s voice is like eating expensive chocolate truffles – you know the kind that are smooth, rich and seriously decadent – I mean I could listen to him all day so maybe I just felt like I wanted to get it, but it seemed like suddenly a tumbler fell into place and the wonder of meditation was unlocked. It’s about me. It’s not about focusing outwards, it’s about my awareness, my sensations, my experience and seeing it just as it is – with no judgement. It’s not about becoming more calm, more serene, more anything. It’s about what you are feeling, thinking, who you are, right now and *seeing* that without shading it with what you think *should* be. What Fabrice Midal has to say on meditation (also discovered via the Centr app – I promise I’m not on commission) has been thought provoking.

I think that’s what I’ve always missed before – it’s not about just being aware of what’s outside me – it’s being aware of what’s inside too, and not having a fit about it and beating yourself up when you aren’t ‘perfect’.

You’re probably reading this thinking, ‘well yes Kelly, this is hardly a freaking revelation, where have you been?’ but well it’s been a revelation to me. I still think the whole urge for everyone to tack mindful on to everything to make it seem better is still a crock. But……

It has made me re-evaluate whether I’m really being mindful in my dog training.

I thought I was doing a good job before because I’m totally present when I’m training my dog. Or at least for planned sessions, I’m not about to claim I’m totally present 100% of my day. I’m watching what my dog does, I’m marking and reinforcing and then I evaluate how it went and make plans for the next one. I even plan how to start and finish a session, what marker to use, what reinforcers, where and how I’m going to deliver them. I evaluate how I think my dog feels based on the behaviour I’m seeing during that session.

You know what I’m spectacularly crap at doing? Checking in with how I’m feeling about that session. Checking that what I planned on doing – my exact behaviour – is actually what I did in that session. And importantly if stuff does go wrong, or you know, not perfectly 100% right – I’m really a freaking disaster at not being a self-judgmental nightmare and beating myself up for not being totally perfect all the time – you’ll be pleased to note that I don’t do this to anyone else, and I give people pep talks about not doing it to themselves.

Why do I think I’m not being mindful? Because 1) checking in with how I feel about things isn’t something I’m good at practising, I do the thing then I move on to the next thing, I don’t consider how I felt about it. 2) I rarely video my sessions and it’s pretty impossible to focus on your dog and make sure you are marking and reinforcing the right stuff and also be aware of what your big toe on your right foot is doing at the same time. 3) I am a work in progress as far as my need to be perfect thing goes.

Now it’s entirely possible I’m not on the right track with this mindfulness malarkey. Feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts if you’ve got experience in this arena, or think I’m way off track – I’m just working through my thoughts out loud really.

I’m not sure if the technical definition of mindfulness is possible when training your dog because you have to focus outwardly and I’m not sure it’s possible to do that and also focus inwardly at the same time. I think you can only do that inward check-in afterwards or even before in preparation. So maybe what I’m aiming for isn’t really mindful dog training so much as more thoughtful dog training, with more emphasis on evaluating my own thoughts and behaviour in a session than just my dog’s. I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know:

  • The workouts on Centr have kicked my arse this week.
  • I could listen to Michael Olajide Jr read the phone book for hours and think it was time well spent.
  • I’m going to have to get over my aversion to seeing myself on video if I’m going to become a better trainer.
  • I’m going to have to practice this self check-in behaviour.

So in the interests of being a better trainer and the fact that despite having talked about it a lot I still haven’t actually done much of getting Flint to feel better about having his feet touched, let alone his fur or nails trimmed I’m going to combine the two.

I’m going to make Flint’s nail trims a priority, I’m going to video our sessions and I’m going to experiment with how to make my training sessions more mindful.

And I’m going to let you see it.

That bit is scary which is why it’s in small letters. But I know you’ll have my back and can’t possibly be as judgmental about me as I am about myself.

In the meantime I’m going to continue to practice meditation daily with the help of this app and fall asleep to the hypnotic timbre of Michael Olajide Jr’s voice.