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Summer Days 8

September 22nd, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

Lesson #8:  Sleep and eat regularly. This no-brainer lesson is one that many people often IMG_5797_2struggle with, but my border collie teacher on living well, Summer, has shown on a regular basis that along with play and work, one absolutely must get regular sleep and food. Food, for her, is simply nourishment.

Not all dogs are this way. Our other dog, our rat terrier, Lacey, is highly motivated by food and would rather have food than affection. She’s a little piggy. And, naturally, she’s also more of a couch potato who likes the idea of a walk better than the actual walk itself.

Summer, on the other hand, views food as the sustenance to fuel what’s really important – to do the things she wants to do each day. Food and sleep are staples for maintaining health, a positive outlook on life and having the energy need to do important or fun things like chasing squirrels, sprinting to beat her human in a two-legged versus four-legged race down the street, or jetting outside in a quick burst of energy to guard and check on a strange noise.

She really has exemplified balance and has set an example for minimizing an emotional attachment to food – a problem for many humans. She eats – enough, scattered throughout the day (and she has been known to eat from her doggie friends’ bowls when at their house), but her relationship with food isn’t her primary reason for existence. It doesn’t play substitute for something else. She doesn’t live to eat; she eats to live.

From her, I’ve learned the importance of balance and of caring for one’s body in order to do what counts. And as I’ve watched her in the evenings when she gets her rawhide treat, I’ve noticed that she savors it. She sits with it, waits, works on it, puts it down, rests, worries it again and so forth until done. She appreciates both regular meals and special treats.

What’s your relationship with food and rest? Do you get enough? Do you fuel up? Or is there an imbalance and you end up overdoing on either just to stay awake and keep going? And then, end up eating or drinking the wrong things (caffeine, too much sugar . . .) to get the extra jolt? What if you looked at food like you do the gas you put in your car – when you choose a particular octane to get premium performance? What if you ate that way and then slowly savored the one treat each day with gratitude and appreciation?

Today, observe what you eat. Notice how you feel when you eat, after you eat. Give thanks for the foods that nourish and aid you in being your healthiest so you can do the things you do each day. Honor your body and treat it well. You need it so be gentle with yourself.

Practice all the lessons of Summer Days: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; and, just be.

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