A couple of weekends ago, my little dog Smudge stood at the start line of a jumpers course in his second dog agility competition. A jumpers course is just what it sounds like — most of the obstacles are jumps.
Smudge loves jumps. He doesn’t mind tunnels or running up and over an a-frame, but give him an agility course full of jumps and his little body quivers with joyful anticipation.
When he’s at the start line, waiting for me to give him the release (permission to start running), he’s the picture of exquisite balance. He’s centered over all four paws, ready to spring in whatever direction I ask. He’s the doggy equivalent of a tennis player waiting to receive the serve – weight balanced equally over the feet, knees slightly bent, able to go left or right.
Watch most elite athletes and you see that kind of balanced focus. It is a learnable state.
Figuratively speaking, that’s the kind of balanced, centered state ideal for negotiation and conflict resolution, too: Being fully present in the moment, agile enough to go in any direction, not so committed to one direction that you can’t change trajectory, focused on what’s ahead of you more than what’s behind you.
Smudge and I had a terrific run together. He walked away with a blue ribbon and a “Q,” (qualified), meaning he had a very clean, fast run that earned him points toward a future title. He ran that jumpers course at over 11 feet per second — not bad for a long and short little Puerto Rican street dog. And he grinned the entire time. That makes me happier than any ribbon could.