Monday, 25 November 2013

Meditation and Mindfulness with Moggies (Cat-egorically!)

Preamble

     What do moggies, mindfulness and meditation have in common? They all start with 'M' for a start. They also involve an immense amount of discipline and patience to get to grips with. Most importantly, they all improve the quality and enjoyment of our lives.

     How?

     Think of that moment you're stressed and you clock into a moment of inner peace with your cat. A quick tickle and stroke relieves all that tension unless it was just at the moment you intended to get up from your chair. Pusia does this to me all the time and has a habit of leaping on me as I'm about to do something. I only need to see her purring face, however, to break out in a fit of uncontrollable smiles.

     Pusia also shows a great willingness to get involved in my meditation practice. Here's how Pusia has helped me to develop a greater presence and state of mindfulness!

It's a  Mad World

     I recently had this discussion with a colleague. Did cave men or hunter gatherers worry about things? We argued and argued about it for at least an hour. My colleague says that Stone Age man worried about where his next meal was coming from. He was hounded by thoughts of scarcity and a fear of the predators that shared his environment.

     In a flippant moment I suggested that Stone Age man was akin to a cat: incapable of thinking about the possibility that the next meal would never appear and instead just continuing to hunt until it did. Deepak Chopra has this great analogy about old age. A cat doesn't worry about old age. A cat just keeps hunting until it no longer can. Then it lays down and dies. This is the natural order of things. We get way too hung up on hanging on to being eternal.


Pusia investigating all the clutter in her life!
     A cat has just as much to be worried about as we do. Unlike us, all their worries are natural. They don't have to think about bills and the like but they're surrounded by all our 'stuff'. In some ways a cat can be pretty stressed out  by our clutter but, of course, it's also a golden opportunity to get up to mischief!


Morning Has Broken

     The morning is such a wonderful time to focus on clearing your head. I love looking out at the sunrise and just revelling in the beautiful colours.

Sunrise over Cloontiquirk.
     A cat and its human have completely different schedules. This moment of respite in my busy day is one of Pusia's most hectic. I can be staring at the sun creeping over the horizon in a reverie of peaceful solitude but I'm well aware that Pusia is out hunting. A cat is basically nocturnal and dusk or dawn are the peak times of activity.

     There's no point in me looking for any support from Pusia for helping me meditate at this time of day but I get satisfaction knowing that she's out there, somewhere.

Worlds Collide

     I also know that Pusia has completely different values to me about how to live her life. For her it's pretty simple. Get out there and cause as much mayhem as possible. The mouse population better beware when she's about to set off on a hunting spree.

Pusia focuses her mind on the hunt.
     The interesting thing for me is that just before Pusia sets off on one of her hunting expeditions I see her survey the land and focus on her mission. It's a kind of meditational practice for her too! Just like the cat, we have all kinds of paraphernalia that help us focus on the mission of meditation.

All the paraphernalia of meditation.
     For me to focus on meditation I feel I need the things like the Buddha symbol, the candle and the incense. This focuses my thought. This is my focal point.

     There are other things, of course, such as the mantras or the motivations but these are the physical objects I use to create some calm. Fact is, however, when Pusia is about or any cat for that matter then that kind of becomes my focusing point!

Without a Whisker of a Doubt

     The cat returns to me sometime during the day. It can be at the most hectic moment or it could be when I'm lazing around on the sofa. Whatever the situation, the cat has a habit of getting in on the act reminding me to focus on the importance of silence.

Geshe getting in on the act.
     A cat doesn't care if you're stressed or busy. A cat doesn't mind if you're happy or sad. To that extent they can be quite selfish, I suppose, but give the cat a reason to sit on you at this point and they will. Then just enjoy the sensation of the tension melting away!

     Whatever people may say about cats not bonding with humans, I can tell you that they do. They're incredibly sensitive and pick up on our moods and emotions but they don't seem to get hung up or afraid of them.

     One night when I was feeling quite poorly Pusia came and curled up by my side the whole night. Although it didn't stop her begging for food at 5.30am she obviously felt my discomfort. And another occasion she jumped on me as I was having a heated argument with someone on the phone. It was impossible to stay angry after that.

Gongs and Gatos

     Travel to somewhere like Nepal and you'll see how important the relationship is between animals and humans. Livestock are not only a source of food but the oxen work the land with the humans and the cows are given the sacred freedom to roam the streets.

     One of the most striking memories I have is seeing cats with the monks at Kopan monastery. Cats are treasured for their attachment and ability to create calm amidst turmoil.

     This is something Pusia reminds me of again and again. When she starts to show an interest in the gongs or meditation area then I feel the urge to embrace that opportunity to lay down with her and focus my thoughts.

Pusia investigates the gong.
     One thing's for sure: the moment Pusia senses that there's an opportunity to lie down on the floor together or even simply to sit near to each other then she's ready to join me in a meditation session. It's usually the middle of the afternoon. This is the time when all the serious business of hunting is over and she's looking for a bit of down time.

     It's quite an interesting exercise for me, too, to have to stop whatever I'm doing in the middle of the day. A long time ago, however, I realised that the quality of spending time like this with a cat far outweighs the inconvenience of stopping what you're doing. All that 'busy-ness' will still be there when the meditation's over.

Cue the Cat

     So there it is in a nutshell. Nothing complicated about meditation and mindfulness with cats at all! The fact is that cats are masters at doing nothing. And doing 'nothing' is such an important thing to embrace on a regular basis.

Geshe giving me a sign!
     No one could ever accuse me of having a problem with doing nothing. Meditation, however, is a constructive way of doing nothing but with a positive focus.

     Nowadays I make it my mission to look out for these signs that the cats give me. Does that sound a little nutty? Maybe. But the amount of pleasure I get when a cat surprises me as I sit in a park or when Pusia leaps on me and makes me sit still a little longer is priceless in terms of maintaining my sanity. The Egyptians believed that when a cat appeared on your doorstep it was the spirit of your ancestor looking out for you. In many ways, however you interpret it, I think they had a good point!
     
Embrace the unexpected opportunities.