Animal Teachers

Cats know how to be still. We have a lot to learn from them. Outer stillness can give rise to inner stillness, with practice. The outer stillness is a necessary first step. Then comes the lion-taming bit (learning from bigger cats) where we try to practice becoming a witness to our thoughts. It’s where we try to imagine that we are the blue sky and our thoughts are the clouds. Another analogy is trying to keep a puppy or a toddler on a blanket. They keep wandering off, and our job is to stay calm and gently bring them back. That’s all. This is a process that we practice, not a goal to meet. The benefit of such practice is being able to respond instead of reacting, being able to be patient when previously you wanted to knock someone’s block off. The cause of suffering is our reaction to what happens, not what actually happens. I was walking a golden Labrador on the seafront this morning. He was full of the joys of life. Dogs are so enthusiastic! I had one of those bendy sticks. The plan was that if I was going one direction, I would throw the ball back behind me to increase his exercise. Well, that was Plan A. What actually happened is that the first few times, he didn’t see where the ball went so I had to show him. Then I had some abortive attempts at throwing the ball at all because I had jammed it too hard into the end of the throwing stick. Hmm. What’s the lesson here, I wondered? Might it be about holding on too hard and then not being able to let go? Quite possibly. Also about being out of practice with said stick. So Plan B involved me burning more calories than I expected to (good news) and eventually using a two-handed approach that would have put Tiger Woods (more cat references!) to shame. So it didn’t quite go to plan, but the important thing was that the dog was happy. Me too, considering that (a) it was cold but dry unlike Wednesday morning and (b) my serotonin levels were up with all the extra throwing and walking. A good time had by all.

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