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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The 3 Best Things in Life

As I try to write this, one of the best things in life is currently sitting his black furry bottom directly in front of my screen. Make me the No. 1 Bestest Thing Ever, says Sid. Okay, no problem. I definitely believe that cats are God’s best invention. I was trying to do my end of year tax return this week, and Felicity insisted on sitting on my knee, which meant that I had to type with one hand while the other hand stopped her from slipping off. I have to say Knee Cats should be part of every stressed office. It would bring down the nation’s blood pressure by ten points per session. Health Minister (whoever you are – I don’t watch the news) take note! There was a psychiatrist called David Hawkins who used kinesiology to measure the vibrational level of various feelings and states. Love was measured at 500 out of 1000, and a cat’s purr was at 540. So there you go. Scientific proof that cats are good for you! The second most wonderful invention in life is the book. I love books. Just today I went into yet another wormhole of a different space-time continuum (“I’l just pop into the library for 5 minutes to collect a reserve”) and staggered out with a large basket of books an hour later. You are allowed take out 12 books at a time now. 12! And sometimes if I am stuck the library staff let me take out an extra couple as well, just in case! It’s a whole universe of possibilities. The third best invention in life is chocolate. I have been vegetarian most of my life but went vegan a year ago. I was a bit worried about my chocolate intake but have been able to relax by keeping about 6 bars of dark chocolate hidden from myself in the press. As Homer might say, Mmmmm….chocolate! Okay, that’s it, I have to go and have some chocolate now, while reading a book and with at least one cat on my person. Could Nirvana be any better than this?!Nov & 8 Dec 2015 566

Rewards for the Listening Ear

Many moons ago, I had a boyfriend who was into electronics. His parents were renovating a house and we lived there rent-free in return for keeping it safe while his uncle worked on it. The uncle was a nice man but fond of the drink so living conditions were a bit unpredictable. There might be water or electricity, or not. The boyfriend had more oven timers than you could shake a stick at. These days he’d be arrested for terrorism but he was only interested in automating the music playing. He wired up the record player to an oven timer so that you could wake up to hear Louis Armstrong or Tom Waits. Another oven timer switched on the coffee maker. It was like living with Wallace and Grommit. I think he liked inventing electrical circuits to relieve the boredom of his job. Anyway, some of the gadgetry must have rubbed off because I have a vintage amplifier to which I had attached a dvd player to play cds. The dvd player coughed and died so off I went to Curry’s last week to get a new replacement dvd player. Two young male assistants were hovering around a man who wanted to buy headphones. I hovered myself, hoping to detach one of them to get me what I had chosen, but no joy. I approached a girl and asked “Do you work here?” She pointed to a badge and said “I’m on work experience. Why, what’s wrong with you?” I assured her it was okay and went on my way, musing that there is a big difference between “What’s wrong with you?” and “How can I help you?” I wondered what the likelihood was of her getting an actual paid job. Not that there are many of those for all those young people who have gone through years of college only to end up doing “internships.” Yeah, right. The last I heard, having to work for free was called slavery. Anyway, I eventually located the item, paid and then went to another shop to look for a roller blind. “What size do you need?” asked the assistant. A reasonable question. I had cunningly written down the measurements and forgotten to bring them with me thanks to the Brainopause. I decided to chance buying one anyway, and on my way to the till, I heard a girl saying to another assistant “….so I said to her, that’s my facecloth, why is there a guinea pig sitting on it?” At that point, I thought it was time to go home and rest my ears.

The Comfort of Old Friends

On Saturday I met my friend for lunch. We met at secondary school many, many years ago. We were in the same class. I distinctly remember being behind her on the stairs and noticing with awe and admiration her high heeled blue shoes which were anything but regulation school wear. She still has great shoe sense and I still admire her greatly. As we chat, we invariably say “I can’t believe that was twenty/thirty/forty years ago!” It does indeed seem unbelievable to both of us, because inside we feel eternally young. Personally, I feel like I am about thirty one inside: old enough to be gaining perspective on existential angst, young enough to do cartwheels, although I was never great at them. I notice that these days, my mind is better able to grasp complexities but there is the occasional click of neck or knee to remind me that time is moving on for my body. I also notice that it takes a lot more maintenance than previously to keep my body working as well as it can! I used to do yoga once a week. It was optional. Now I do it every day and it’s not optional – I seize up if I don’t do it! However, on the positive side, I recently started learning Tai chi and I absolutely love it. I had tried to learn it years ago but didn’t stick with it. This time around, I have found a class that is ongoing, with really committed teachers, and I am in it for the long haul. When I am doing Tai chi, time stops. I am completely focused on trying to do the movements correctly and in the correct sequence, and my mind is at rest. It is meditation in motion. There is a palpable sense of peace in the room. It was one of the things my friend and I chatted about at lunch. Another thing we giggled over was how Sister Camillus told us to go our separate ways when we ended up in different classes, and that she didn’t want to see us trying to keep in contact on our lunch breaks. Yeah, right. Great judge of people she was! Oh it’s great to be grown up and mature all right!

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The Wisdom of Cats

Cats are God’s best invention. They are warm, furry and funny. Is there anything better than putting a purring cat to your ear and listening to the sound of happiness? Talk about sound therapy to heal the heart and soul! We can learn a lot from how cats spend their day. Get up and stretch. (Activate muscles and open energy channels.) Big yawn. (Release tension from the jaw.) Go out for a ramble. (Fresh air and exercise.) Come back in and be served food. (Manifestation of good-quality staff.) Go for a power nap. (Don’t overdo it.) Get up and stretch. (Stay flexible.) Nibble on some food. (Eat small and often.) Go out and catch sparrow as gift for Mammy. (Use God-given talents.) Watch Mammy in disbelief as she rejects gift and instead successfully resuscitates sparrow from near-death experience by giving him healing energy. (Educate Mammy in higher healing arts.) Watch Mammy with exasperation  as she runs out door with chirping sparrow wrapped in kitchen towel. (Create exercise program for Mammy.) Watch Mammy in puzzlement as she adds revived sparrow to her miracle list. (Create spiritual growth opportunity for Mammy.) Throw back leg over shoulder to clean bum while considering that Mammy needs to get out more. (Attend to physical and mental hygiene.) See what I mean? Cats are God’s best invention.