A zen life with cats.

How about I tell you a story of my two spiritual teachers…?

I had always been fond of dogs until I came upon the two kittens.  A petite Persian feline was lying down quietly with her brother among other puppies, who barked to be fed, let out, or simply gain attention.  Like a flash, I completely tuned out the noise of the canines.. and was mesmerized by her tranquil gaze.  Her tiny body hidden in soft fur didn’t seem to be fazed.  In a moment of stillness, I allowed myself to gather some thoughts and assess the possibilities of becoming a cat person overnight.  The following day… the brother was already taken, left alone the little female cat.  Without a second thought, I took her back with me… 

It didn’t take her long until she got familiar and lived comfortably in my space.  Due to her natural curiosity and vitality, I named her ‘Robin’, which sounds neither masculine nor feminine.  I had set the intention from the start that I would be so careful in every step of raising her.  I thought.. perhaps this was a means to distract me from reminiscing of my dogs, whom I didn’t really pay much attention to…  So when it’s time for her to explore the other world, I won’t be filled with remorse and rethink the way I treat her.  As she had grown up, she became so attached to me that she would tail after me every corner of the house.

To this day, she still does the exact same thing.

Being afraid that Robin would have felt abandoned when I went to work or took a vacation, I decided to take in another feline friend… knowing that she might have been absolutely fine by herself…  Again, things often didn’t go as planned!  I was going to adopt one charming and witty Persian kitty, yet he appeared to be overly playful and probably wouldn’t have been a suitable match for Robin.. or would have got along too well with her, who was already exceedingly energetic as a cat. 

Hence, I made a decision which I’ve never regretted a single day.

Surprising everyone, I opted for the less healthy-looking and low-energy kitten.  With his serene facial expressions and placid nature, the name ‘La Mer’ (or ’the sea’ in French) came to mind. 

La Mer ceaselessly leans toward the sweet and kind spectrum, whereas Robin is inclined to the darker dimensions.  Given equal amount of attention as compared to Robin, he turned out to be far less attached to me.  Perhaps.. he is a true zen master. 

Zen meditation has long been linked to mental practices, yet we can’t reach enlightenment without having the right postures and getting comfortable with those tight sensations.  This mind-body connection gives us an opportunity to ease our body, follow the breathe, observe it, return the awareness to the source, and purify our thoughts.

At the end of the day, any emotional attachments need to be released.

With that said… oftentimes, I shy away from animals (or persons) who are overly needy or clingy.  Instead.. relish every moment spent with these two smallest felines who either nap or destroy furnitures…

Unlike dogs, cats make us feel like they don’t really care about anyone or anything.  Yet, their stony facial expressions make them not only mysterious but also extremely at ease.  Despite the fact that cats in general don’t always crave attention, they come and purr next to you every now and then (yes, only if they feel safe and comfortable around you).  Their calm gestures make me feel relaxed after a long day of work.  There is something about their unruffled movements that resonate with the zen practices.  It seems almost like their minds purposefully guide each motion and consequently form captivating movement patterns.

Five physical activities I learned from the feline zen masters:

// massage me or pillows //

Nobody knows exactly why cats knead a surface or us.  It could be that they are trying to mark territory, comfort themselves from stress, associate with kittenhood and their mothers, or unpretentiously get our attention.  Closing their eyes while performing a massage, they simply do one thing at a time, slowly, and deliberately.  It’s pleasant and calming to look at cat massage.. just like when they clean themselves with their eyes closed…

// stare intently at the (unknown) target //

Cats oftentimes look fixedly at something; their tails may begin to wag.  If a moving creature catches their eyes, it may take a really long time to draw it away from them.  I can’t help but think that they are contemplating only the task at hand and entirely ignoring external matters.  When the annoyance evaporates, they utterly let go of the internal grasping.

// try to fit into tight spaces //

We often see cats squeezing themselves into a tiny box or jumping onto the highest cabinet they could reach…  Their naturally curious souls aren’t afraid to do things when they’re handed favourable circumstances.  They have a high level of tolerance and persistence, even if they fail along the way.  Likewise, humans make mistakes and face setbacks every now and then.  Merely the successful ones learn from failures, forgive themselves (and others), take risks, jump into opportunities, and find their ways to the top.  By avoiding those hurdles, we can’t truly move forward or overcome adversities.  It’s okay to invite them in.  Just let it come, let it stay, and let it go…

// purr in their sleep //

Seeing them purr as they drift off into sleep, I observed a deep-breathing pattern that resonates with the movement of the belly (rising and falling).  Unlike other types of meditation, zen buddhism leads us to bring awareness to the lower abdomen, not the upper part of the body.  Noticing what triggers us to be anxious or angry and moving the awareness from the head (or from the heart) down to the belly (or even better, to the sole of your feet), this allows our mind and centre to cool off as we slowly regain our composure.

// stay still in every posture and smoothly transition in between //

No matter how destructive they can be, it seems that they never cease to perform the zen-like manners.  Every gesture and posture matters and is full of intention and preparedness.  Each of their smooth movements strikes me as peculiar that they might have designed those patterns ahead of time.  Having a mastermind (or just an instinct), Robin seems to follow her morning rituals as she wakes me up pretty much the same time everyday.  I literally don’t set my alarm clock anymore.  Forming visions and creating routines don’t just save us an enormous amount of time, yet entice us to give entire attention to what we do in the present moment. 

Hearing the scratching sounds in the morning, I get up and raise the blinds.. then follow her gaze to the outside of the room…

zen master // robin
zen master // la mer

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