When I was training to become a certified yoga teacher, we studied and practiced meditation. I had never paid attention to this practice before, but it is a regular part of my life now. Meditation comes in many forms and styles, and it can be as simple as you need it to be. It’s now a crucial part of my day. If I don’t do it, I notice.
There are a lot of ways to meditate. Some people use guided meditation, for example. In my training, we learned that meditation is simply a practice of bringing your mind back (and back and back) to a single point of focus. Our minds are noisy and busy, and there is proven benefit to training the brain to go through this process. Some refer to meditation as “emptying the mind,” but I think it’s more accurate to say that meditation really is a way of bringing the mind back (over and over again) to a centering place.
People do this in a number of ways — reciting a simple phrase or mantra silently, or staring at a candle, or simply breathing deeply and returning the focus over and over again to the breath. It is a process, and it’s never completely mastered, but the practice of this process is powerful.
As I continued to meditate (usually daily, in the morning, at home), I began to realize that my cats actually had a lot to show me about meditation. Directly, or indirectly, my cats have really improved my meditation practice. How?
Every cat guardian knows this is true. I’m smiling as I think about it; cats have the most amazing focus possible. Just watching my cats in action reminds me how to meditate better. My cat Norton is a very wise master in this way. He simply will not forget about something that he wants. He can get distracted, but his focus will return again and again to that thing he wants (a Christmas tree ornament, a toy, you name it). He’s so focused that he has to be watched, so he doesn’t get into something that would hurt him.
When I wake up, I usually head right to my special spot to meditate, because I happen to really like meditating before the demands of the day intrude. The cats run after me, wailing and expecting to be fed. But I have learned that if I feed them first, I’m already more distracted than I want to be. So I sit down on my yoga mat. The cats actually calm down real fast when they figure out that breakfast is going to have to wait for a moment. (I’m not really sure how long I sit for — it might be five minutes; sometimes a half-hour.) I find myself more and more motivated to get to the meditation first, thanks to the cats.
Once I sit down, the cats’ transformation is amazing. Some will come and sit with me quietly. It’s as if the practice of meditation brings an instant calmness over the house. I can feel it, and I think they do, too.
I’ve been doing yoga for several years now, and breathing and meditation are part of yoga. If I’m sitting, and a cat is sitting calmly next to me, before I know it, I’m stroking the cat and getting relaxed. My breathing slows and I know my mind quiets. I may not actually be consciously doing meditation, but any chance for the mind to get quiet is a good thing.
Clever cats — when they sit on my lap, I’ve been guilty of not wanting to get up and thereby make them move. I know there are others who would get up easily and just put the cat down, but I often don’t. So, I’m forced to stay doing what I’m doing, or be still. And sometimes, I meditate again, regardless of the time of day. Cats sure do seem to have a natural talent for meditating — and a great way of getting me to meditate.
Do you meditate? Do your cats join in? Have they helped you meditate better, and how? Tell us in the comments!
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.