I’m having no trouble living in the moment. You see, I just graduated to the 21st century and got my first smartphone — an iPhone 4. Suddenly I’m in love and completely in the moment! In fact, it’s hard to concentrate on anything — friends and partner are texting, a million conversations and ideas are swirling, I feel so connected.
I think I need to cultivate some calmness.
However, much of what I’ve really learned about about living in the moment is wisdom I’ve learned from my cats and their behavior.
There have been times in my not-so-far past when I’ve worried too much about the future. The past is not such an issue for me. I’m visiting family right now and promoting my new book. When, last night, my brother’s partner asked me whether I remembered the weather in St. Paul, Minnesota, as a child … I drew a blank. I could not remember whether the summer weather was nice, I could not remember playing, or wearing shorts. I do remember long bike rides, but that’s about it. Bizarre.
No, I tend not to hold onto the past. There are parts that I’d rather forget!
I think some of our animals are much like that. For instance, my tough and tender Kali, who just passed over the Rainbow Bridge, had come from from a history of abuse from humans. But she never held it against us. In fact, she preferred humans and dogs to other cats. It took her years to adjust to being in a multicat household.
Other cats in my life have been more impacted by whatever happened in their past. Kieran, our Turkish Van who was dumped at our house on a cold December day in northern Minnesota, has revealed little about his past, but we could tell that he was impacted by whatever he went through. He appeared well cared for and had been neutered by some previous owner. But he was subdued for a few months after we took him in and it took some time to coax out his fun and playful personality. Kieran had to learn to look out windows. We had to teach him how to play. So Kieran did have some issues with his past, like some of us humans do.
Me — I tend to worry more about the future than the past. What’s coming up? How will whatever I’m working on be received? Will I ever make an impact in the world? Sometimes I worry so much about the future that I forget to enjoy the moment. Here’s where cat wisdom comes in.
My cats don’t tense up, waiting for the other shoe to drop. They don’t worry about their luck running out. They live in the moment, enjoying their naps, their play, their meals, the attention we give them. We could learn a thing or two from them.
The last few years have been pretty good to me. But every once in a while, I catch a negative or cautious thought trying to sneak in, like:
- "Enjoy the good because it won’t always be good."
- “What goes up must come down."
- "Enjoy this while it lasts."
- "You’re so lucky."
I credit yoga and awareness for helping me catch these thoughts before they turn into something more. I mean — why? "What goes up must keep going up" could be just as true as "What goes up must come down," so why not pick the more positive statement? It improves my mood, which may even affect the likelihood of more good stuff happening.
I said to my husband today, "I’m really feeling very lucky." But he said, "Luck has nothing to do with it. You worked hard for years." Actually, I think the truth is somewhere in between.
My orange fat-faced cat Chester gets up in the morning. He doesn’t entertain the thought of luck running out. Chester jumps on the bed, purrs, sticks his fat-cheeked face up to ours, and gives us a "murph." ("Murph" is a little sound he makes when he’s hungry.) At night, Chester likes to sit on my husband’s chest, as we get ready to fall asleep, and stare adoringly into my husband’s eyes. Then, they play a cool game. My husband will open his mouth in a half-yawn. Chester, if in the mood, will put a fat orange paw quickly in my husband’s mouth, and then withdraw the paw. Maybe. Only if Chester feels like it.
I laugh. Husband smiles. Chester stares adoringly into husband’s eyes.
Chester’s enjoying the moment. Getting rid of stingy thinking and staying in the present helps me enjoy the moment, and my whole life, more.
If all else fails, let your cats help you laugh. That will bring you into the present faster than anything else I know.
How do your cats help you stay in the moment? How do they make your life better? Share your stories!
This is an expanded excerpt from Catherine Holm’s new book Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time — a memoir of life, love, and the human/animal-companion bond. It’s available at www.catherineholm.com.