ESSAY | SPIRITUALITY | MENTAL HEALTH
My Zen Master
How my cat teaches me to slow down and breathe
I was reading — re-reading actually — Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment this morning for my reading meditation and this quote resonated with me
“I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.”
It struck me that I too have lived with many cat Zen masters. In fact, my current one is named Shugs McGroo. Shugs is a tan polydactyl cat — commonly called Hemingway cats — meaning that he has an extra toe on each of his paws. He is a very lovable cat, enjoys sleeping and playing in boxes and prefers everyday items for toys (rolled up bags, crinkled up tin foil balls, bottle caps, etc.). And each morning, Shugs wants to be held and petted as he sleeps in my arms — I call this our Zen moment.
I believe all of the cats I’ve owned have zoned-in on my anxiety issues and Shugs is no exception. Whenever I am feeling stressed or anxious, he wants to be held, petted and loved. And because he is a good-sized cat, I have to stop everything I am doing just to hold him and pet him. He forces me to slow down, ignore everything around me and just concentrate on him for a while.
And so we do this most mornings — he will lie across my lap, place his head on my right arm and with his eyes closed, he begins to purr. And while petting him with my left hand, before I even realize it, I’ve closed my eyes and timed my breathing to his rhythmic purring. These moments can last but a few minutes or nearly an hour. And once I am as calm as he is, he is ready to hop down and contently walk away.
While I am able to reach a state of calmness through meditation, I do have better results while holding and petting Shugs — racing thoughts become quiet, my heart beat becomes steady and slow, and my breathing is barely recognizable. I truly experience nothingness with Shugs. And what a glorious moment that is!
©2021 Lori Carlson. All Rights Reserved.
I would love to read how others find moments of Zen. If you are interested, leave a comment to let me know how you de-stress, lessen anxiety, or just regroup.
Thank you for reading!
Lori Carlson writes Poetry, Fiction, Articles, Creative Non-Fiction and Personal Essays. Most of her topics are centered around Relationships, Spirituality, Life Lessons, Mental Health, Nature, Loss, Death, and the LGBTQ+ community. Check out her personal Medium blog here.