I’m not a crazy cat lady.
But I do have a cat, or rather, the cat has me.
After 17 years of cat-less life, an unapproachable, wild bush-cat adopted me. In a year and change, this scarred old cat pointed me toward more life lessons than I had managed to learn in four decades.
What happened this past year between me and him is a beautiful and inspiring story of vulnerability and unfolding love. (I’ll let you know when our book will be published.)
Here, I want to talk about compassion and love for every living being on our planet—including ourselves.
If you’re a fur-fan, don’t click away; the cat is part of the story. And if you’re not a fur-fan, don’t click away; the story is not just about the cat.
First thing in the morning, every day, I open my front door to find the cat sitting on my deck.
For a split second, he always has this guarded look in his eyes, as if every morning, he needs to remember that I’m not some dangerous enemy who’s about to hurt him, but the loving human looking after him now. (I think of how difficult it is to let go of old patterns and fears.)
Then his fear fades and love eases in.
He gets up and comes to me, rubbing my legs, urging me to start our morning ritual.
Only in the morning does he wish to be picked up and carried around for a maximum of 10 minutes. Later on, he won’t be having it. (I accept that I cannot always get what I want.)
What started as a simple bonding cuddle soon became my key moment of mindfulness at the start of each day.
He’s a little old and lightweight, so he can sit on one forearm with his bum, his little front paws on one of my fingers each. My right hand will do the stroking and scratching behind the ears. After a couple of minutes, my left arm starts to ache, but I won’t put him down as long as this battered creature needs to be in this calm place of love and protection. (I remember how often I have needed to be in such a place.)
With every stroke, I confirm to him that he’s loveable, loved, and appreciated for the love he gives in return. (Silently, I repeat those words to myself as well.)
With every scratch behind his ear, I let him know that he is no longer an outcast who has to hide in fear of strangers. (With every stroke, I remind myself that every being on this planet is loveable and deserving of a safe place—and that includes me as well.)
With every minute that I don’t put him down—even though I still have a gazillion things to do before yoga class at 7:30 a.m.—I practice patience with this creature, granting him this peaceful moment of 100 percent attention, just for him. (With every minute that I practice patience with this cat, I vow to myself to be patient throughout the day, granting each person my full attention when I am interacting with them. I make a mental note to be patient with myself too, and allow myself some moments of full attention.)
Every time I practice patience, giving someone my full attention, even when it doesn’t really suit or interest me, I’m making a conscious effort not to reject this person. (I remember how often I have felt rejected.)
For years, I have been rejecting others as often as I felt rejected myself. I finally learned that all feelings of rejection come from within us, rooted in a lack of self-love. Each time we consciously do not reject someone else, it is an act of self-love and compassion at the same time.
With every soothing word that I say to my furry friend, I confirm compassion for this creature that once was wild, unloved, filthy, and almost dead. With every little cooing sound, I promise that I will try to practice compassion with all beings who cross my path today. (I will not forget to include myself in this effort to spread the love.)
With every scratch behind his scruffy ears or under his tooth-less jaws, I confirm that there is beauty in every being, regardless of their outer appearance. I vow to seek that inner beauty in all people I meet. (And in myself.)
Taking a few minutes for conscious loving and compassionate thoughts first thing in the morning helps us set our inner compass for the day.
Whether we do this short mindfulness practice with a pet, a partner, a child, or alone on a cushion repeating this Buddhist prayer, it does not matter.
Consciously making the promise every morning to be mindful of the way we treat others (and ourselves)—with attention, patience, and loving-kindness—can help us get through our day in the best possible way, being the best possible version of ourselves.
Have a beautiful day!
Author: Leontien Reedijk
Images: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell