Cat as Mantra
Why I encourage you to sit kitty zazen
Many people think they should meditate, but they find it difficult because they have unrealistic ideas about what meditation is or should be. There is no such thing as making your mind blank or thinking no thoughts. The key in meditation is to let thoughts arise, but to let go of them as quickly as they come up. Don’t follow them down the proverbial rabbit hole, or anything else proverbial. Just stay in the moment, with something you can focus on, like the breath, or a mantra.
One kind of meditation is to intensely focus on an object or an idea. Some Catholic traditions like to focus intently on the bleeding Christ on the cross. This might not work with your religion, but even if it does, you might not find it… calming. Meditation is not necessarily supposed to calm you, but many turn to it for relief of anxiety, and to me, bleeding anything is not anti anxiolytic. For those of you who wish to have an intense yet calming meditation experience, and who have the resources required available, I suggest one of my favorite forms of meditation: kitty zazen.
I started practicing kitty zazen when I would sit zazen (Zen meditation) alone at home during COVID periods when sitting as a group was not possible or advisable. I’ve always preferred sitting with others, but if you are serious about Zen you sit every day, no matter what. I noticed that while I sat, my cat Loviefluffy would become very calm and peaceful, but not asleep. It was like she was doing zazen too.
I started finishing up my meditation periods with an intense time of petting the cat. Loviefluffy loves deep petting, and she will sit still for quite awhile enjoying the cuddles until she signals me that the interview is over by gently biting. At that point it’s time to switch to playing with feather toy, but your cat experience may vary.
While engaging in kitty zazen, in fact what makes it kitty zazen, is that I put my entire focus on the cat. No thinking about what low carb dishes I will make for my upcoming late birthday party. No thinking about cute boys, past, present or future. Definitely no thinking about financial anxiety or my to-do list, my go-to’s when I need some misery in my life. No, just the cat. Nothing but the cat.
Softness of cat. Cat purring. Cat loves under neck scratchies - but who does not? Kitty loves having her human’s full attention on her. Human’s heart rate slows, blood pressure no doubt decreases, and by the time the session is over, all are calm and ready to face the day.
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Some might find a pretty picture, an icon, a potted plant, a tree outside the window, a bird if it’s unusually still, or a spoken mantra like “Shanti shanti peace peace peace” to be more effective than kitty zazen, especially if they (due to some unfortunate circumstance) do not have a cat. Not all cats would be amenable to kitty zazen, and kitty zazen requires a cat who is not only willing but very much enjoys the practice. I do not recommend this with kittens until you have tired them out with about an hour of play with toys. Loveiefluffy is eight now or therabouts and is purrfectly happy to be the object of full loving attention.
It is in many ways like a loving kindness meditation, but I find it easier to focus the loving kindness on a being I love very much who is right there.
If you want to try meditation but struggle with the “right” way to do it, give kitty zazen a try. Your cat will thank you. Happy cat, happy life.
This is the giant ottoman where Loviefluffy sits during kitty zazen, with my meditation cushion next to it. She is surrounded by her favorite kind of catnip toy, YEOWWW! brand, which we highly recommend. She is a catnip expert, and settles for no less than either fresh farm grown nip or this brand. The pineapple is particularly catisfying, I’m told.