What my cat has taught me about living a yogic life. By Meg Jackson
Almost exactly a year ago we got a cat. Actually, that’s not true. Almost a year ago a cat chose us as adequate humans, allowed us to feed her for a while, and decided to move in.
From being a homeless, scrawny ginger tabby, with infected ears, and permanently exhausted as a result of living on the streets, Hari has definitely grown into her role as the focal-point of our little family. (Albeit a focal-point that is slightly podgier, still with troublesome ears, and thanks to a more nurtured lifestyle now only sleeps 23 hours a day…)
As well as spending a lot of my day gazing lovingly at her, texting my partner photographs of her looking cute, and kidding myself that she loves me for more than my residual body heat on a chilly day, I’ve come to notice that her way of life actually has quite a lot I could learn from.
(A little disclaimer to begin: Of course, I realise I am making assumptions about what is going on in my little feline friend’s head and yes there could be a bit of anthropomorphism going on, but if her actions make me contemplate my own, that’s got to be a good thing – right?)
Live in the moment
Hari gets fed twice a day but has no concept that it’s a good idea if she makes her food last as long as possible. Despite repeating the same pattern every single day, we know she’ll be ‘starving’ by 4.30pm and so commences a tedious game of ‘Ooh you’re going to the kitchen it must be time for dinner’ for the next four hours. But she is totally in the moment. If she’s hungry she’s going to eat. If she’s bored, she’ll go out. Past or future is irrelevant, and she certainly doesn’t let it influence what she’s doing now.
Listen to your body
There could be a piñata full of the tastiest cat treats known to feline kind hanging off the curtain rail, or a new ball of string that’s primed to be batted underneath the furniture, but when Hari knows she needs to nap that’s exactly what will happen. She listens to her body and knows when she needs to rest, when she needs to eat, and when she needs to have a bath.
Do what makes you happy
There’s more to it than that; try and let that happiness be all consuming. We have our pre-bed playtime every night, as demanded by Her Furiness. When Hari is stalking, pouncing, biting, and pummelling her favourite piece of ribbon she is absolutely in her element. She doesn’t care how daft she looks, or whether she’s doing it right, she just knows that it’s fun. Plus, the more fun she has the more fun we have; by her throwing herself (literally) into it, she gives us permission to do the same.
Believe that you deserve to live your best life
Regardless of the situation you’re in right now, can you remain open to the amazing opportunities that may present themselves to you at any moment? Living with two vegetarians means the chances of Hari getting her chops into something carnivorous are fairly few. I like to think she never stopped believing and The Universe delivered accordingly when, just a few evenings ago, I walked into the kitchen to find her lovingly licking a big slab of meaty pâté some friends had brought over with them for a gathering we were having. Dreams do come true!
Never stop learning
Screwed up balls of paper; lengths of string; bits of ribbon; a furry keyring; tassels on a rug; a leaf – just some of Hari’s favourite things to play with. Unless you keep trying, keep investigating, and keep experimenting you may miss the next awesome thing to come into your life. Sure, it may look like a boring old hairbrush or shoelace to begin with but until you give it a swipe you have no idea of how much it might change your perceptions and open up a bunch of new exciting possibilities.
Humans is humans
Hari gets to meet a bunch of different people during her day-to-day life; our friends, delivery drivers; takeaway delivery people and so on, yet I’ve never seen her treat any of them differently. She’ll walk up to them, then give them the opportunity to prove themselves as a decent human (i.e. a cat person) or not. Either way, it’s their choice and definitely no skin off her pink little nose. She reminds me how I shouldn’t judge others.
Been still? Stretch
Whenever you’ve been still for a while, get up and move. Simple. When I think about it pretty much every animal does it as the first thing after they’ve been sleeping, or even just haven’t moved for a while. It’s never rushed, it’s never over-thought, she’s never making it complicated and thinking (as far as I know): ‘Right – that’s my right trapezius done, better make sure I do the left one…’ she just finds what feels good, does it for as long as it takes, and it always looks so satisfying.
Find pleasure in the simple things
I know I am not alone in, as a cat guardian (never an owner – see why below), rolling my eyes as Hari pays more attention to the box that contained a ridiculously expensive cat toy, than the actual toy. If there was ever a reminder to find pleasure in the simple things, this is it. She has no idea what her reaction is supposed to be, or that something with more value on it is meant to be better, so goes with what she likes best.
Everything will change
When Hari first arrived into our lives, my partner nervously asked me “now we are her owners, how do we make sure she doesn’t go and live with someone else?” He had been a dog person up until that point, so it took a while for me to explain that if cats want to go and live with your neighbours/an old lady/under the hedge then they just will. There’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. You never really own them; you’re their source of food and care and comfort, and you hope they continue to choose you as that source for a long time. Trying to influence all the possible scenarios that could see them packing their little cat suitcase and deciding to move out, is impossible. So we take great delight in every day we have with her, and whilst we do what we sensibly can to keep her safe, we know that in reality we have absolutely no control over her life-choices.
Balance is not being still
Even if you’re not familiar with a feline, you’ll know that a cat is always supposed to land on its feet. When she’s not napping, Hari decides to scare me senseless by walking along the narrowest and highest walls she can find. But maintaining her balance is far from keeping still – she’s always responding to movement with movement.
If she wants to make sure she won’t be the next embarrassing video on YouTube, she can’t resist the forces being flung at her; she has to meet each one and respond in an appropriate way. Oh, and
keep breathing. Well, you’ve never seen a cat hold their breath, have you?
Meg Jackson is the founder of Real Life Yoga – a movement to help real people bring a little (or a lot) of yoga into their real lives. Join her classes in South London, her workshops around the country, and (coming soon) retreats around the world. Oh and you can buy her clothes too. Find out more: reallifeyoga.net