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The More Difficult Way: Life Lessons From My Cats

I have a practice that I like to do at night before bed. I choose a card from my mudra deck and sit in a brief meditation, holding the mudra from the card that I’ve chosen and focusing on the accompanying mantra. (More on this later - but first a story about my cats.)

Last night, while sitting in this practice on my bed, I was jolted back to awareness as I heard the sounds of struggle beside me. I peeked open my left eye to see what was happening, and at first glance, I saw nothing. Then my eye caught sight of my black cat, Cooper, looking curiously at the side of the bed. So I opened my eye fully to see that there was a moving lump under the covers. I lifted said covers to find my orange cat, Carlos, hanging off the edge by his toes; chin barely over the top of the mattress. He had decided to join us on the bed by scaling up the side of the mattress underneath the layers of heavy winter blankets. This choice of course, was instead of just jumping easily from the floor to the top of the bed in the more conventional fashion.

While this certainly gave me a good chuckle (seriously, I couldn’t stop giggling thinking about his tiny face and the look of determination to see this plan through despite all odds), it also made me think about how this is a great metaphor for how we sometimes make choices in life. It also reminded me to laugh more. Even at myself.

This is not a photo from the actual moment, but this is the face you should be picturing along with this story. Pictured here is a similar look of determination along with the knowledge that I am about to crush his dreams by removing him from my sink so that I can brush my teeth. I know... I'm a monster!

Generally, if we were asked if we would choose the easier or more difficult ways of doing things, we would likely answer that we’d choose the easier options. However, this is not always what happens in actuality. Even though it may not seem so in the moment, we do have a lot of choice in how things play out in our lives. If we could pause time and look at how our decisions would create a chain of events and where we would end up, we might opt to act - or react - differently in that moment.

While we don’t have the ability to do this completely, we do have the ability to pause and think about whether this action/choice/decision is in alignment with the energy of how we would like to see things play out. To be fair, sometimes the more difficult way brings with it a lot of fun, and absolutely many lessons to learn along the way. I'm not suggesting that we always have to choose the easiest way, or that we always have an accessible option to do so. But we do have the ability to be more conscious in our decision making.

In fact, the more conscious - or present - we are in our lives, the more control we actually have. Many of us (myself at times absolutely included) spend the majority of our time reliving our past over and over in our minds. Similarly, some of us spend the majority of our time creating the vision of our ideal future in our minds. In actuality, neither of these times exist in this moment and therefore we are unable to make any alterations to them. We can only make choices in the present that alter the course of our future, or heal the wounds of our past. This is where we have control. And we access this by loosening our grip on both the past and the future. We access this through our breath. Through our Spiritual practices. Through exercise and laughter. In the stillness of each moment. Mindfulness. Presence in our lives. Even the silly moments.

As Carlos successfully (!! I know) scaled the side of the bed and settled in next to me, I returned to my mudra and my mantra. I, however, was not so successful. As I mentioned above, I got a major case of the giggles and kept picturing that sweet face hanging off the side of the bed in absolute determination. For a few seconds, I tried to fight it and get serious again with my silence. Then I got a little frustrated with myself and also with the interruption. But quickly remembered that these are the moments we practice for. We don't live our lives quietly and cozily propped up on pillows, enjoying the silence. We drive our cars in traffic and wait in long lines at the grocery store and go about our days with the noise of our neighbors and loved ones all around us; often interrupting whatever very important thing we happen to be doing at that very moment.

And to not leave out Cooper - because he is probably the most frequent offender of interrupting my serious grown-up lady doings - here is a photo of him sitting on my face while I attempt to work.

Cooper is one of the sweetest and most lovable cats there ever could be. He is also a complete asshole. There is very little in between these two states of being besides asleep. And because of this, he is one of my greatest teachers. If you would like a smack you in the face lesson on compassion or patience, or persistence, or complete and utter unconditional love - come spend time with Cooper. I am 100% confident that he will frequent my blog posts and share his feline wisdom.

Cats, or babies, or super annoying co-workers can provide a lot of insight for us. They provide countless opportunities for us to keep returning to a space of patience and gratitude. They help us learn empathy and they absolutely help us see the pieces of ourselves that we are not compassionate with. And so we practice. Or at least that is how I do it.

I love to share my tools and learn about the tools that others use. As one of my trusted mentors frequently quotes "sharing is caring." I very much agree (in most cases... LOL). So what's the deal with the mudras?

A couple of years ago, I co-hosted a healing ReTreat in Sedona, AZ. As part of the ReTreat, we took the participants to a metaphysical store and had them partake in an activity that is one of my favorite ways to receive messages. When I was in college, I had an assignment to go to a library or bookstore, walk to the art book section (I was getting my degree in art education at the time), and pick a random book off the shelf. I was then to use that book to inspire an art lesson that I would write for my homework that week. This practice really resonated with me and I have used various iterations of it more times than I can count.

I have since learned that there is far more to this practice than random selection, and it is a great way to practice tuning into our intuition. Anyway, during the ReTreat, we brought the participants to the metaphysical store and had them practice receiving intuitive messages by following their guidance to different books or decks of cards, or other items in the store and then opening to a "random" page - or whatever one they were drawn to or pulled towards - and read the message there. We participated with the group and I was very drawn to this deck of cards. So much so, that when I finally left it, my ReTreat co-host, Amy, actually bought it for me as a gift.

I use the cards and accompanying book in many different ways. I often pull out the book (which has all the same info as the cards with the addition of a visualization to accompany the mudra and mantra) and take it with me when I travel so that I can continue this practice on the road.

Sometimes I use the pull a "random" card method. Sometimes I am intuitively guided to a particular number which I use to find the specific card for my practice that day, and other times I am drawn to a color (the mudras are aligned with the colors of the 7 major chakras which associate with the energy that each tap into) or am looking for something specific. There are many ways in which you can work with them. I like that this practice incorporates body, mind, and Spirit or energy and that I can practice for as long or as little time as I have and still feel the benefits. Even when it is only mere seconds because I am interrupted by my adventurous cat taking the hard way, and a fit of giggles. Instead of letting this annoy me, I am choosing to find gratitude for the hilarity of it all as well as the insights it has brought me.

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