So many of you following my blogs know that I write articles about yoga, movement, learning and resiliency. So what do cat tales have to do with any of this?

Let me explain. Yesterday, I woke up to my cat, Bhakti’s meows—“wake up time”—(with a cat who needs an alarm?) and walked into my kitchen only to find that Bhakti had opened a cupboard door and spilled Windex all over the kitchen floor. After cleaning up that ammonia blue mess, I walked into the living room to find throw up (hers of course) in three places. At that point, I realized there was a not so subtle clue to the day that had to do with cleaning—duly noted, but I hadn’t even gotten to the normal morning routines, let alone my coffee. Next stop was going downstairs to the complex’s laundry room to do a load of laundry. Bhakti meanwhile was letting me know in no uncertain, very obnoxious, loud meows that our normal routine was off.

A “normal” day begins with hugs, cleaning her litter box and some other bathroom chores. Then we head off to the kitchen for snacks, cleaning her bowls, giving her clean water, feeding her and taking care of some of my own dietary morning needs. After another short stint in the bathroom, it is usually time for meditation. Now pretty much anyone who has met me either personally or professionally knows that I’ve had a meditation practice for many decades, but most people don’t know that Bhakti has a serious meditation practice and that the day pretty much starts with her sitting on my lap while I light the incense and candle. She purrs her mantras while I recite mine in Sanskrit.  If we don’t meditate by a certain time, things get pretty chaotic in Bhakti’s world and the loud meows and disruptive behavior are irritating and annoying at best.

Now, am I bad? Yes. When I adopted her at seven years old (she is now fifteen), she had a perfectly good American name, “Bailey Marie”. But I had to go and change it to “Bhakti” which is a Yogic path and in Sanskrit means devotional love. So now I have her hooked on meditation and a timely routine. You might ask, “What is wrong with that? I wish I could teach my children to meditate, let alone my cat or dog!”

I’ll get to that point in a minute. Meanwhile my day was gloriously deteriorating. After putting a load in the laundry room downstairs instead of meditating, I thought I’d jump in the shower and wash my hair. Bhakti was loudly meowing her disapproval when I turned on the water in the shower to nothing. Well, a tiny dribble of water. I tinkered with the showerhead for about 5 minutes and finally gave up and started filling up the tub. The only problem is that I have long hair and I couldn’t negotiate my hair and shampooing it with the tub faucet. Now Bhakti was meowing and banging on the door to join me. That was the last thing I needed—a wet cat trying to meditate in a full tub of water!!! Somehow I got my hair washed and rinsed and a half hour later, we did indeed get to meditate and the rest of my day actually worked out quite well.

As I reflected on this day, I noted that so many of the classes I teach about yoga, movement, creativity and resilience are about the business of finding both internal and external ways of expressing these components in daily life for grounding and staying centered, especially in the midst of chaos. I realized that Bhakti and her devotion serve as great reminders of how a daily practice can help us stay centered when everything else may fall apart around us and that we all need practices that can take us to that quiet, peaceful place.

Honing resilience is not just about surviving, but invites us to become triumphant in areas where we might give up or become complacent and for that we need tools (practices) that keep us moving forward no matter what the setbacks are, big or small. I think cats are a great reminder of this. They are ornery, mischievous, never do what they’re told, are known for having nine lives and their greatest weapon of all is purring. Mine just happens to purr in Sanskrit.

In feline smiles,

7 Responses

  1. Totally awesome blog post. You are a magnificent writer, Francoise. I love your story and your sense of humor.
    My cat, Ollie (he’s a stray who adopted us in summer 2012), lies on my bed when I meditate, but he does not participate. He’s a night neighborhood prowler (we could not break him of that), so he has to get his beauty rest during the day so he’s bright and bushy-tailed for his
    night life. No meditation for him!

  2. Thank you for sharing a description of your day. we’re cat people and this made sense on many levels – the reminder to take care of what’s important before anything else, for one. Hmmm . . .purring in Sanskrit!

  3. Francoise – This post is yet another reminder that laughter at our world, of ourselves, because of the cat, etc. is an essential component in our lives. Therefore, this “practice” should also be transferred to our classroom. Not only does it break down our inhibitions, but it allows us to look at the world with new perspective. (I’m a cat-girl, so that’s another bonus from this story! )

  4. We have all had one of those days. I get two things out of days like this that are useful in the classroom. The first is that I need to be sympathetic when students have these days and cut them a little slack. Secondly, students should know that life still goes on and they need to be able to persevere even when things get tough. Anyone can excel in the best of conditions but where people really show their true colors is in how they handle adversity.

  5. So true, we all have disturbances in our lives that throw us, but you pick yourself up and you move on- because that’s what you do in life. You give up or give it your all! Even in the small events a lot can be taken from it!

  6. Lesson learned. With relfection we can take something positive out of almost any situation. I try to use this approach in my classroom. When life throws you a curve ball, which happens almost every day at school, pay attention and take time to reflect. Think about what has happened and look at the situation from different perspectives. You will be able to respond to the situation in a positive manner.

  7. I find the idea of routine very interesting. A few years ago I read a book written by an Oncologist called “The End Of Illness”…What your blog reminded me of was how much he talked about routine and health. Whether it be sleeping routine…eating routines, etc. We all have a rhythm and when it gets disrupted we usually feel it.

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