Oct 30

Bowtie I will miss you

Bowtie came into my life in July 2010 and has now left it on October 30, 2012. He embodied “animal as teacher” with his overflowing affection and love during the 2 years and three months that our lives were intertwined.

I have never had a cat who was so friendly, social and vocal. He loved to sleep on my lap, have his belly, chin and ears rubbed and quite often would sleep alongside me with his head resting on the same pillow as mine.

Having come into my life as an outdoor cat, spending time outdoors seemed to be his nectar and raison d’etre. Being nocturnal, he liked to go out when I got home from work and then most mornings would wake me up to go outside for a little while at around 5 am. Ever so sadly, this morning going outside at that time when it is completely dark at this time of year until 7 am meant that he was attacked and killed by a coyote right across the street from my house in a residential and not rural neighborhood. Animal control came and said that it was definitely a coyote and that they run the area between Kent Field a mile to my east and the golf course that is alongside a bike path a mile to my west.

I am truly heartbroken to lose him and know that all the people who say you should never let your animal outside will say I told you so but having lived outdoors before “adopting” me, I found it impossible to keep him inside. That being the case, his life lasted about 7 years – what I think is the precise average for a pet cat who isn’t kept inside the house.

Geneen Roth wrote a beautiful and funny book about a cat that adopted her called “The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It: Over the Edge and Back with My Dad, My Cat, and Me” and in it is a beautiful eulogy for her cat which I will look for and append to this post when I stop crying long enough to find it. Ah, I am still crying but down below is the eulogy.

Rest in Peace Bowtie – I will love you forever. And I will treasure the lessons I learned from you, including the importance of living in the now and sharing kindness and love daily without fail until the chance to share is no more. For that at least, I have no regrets.

Here is the eulogy:

“You cannot see me splayed in the sunroom looking as if I am surfing on a wave of light, you cannot see me lapping up the dripping water in the bathtub, curled on the couch in the TV room, or snoring in the laundry basket. This deceives you into believing that I am not here. But you are only looking with your physical eyes. Look again. Look with the eyes beneath your eyes. The quivering light beneath what you call your life. As you are beginning to discover, it is what you can see with those eyes, that is most compelling. It’s time to begin living the shimmering, glimmering, sunlit life you gave me, but haven’t let yourself fully inhabit.
Everybody knows I had a better life and death than most people on the planet. Between the acupuncturists and the psychics, being hand-fed and carried everywhere, having mice heads to eat, dogs to chase, fences to jump, and corn on the cob to nibble on, there was nothing the physical world didn’t offer for my pleasure. And who wouldn’t want a death like mine? Carried around in a cashmere snuggly, touched sweetly, until my last breath with a Zen priest and a pearly Godmother chanting softly beside me.
All that was good, but the pleasures of the physical world;  jeweled collars and sparkly necklaces, downy blankets and soft salmon flakes, were not the real treasure, it was the love. It was always the love. It was the fact that you delighted every time you saw me. Every time, for seventeen and a half years, I knew just by walking into a room, your heart would fling out streamers of joy. So I kept walking, so that your heart could keep flinging. And I kept putting my paws on your face, so that your body could keep relaxing. And I kept purring, so you would know there was safety in this world. But it wasn’t me, any more than it was the jeweled collars, it was you. It was always you.
You used to mistake the symbol of the treasure, for the treasure. The marker for the thing itself. The gift from God, for God. As if all you could possibly hope for, was a thing you could touch, a token, rather than all of shining existence. Since you hadn’t let yourself know that shimmering fully, you kept turning to what reminded you of it, glitter and bobbles and sparkles. As if having those was having the real thing. As if that was the best you could do.
It was time for me to go. I told you I would stay until you were strong enough to live without me. And I did. And you are. Until your heart spread like dragonfly wings, until you didn’t need me to know that you had a heart. As long as I was in a physical body, you relied on me. You believed I was the locus of that love. Now you can find out for yourself what is true.
Do not grieve for me, I am in a place where tuna fish juice flows like water, where I can jump like the wind, and every place is silky and sunny. If you must, grieve for what you won’t allow yourself to have, grieve for all the ways you separate yourself from this radiance, from lying down in the sun, on a patch of grass, on any old day, and from knowing you are beloved on this Earth.
Thank you, it’s been my pleasure to be with you, may you know you are beloved on the Earth. ”

-Geneen Roth, “The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It: Over the Edge and Back with My Dad, My Cat, and Me”

Jan 04

Lessons Learned From My Cat

Cat, my cat,
You cry for constant affection.
I have affection plus compassion.
Stop crying,
Start smiling.
I tell you a supreme secret:
“I treasure your dependence.”
Excerpt from Animal Kingdom by Sri Chinmoy

For six months I have been a Mama to a Siamese cat that I adopted because he was living on the street, primarily in my backyard.  Having lived alone for almost ten years and having never been a pet owner since moving out of my parent’s house over 30 years ago,  the experience has been a crash course in caretaking for a four-legged furry little being.

Named Bowtie, he is extraordinarily affectionate and our days and nights are not complete unless he spends time sitting on my lap, laying on top of my legs, head-butting, kneading his paws against me and licking my face quite thoroughly. In return I try to talk to him, massage and pet him, cradle him in my lap and sleep with him draped over my arm or shoulder.

When I think of how my life is different as the mama of a cat, my notion of lessons learned includes:

Undivided Attention: Quality time with Bowtie involves giving him my full attention. I almost never watch television anymore and use a computer less than before adopting him. He seems attuned to it if I am trying to multitask and is far less satisfied with anything but at least some time each day in which we interact without any distractions.

The Power of Encouragement: Popular psychology about cats states that they do not understand the concept of scolding or the word “no”. If you are telling them no and in your mind’s eye are imagining what you want them not to do, they will just do it. Only the positive approach works. If he tries to get out the door when I have to leave the house, I have to see in my mind’s eye that he is under the dining room table a few feet away and then he reluctantly does what I am visualizing. How often does the positive approach also only prove effective with people as well? Pretty often in my experience.

Give Me Bread but Give Me Roses: Even if I provide for Bowtie with all the material comforts, toys, etc. to meet his needs, he wanders around with a sense of malaise unless he also has the opportunity to socially interact with others in a playful and loving manner.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness: Before life with Bowtie, I used to cut corners in the cleanliness department – especially at floor level! Now that I know he sees the world mostly from that range and his dark fur shows every little speck of dirt or fluff, I vacuum about a million times more often than previously. Keeping the cat litter boxes clean (I have 3 all-together for him), the water fountains (2 all-together) and his food dishes clean keeps me busy too.

Regularity and Routine: While the fact that cats do not like change could be seen as a negative, the positive side to it is that keeping a regular routine in a consistent manner can be a real asset for discipline and achieving goals. Routine seems related to ritual as well and for spiritual practises can be a tool to assist in the gestalt of spiritual and religious intensity.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Now that I am handling medical emergencies with Bowtie and coping with various health and emotional issues that seem connected to his background as a stray, I seem infinitely more relaxed and mellow about the other stresses of life that inevitably arise. When you are invested in the well-being of another living creature, the joys and trials of that kind of “parenting” seem to diffuse the degree of importance or anxiety I used to place on the dramas of my life and relationships with others.

Be Proactive: God helps those who help themselves sometimes. I am still somewhat incredulous that Bowtie used to live 2 doors down on the street where my house is and that he ran away because he didn’t like his living situation in a multi-pet household with 2 dogs and another cat. Or at least that is what the teenage girl who lives there told me when she saw him in front of my house one day. Considering that he is declawed, he has a lot of chutzpa and bravado to choose to live on the street over a situation where he didn’t like his circumstances. Apparently it has been 2 years since he lived with them and I am either his 3rd or 4th owner. He still adores to go outside and several times I have witnessed him chasing away cats bigger than him in the neighborhood (and those cats have claws presumably). I feel I have much to learn from him in the bravery department. And when his softer side shows itself and I have my hands full with his emotional scars and separation anxiety, I find myself thinking that being brave often means doing something even if you still feel scared inside.

Last but not least, I am very grateful to Bowtie for the affection and companionship that we share. I try to model for him the spirit of unconditional love that I feel has been shown to me by God in the last 25 years of spiritual seeking. Since we adopted each other, I am a happier person than before even if it involves the likes of trying to get liquid antibiotics in a syringe into his mouth twice a day for 2 weeks or getting him to remain calmer and more secure that when I go on vacation or leave for the day that I do come back.

Sri Chinmoy’s quote at the top of this post about the essence of a cat having to do with affection rings 100 percent true with Bowtie and myself. And I do indeed love our mutual dependence.

Nov 26

The “Thanks” in Thanksgiving

Today was a little different than usual for me in the outer circumstances of  Thanksgiving. I was at home and cooked all the fixings vegetarian style during most of the day.

Some of you might be saying how is staying at home and cooking different? Isn’t that what lots of people usually do on Thanksgiving day? Well, most of the time I am on the move over Thanksgiving – either to spend it with family who do not live nearby or to visit far off climes using as little vacation time as possible because of the built in time off of work during this holiday.

I also received a a k2 punch in the battle of holistic care of my newly-adopted cat named Bowtie when he went AWOL for hours on this holiday afternoon for the first time in 4 months. I scoured the house and neighborhood looking for him and since bringing him in from being a stray he has never vanished like he did today. Luckily he did return.

Knowing that he is likely mad about his herbal bladder medication dosed this morning and recent attempts to improve his diet, kibble is back in the food dish after 48 hours without it even though the holistic vet says NADA, NYET, VERBOTEN! Bottom line… today at least (and realistically probably every day) Cats Rule.

Whatever the circumstance – or in today’s case the drama – might be on the surface, the unchanging essence of Thanksgiving still prevails. The holiday is a time to ponder gratitude – the “thanks” in thanksgiving.

One place to explore the power of gratitude is Gratefulness.org. I wrote about Gratefulness.org and its Light a Candle site previously on this blog and of all my posts, this one consistently remains the most likely entrance point to my blog. This makes me believe that the art of cultivating gratitude resonates for many, many people.

Another wellspring of wisdom on the subject of gratitude and giving thanks can be found in the chapter devoted to the subject inside a new book by Sri Chinmoy called The Jewels of Happiness. The chapter entitled “Gratitude” is one of thirteen in a new compilation featuring his most compelling aphorisms and wisdom. I find myself pondering his writing on gratitude for days after reading it.

Here are a few samples from the chapter to give an idea of their profundity:

Gratitude is the creative force, the mother and father of love. It is in real love that gratitude exists. Love expands only when gratitude is there.    (Sri Chinmoy, The Jewels of Happiness,  p. 189)

The things that most deserve our gratitude we just take for granted. Without air we cannot live for more than a minute for two. Every day we are breathing in and breathing out, but do we ever feel grateful to the air? (Sri Chinmoy, The Jewels of Happiness, p. 192)

On earth there is nothing as important or significant as gratitude. (Sri Chinmoy, The Jewels of Happiness, p. 196)

If you have true gratitude, it will express itself automatically. It will be visible in your eyes, around your being, in your aura. It is like the fragrance of a flower. (Sri Chinmoy, The Jewels of Happiness, p. 199)

In addition to the thought-provoking words on the value and importance of gratitude in The Jewels of Happiness, one can also find a wealth of practical techniques to cultivate gratitude. For example, one exercise calls for imagining that you are a river rushing to the source of the ocean while silently repeating the word gratitude while breathing in.

At the top of this post I wrote that Cats Rule. I stand corrected. Gratitude Rules and when it rules triumphantly, the world becomes a much sweeter place, a vast expanse of endless possibilities regardless of outer circumstances.