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January 5, 2014

My Cat, My Yoga Teacher. ~ Nora Neill

He taught us the art of unqualified love. How to give it, how to accept it. Where there is that, most other pieces fall into place.

~John Grogan, Marley and Me 

As I sit here, I am in a pile of cats. One is on my lap, another by my feet on the radiator, half napping and half casually watching the squirrels and birds. A third is in a cave of blankets to my right, and the fourth is lying on his stomach on the back of the couch. My companions cradle me.

Since learning about my cat’s heart disease and asthma, I feel my own heart’s movements inside me. I can feel it ache and fill with sadness, joy and love. Longing for Chette’s health, I realize I must offer him what I can: my care and love.

I am thankful I can love this much and feel it in my chest as I might in a good heart opener. Asana and life intertwine.

After the diagnosis, I thought about how to describe this love I have for my cats to someone who doesn’t have a pet.

I thought of it this way. My cats give; they are not afraid to show how they feel because they might get hurt or be embarrassed. If they want attention, they walk all over me and push their faces in mine. One curls by my side as soon as she hears my alarm go off in the morning, knowing there are fifteen more minutes of good pets here for her.

They eat with unbridled attention and have no worries about an extra pound or a bulging belly.

They love me no matter what and they do not worry about death because they are here now.
My cats are family members who are never upset about missed plans, whose expectations are limited to a clean toilet and regular meals. They thrive when given the right attention, but ask for little. They know how to comfort me, even when I don’t ask for it.

After my partner had surgery last October, they sat with her and licked her temples with love. They were her constant, accepting her reluctant rest with pure love, enjoying the long sleepy days with constant human presence.

My cats listen to my poor singing, come running in the room when I chant om, greet me at the door and regularly practice cat pose. They are natural yogis and they teach me. They run full speed to catch toys, not to impress me, but blissful in the experience. They sleep when tired and eat when hungry. They chase their wants and needs with no concern for social norms.

Even though I often wish my cats could talk to me, tell me about their pain and needs, they are perfect in their coos, squeaks and cries of victory or glee—the pure presence they maintain with no effort.

When the bell rings to indicate the beginning of my meditation session, my eyes close and soon I find my hand, resting on my knee, being licked. At first, I am annoyed because my zone is interrupted, but then I realize that my moment with Chette can be just as instructive as my quiet alone time following my breath.

I stop watching my breath and instead I watch him. He licks my hand, and I watch his bright green eyes. I pet his head and think, I am petting Chette; he is soft.

I fully embrace this moment with him. I am there, completely present as he is with me, tilting his head toward the sky. He walks away shortly, satisfied. I am, too.

As I close my eyes again, my heart stretches and I wait for the next arrival, just like a cat.

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Assistant Editor: Michelle Margaret

Image: Courtesy of author

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