You’ve had a bad day, the journey home was a nightmare with standstill traffic and angry drivers beeping their horns. When you finally arrive home it takes ages to find a parking space. Exhausted and frayed, you stand at your door fumbling desperately in your bag for your keys. A voice inside your head starts to criticise you for having so many unnecessary items in there and you panic that you might be locked out. A brief moment of relief as you find your keys, then the key won’t turn in the door. It all just feels too much and you’re on the brink of tears.
Finally, the key turns and you almost collapse through the door. A shrill and persistent meow erupts. “Great, now the cat is meowing! What does he want from me, can’t he see I’ve had the day from hell?”
He starts to circle your legs, with his back arched he rubs his fluffy sides up against you, leaning into you.
“OK, he’s cute,” you think to yourself. Your mood softens slightly and you bend down to stroke him.
His fur feels soft and smooth to the touch and you instinctively go for another stroke, and another. Soon you hear a gentle rumble a little bit like a motorbike starting up, as his purr begins, you know he’s happy to be reunited with you. You wonder what adventures he’s had today and soon your own day starts to fade away. His slanted oval eyes glint deep amber with a flash of green. They project a calm sense of knowing as they momentarily stare into yours and you melt inside. His purr is louder now and more consistent. It’s a deep rhythmical and almost hypnotising sound. Your heart feels somehow fuller, and as your bag slips from your shoulder and drops to the floor, there’s a kind of release as you simultaneously feel your emotional baggage from the day drop away. His skin feels warm to the touch beneath his soft fur and all of your senses are alive as you bury your head in his softness. The world just melts away and suddenly you are right there in the moment.
You are now a mindfulness master, with the help of one fluffy little kitty.
What is Mindfulness?
Mind.org.uk describes mindfulness as a technique you can learn which involves making a special effort to notice what’s happening in the present moment (in your mind, body and surroundings) – without judging anything. It has roots in Buddhism and meditation, but you don’t have to be spiritual, or have any particular beliefs, to try it.
It aims to help you:
- become more self-aware
- feel calmer and less stressed
- feel more able to choose how to respond to your thoughts and feelings
- cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts
- be kinder towards yourself.
Cats are very good at mindfulness; they are aware of their surroundings and their needs, they know how to relax, sleep or eat when they want to. They can also help us to be more mindful, as spending time with the little fluffy fellas helps us to be present in the moment and to appreciate joy even in times of suffering.
I have lived with several zen masters – all of them cats.” – Eckhart Tolle
Genghis is a Maine Coon who was adopted by Lam Rim Buddhist Centre in Wales. His thoughtful gaze and long curly whiskers give the impression that he is very wise. His purr is deep and lion-esque.
Listening to a cat purring lowers stress, it relaxes your breathing and even helps you to heal faster from infections and injuries. Purr sounds can reduce your chances of having a heart attack, lower your blood pressure and strengthen bones.
Click here to listen to some purrs and supercharge your health while practising a bit of present moment awareness.
“But I don’t have time to stop!”
Numerous studies show that taking a break can improve productivity and actually saves time. The brain is a muscle which, like every muscle, tires from repeated stress. Taking a break is a great opportunity to reset and replenish, bringing us back to tasks with a clearer head.
Spending time with our beloved pets helps us to connect with feelings of kindness and nurturing, which in turn make us feel more at ease. Making an effort to increase the time we spend with our companion animals – or just giving that time more presence and attention – can help us to increase our moments of joy and gain more balance in our lives.
Life is unavoidably and inevitably scattered with suffering. Our days are hard and filled with expectations and demands upon us. There is no way to remove the suffering and trying to avoid it doesn’t last for long. Mindfulness offers us a way not to remove our suffering, but to take respite. By finding a moment of joy in amongst the struggles of the day, we can rebuild our strength and feel more calm and peaceful. Things seem more manageable and we regain perspective over our troubles.
There will be times when it seems impossible to connect with any feelings of joy. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to stop and just ‘be’ with your feelings. Notice how the emotion feels, where you feel it in the body, notice any physical effects – tension in the muscles, change in breathing or heart-rate. Just allow the feeling to exist and observe it. Cry if you need to. Try not to be afraid of your emotions, it’s often that fear that causes us to resist or bottle up our feelings and ‘carry on regardless’. Resisting our feelings causes tension to build up, and eventually, it reaches a point where we feel we can’t cope.
“Stress occurs when pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope” S. Palmer (1999)
When we take a moment to acknowledge our suffering and honour our feelings, they often ease naturally and we are able to let go. The calm introspection of mindfulness can result in insights that allow us to investigate and understand our feelings and even identify solutions.
Find your moment
Ellie lay in her hospice bed, her mouth was dry so the nurse gently held a cup to her mouth and helped her to take a sip. For a moment her eyes brightened and her distinctive smile beamed across her face as she excitedly uttered the words “that’s the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted!” It was just made from a sachet, nothing particularly special, but in that moment it was perfect. She had found a moment of joy in a time of great pain. Ellie had been a chef and was inspired by food, but there is something that can ignite that same passion in everybody. Perhaps it’s a love of music, beautiful flowers, or spending time with your pet.
If Ellie can do it, we can be inspired to do it too. Would you like to challenge yourself to find your moment of joy each day? We’ve created a little tool to help you remember to take a moment for yourself. Download our free 30 day moment of joy print out.
“Hi, I’m Max…
I used to be a stressed out kitty but I have really impurroved with the love of my mums and dads at Pause. I am passionate about helping you to reduce your stress and start feline fine like me via my contribution – RELAX WITH MAX. Daily tension can build up without us even noticing, but if anyone knows how to relax, it’s us cats!
Spread the love!
If you are on board with our mission of kindness and can think of a kitty lover who might enjoy a little smile break, then purrlease help us to share the love. Refurr a friend to sign up to The Mewspaper and you can even earn points to spend on cool cat stuff! Contact us if you’d like your own unique refurral code or share the link below for regular smiles delivered with love directly to your inbox.