Keeping Calm with Kitty during Covid: Cats, Meditation and Mindfulness
With whats going on in the world, it’s hardly surprising that our collective stress and anxiety levels are rising. We could all probably do with letting off some steam and finding a way to get rid of some of the tension and unease that we’re feeling.
As cat owners, of course, we already have one tried and tested way to chill out, since nothing is more relaxing than kicking back with a purring kitty on your lap.
But if that still isn’t enough to ease the strain, it might be time to take it to the next level.
You. Your cat. Meditating together.
I understand if your first reaction is ‘that’s crazy talk’. But think about it a little more carefully. Cats are naturally mindful. In fact, is some ways they are like furry little Zen masters, calm, collected and able to sit in the same place for hours contemplating the infinite mysteries of the universe.
At least, that’s what I assume they’re doing.
Seriously though, cats can play a part in both meditation and mindfulness. For starters, both activities require practitioners to relax, and being around cats is very relaxing. Scientists have actually done studies on this, and proven that it’s the case.
Think about what it feels like when your kitty comes and lies on your chest, purring. Your heart rate slows, your worries seem a little more distant, and you find yourself focused on your cat instead of all the things that are stressing you out. It’s already a kind of meditation or mindfulness, just with the soft purr of kitty instead of a chant or a mantra.
Purring is a big part of this. Cats use purring as a mechanism to relax and de-stress, and the vibrations that purring causes help to sooth them and keep them calm. You may have noticed that cats sometimes purr when they find themselves in a stressful situation. That may seem counter-intuitive and weird, but it actually makes perfect sense – they are trying to calm themselves down
Even better, cats’ purring has even been linked to health benefits in humans, including the lowering of stress and anxiety levels. Perfect, then, for meditation and mindfulness.
Let’s be honest. You wish you could purr like a cat. I l know I do.
A real lesson that cats can teach us about mindfulness is to live in the moment. A lot of the worries that humans have come from overthinking things, either by re-living mistakes that we’ve made in the past, or worrying about what the future holds. It’s very hard not to do this – especially with the way the world is at the moment.
But cats don’t do this. They live in the moment. They don’t sit there agonising over some terrible mistake they made as a kitten. They don’t waste hours pondering about how the world is getting worse.
I had a cat who lost a leg in a car accident. Most humans who went through something like this would be traumatized and depressed. Not my cat. He had no regrets, didn’t mentally torture himself by agonizing over what would have happened if he’d crossed the road just a few seconds later or earlier.
Instead, he just went on living in the moment. The very essence of mindfulness.
Cats can also teach us something when it comes to focusing our attention, another feature of mindfulness and meditation. When cats want to focus on something, they really focus. Not convinced? Try getting into a staring contest with your cat. You won’t win, I can guarantee.
Some types of meditation and mindfulness also involved visualization and using the imagination, and cats can be useful for this, too. You can place your hands on your relaxed, purring kitty and imagine yourself in their place, a purring, furry centre of calmness and enlightenment.
Bear in mind, too, that meditation and mindfulness are supposed to be fun. Sure, some people take them very seriously, but both are meant to lighten the burden of your worries. Getting your cat involved can add to that sense of fun and add a little humor and levity to the proceedings.
Of course, cats can also be a little unpredictable, so you might not always want to get them involved. Most cats have the occasional ‘mad half-hour’ when they suddenly abandon their Zen-like calmness and become frantic, scampering fur-balls composed of pure craziness. You might want to wait until they are in a relaxed state of mind before you invite them to join you in the lotus position.
We all know that cats are pretty chill. So why not find a quiet space, forget your worries for a little while, and remember this mantra: If you want to be more calm, be more cat.
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