Cats Purr, People Meditate

    December 1, 2017

    Have you ever seen a (very clearly) distressed cat purring? I have, and at first, it was a little disturbing- was the cat some kind of masochist? While M would love that (the ultimate dog vs. cat trump card), the answer is no. Cats use purring as a form of self-soothing. Even in extreme situations, like impending death, cats are known to find a secluded area and purr.

    How interesting, that cats have evolved with this unique coping mechanism. What, exactly, in evolutionary history would incite cats exclusively to develop this skill? (While humbling acknowledging my lack of credentials in evolutionary biology) It doesn’t make sense.

    This month M’s job began a meditation challenge.

    Meditate 10 minutes a day, and win a gold notebook! There were silver and bronze prizes too, but M decided, in usual grandeur, that he was going to win the gold notebook.

    Coincidentally, around the same time, M and I had a big fight. It went as all big fights go. When all the tears where shed, and voices were back to their normal tones, I admitted something big to M. Something I finally feel comfortable admitting to on this blog, to be read by strangers, parents, and friends.

    [This all ties together- I promise.]

    Secretly, shamefully, I like to be mad. Anger lends me an energy that rivals the heat of a blue flame. To someone who constantly feels exhausted, anger feels like striking gold. When it comes to visit, I find myself clinging to it, unable to let it go. Like a tornado, one though leads to another, and I count perceived wrongs from years ago, until my anger feels so justified, I convince myself that anger isn’t a choice, it’s FORCED upon me.

    Realizing that I felt this way was scary. The temporary high induced by anger wasn’t worth the destruction left in its wake. But how to control it? Anger so easily feels like something that just “happens”. Even when I try to control it, it only works for a few minutes, or hours, or days, only to explode unexpectedly, like confetti.

    Taking me kindly in his arms, M recommended me mediate together. “I’ve tried it,” I assured him, “it doesn’t help”, but in an effort of good will, I closed my eyes and focused on the voice.

    A few instructions on settling, then a smooth male voice, “Picture someone you hate dealing with every day.”

    “Say to them, you’re an asshole. That’s OK.” (Continues on for one minute)

    Hey, I thought, That was kind of fun! I didn’t know you could say bad words in a meditation.

    The next night I used a guided meditation to prepare me for sleep. M found me with the headphones still in…. fast asleep. I slept soundly throughout the night (a rarity for me).  Humm… maybe it worked? The engineer in me decided I better try again, one data point isn’t enough for any kind of decision.

    Next night, same thing. Next night, same thing. Next night, same thing. Next night, same thing. Next night, same thing. Next night, same thing. Next night, same thing. Next night, same thing. Next night, same thing. Next night, same thing.

    [Disclaimer: I still haven’t made it though the preparing for sleep meditation without actually falling asleep….]

    At this point the data driven, experimentally inclined engineer in me was satisfied. Meditation definitely improved my sleep.

    Last night though, M and I got into an argument. I got mad and ended up stomping away. My old friend was back- my face felt flushed, and I felt strong enough to battle superman. Strangely though, I was aware enough to realize, I didn’t want to be mad.

    I closed the bathroom door, sat on the floor, closed my eyes and started to breath. “I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be angry.” After several minutes, very slowly, my eyes started to open, and while nowhere close to “yoda” level attitude adjustment, the anger was no longer inside me. I felt completely detached from it- aware that it was there, but still me, and still in control. It felt good.

    Maybe cats are on to something. Could purring be a cat’s form of meditation?

    [Could this ultimately win the dog vs cat fight once and for all???!!!]

    Hearing myself “purr” was far more empowering than the energy and justification that anger gives me. Anger is a defense mechanism, and so is meditation. We get to chose, every day!, how we protect ourselves in conflicts. Don’t get me wrong, a month of meditations hasn’t turned me into Mother Theresa- I still feel stressed at work, curse loudly during my commute and even take out frustrations on others without meaning to.

    But today, I do these things a little less than I did a month ago.

    I hope that next month I will write a similar blog post, and each month after that takes me closer to being the person that I want to be.

    [Hey- who said Cat Woman wasn’t real?!]

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