cats as teachers

The Cats at Shasta Abbey

Shasta_Abbey_cats

A king, a cat and a monk will all sit in the highest places. – Zen saying

Located in a rural area on 16 forested acres at the foot of Mount Shasta in Northern California, Shasta Abbey is a Buddhist monastery of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. Founded in 1970, the monastery serves as a training center for Buddhist monks and a place of practice for lay people.

It is also home to 12 cats, ranging in age from 3 to 18 . “The kitties just somehow make their way to the abbey,” says Reverend Helen Cummings. “They find us.” Only one of the current residents came from the Siskiyou County Humane Society, a local no-kill shelter. (The monks perform a monthly blessing for the animals at the Humane Society.)Continue Reading

Conscious Cat Sunday: restlessness

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You get peace of mind not by thinking about it or imagining it,
but by quietening and relaxing the restless mind. – Unknown

Have you ever met a restless cat? I didn’t think so. Cats do everything they do mindfully. Whether they’re eating, grooming or sleeping, they’re fully present. We could learn a lot from them.

Even though a certain amount of restlessness can propel you out of a rut and toward personal growth, constantly feeling anxious, nervous, agitated or on edge is not good for your mental, spiritual and physical health. I know that whenever I feel restless, it’s usually either because I’m trying to do too much, or because there’s something going on in my life that I’m not willing to deal with.

Regardless of what causes restlessness, the only way to deal with it is to calm your mind. Here are some tips on how to do that:

Spend quiet time alone. You can’t be everything to everybody. Carve out some time for yourself every day, even if it’s only a few minutes.

Change your thought patterns. When you feel restless, Continue Reading

Conscious Cat Sunday: make time for contemplation

contemplation

Could the purr be anything but contemplative? – Irving Townsend

It’s hard to find time for quiet contemplation in these busy lives we lead, but without making time for it, we end up stressed, depressed and anxious. Cats are masters not just at purring, but also at quiet contemplation, as Amber demonstrates in the photo above. We’d be wise to take our cue from them.

Contemplation can take many forms: it can be something as structured as a meditation practice, or something as simple as taking a walk in the park. For me, even watching my sleeping cats can be a contemplative experience.

Most people use the excuse that they’re too busy to make time for just being quiet. I think you can’t afford not to make the time, or your mental and physical health will suffer. And it’s really not that hard to carve out a little extra time each day. If you’re a planner, you may need to schedule quiet time into your day, just like you schedule any other activities.

To help you along, here are some tips on how to create extra time for quiet contemplation and solitude. Whether it’s an hour, or even just ten minutes, I promise you, you will find that your life will improve. Solitude is not the same as spending time alone watching tv, surfing the internet, or reading. There’s nothing wrong with any of these activities, but they won’t result in the quiet space you need for contemplation and reflection.

  • Cut back on your TV time. Americans spend an average of seven hours a day watching tv – how hard could it be to cut back on what, let’s face it, is often wasted time? Stick to watching only shows that you truly enjoy, don’t just sit in front of the TV because it’s there.
  • Get up a little earlier. Spending quiet time first thing in the morning (after you feed the cats, of course!) assures that it won’t fall by the wayside as you get busy later on.
  • Cut back on your e-mail and internet activities. (Just don’t cut back on reading The Conscious Cat!)
  • Plan your errands ahead of time. By organizing your route and sequence of errands, and grouping them together, you can save time, and, as a nice additional benefit, gas money.
  • Minimize housework. Relax your standards a little bit if you can. Do some basic cleaning once a week, and a more thorough cleaning once a month.

Do you make time for contemplation? How do you do it? If not, why not?