By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP
Cats are the ultimate Buddhists.
When I first arrived in Panama many years ago, a friend arrived at my door one day with a burlap sack and handed it to me. Inside it was a tiny kitten, about the size of a tennis ball. He was filthy, missing patches of fur and had a huge cut on his tiny pink nose. I instantly fell in love with this baby cat and from then on my life completely revolved around his comings and goings.
Little Pepe soon after I got him at about 5 weeks old. Who could resist that face??
Being In The Present
I used to love to watch him. No matter what he was doing, he was always so in the moment. I never saw him sitting around brooding over the past of worrying about the future as people so often do. He was always absolutely engrossed in whatever he was doing at that particular moment. He was always reveling in the present.
Seeing The World As It Is
My little cat was living his life, fully in the present. He wasn’t avoiding certain situations or experiences. He was taking life as it came and, seeing the world as it really was. As human beings tend to do, we avoid things that are painful or unpleasant and crave experiences and things that give us pleasure which creates a constant cycle of unhappiness. Pepe was living the hell out of every moment, no matter what was happening.
Little Pepe – fearless explorer, supreme hunter, and the ultimate Buddha.
Everything Is A Meditation
I used to watch him while he was hunting, often birds, and he was so focussed and almost relaxed as he stalked them… it really seemed to me that everything that he did was a meditation. He was always mindful and present and everything he did seemed like the thing he was DESIGNED, MADE to do. It was so effortless, and even though I often had to save birds from his clutches, I loved to watch him because it was like watching water moving effortlessly through his environment.
In Harmony With His Environment
Pepe always seemed like he was perfectly designed to blend seamlessly into his environment. Like millions of years of honing the perfect cat characteristics had reached its equinox with this one, small white cat. He effortlessly climbed the highest trees, plucked birds out of the air with one perfectly calculated jump. He and the environment were one, communicating through some silent nonverbal language, like a song being written on the fly, of the most beautiful music you have ever heard. Music you could never have conceived of because it is divine in nature. There was an ease about his movements and demeanor, and he always seemed relaxed and completely content, like he was made for his environment, and it was made for him.
I never saw things like fear (which might have done him some good sometimes, oh the things he would get into!!) from my little cat. He was always perfectly equanimous. I never saw him reflecting, brooding or looking anxious, he always seemed perfectly at peace. My life in those days was filled with such dramatic highs and lows and I always would look at my little cat and wish I could be more like him. Good and bad things didn’t happen, only things. It is us that judge them as being good or bad. Pepe seemed to have equanimity at all times, no matter what might have been going on. I admit, there were many times I envied him, wishing for the balance that eluded me and seemed inherent in him.
It always amazed me how Pepe could be so completely engrossed in any activity and seamlessly flow into being just as engrossed in the next thing as it came. I never saw him stop something he might have found enjoyable and get sad that it was over. This seems to be a purely human thing. He was completely able to move from one thing to the other just being and taking it all as it came. Not being sad about things that had gone or worrying about what was coming. He was all about anicca (the Pali word that represents that all things, including the self, are impermanent and constantly changing). Change is so difficult for many people and I have certainly struggled with it. Pepe however, seemed not to even notice, he was able to go with the natural from of things.
I have had a lot of change, upheaval, highs and lows in my life. I have bene trying in my own way, to live it to the fullest. So many of these Buddhist concepts and teachings are difficult for me, and I am constantly working on them. I find that whenever I am feeling something strongly (which is often), or struggling with my feelings (which happens on a regular basis), wondering things like why bad things happen to good people or get worried or depressed about the state of the world, all I have to do is go outside and watch my little cat. He is a wonderful reminder that things aren’t good or bad, they just ARE, and it is my feelings and judgements about them that cause me unnecessary suffering and pain. My little cat always seems content, in the moment and completely at peace with himself and with life. With all that I have “learned” in many decades on this planet, I realize that my little cat Pepe is still one of my best teachers.
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If you would like to read about my experience with Vipassana meditation (and my foray into Buddhist concepts and teachings), you can read these – My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation, & Vipassana 2.0. I hope you enjoy them. :)