As you might have guessed from one of the photos on this website, I am blessed to be living with a most remarkable teacher in the form of a rather handsome Tabby gentleman. Quite generally a calm and friendly being, he, like most of us, has his moments of skittishness, unexplained (to we ignorant humans) times of irritation or even the odd swipe, moodiness or explosive bouts of hysterical energy.
So all these, he implies, are teachings in themselves. Take things as they are, try not to fix or catastrophise if they are not endangering anyone, remember how such episodes pass, and remember that it’s only a carpet and can covered with a scratchy bit for more fun.
But perhaps one of the most potent teaching he offers is that of furry breathing. No, it’s not something I do – he is by far the model of furry breathing – but it is the wondrous opportunity for me to just stop and watch his graceful, smooth, alive and gradually grounding furry breathing.
Have you ever noticed that cats seem to breath down by their lower flanks? Yet their lungs are further up, over their arms (some people might call them front legs but I think that is rather condescending).
Aha, a distraction right there from the just watching… How talented are minds are at leaping about, tentative or perhaps even frightened of letting their attention, their curiosity rest on one object for 1 second, for 5, for 30 seconds, for a minute or even more! Let go of the pondering, the questioning – and just enjoy the in, the out, the beauty of this feline friend breathing.
If you are a friend of another semchen (mind-haver), please do not feel you are excluded from this teaching. Indeed, our Tabby gentleman reminds us that all teachings are provisional and it is important not to confuse the messenger with the message (or in this case, the breather with the breath).