Buddhism and Cats and Everyday Life

I recently moved from San Francisco to Athens, Georgia. I lived in San Francisco for about 16 years and couldn’t have any pets. Since I got to Athens, I’ve accumulated 3 cats. And they have helped me so much in my daily spiritual practice. Being constantly interrupted by a cat that that wants to walk on my laptop or crawl into a cupboard that I opened or sit in the sink when I’m brushing my teeth (I could go on) has made me stop many times throughout my day and practice patience and love. I mean, how can you not love them? And you can not rush through, you need to stop and pet and say sweet things to them; you must be patient.

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Don’t Take It Personally

Well-meaning people have used that line over the course of my life and looking back I usually blew it off. I was too wrapped up in my hurt. But I’ve come to realize how much practical–and spiritual–truth is in “don’t take it personally” because it’s true, it’s not personal. The stuff that people say and do is about their state of being. When I realize that simple truth–I don’t need to take it into my state of being.

Forgiveness Ritual that Changed my Life

fire-1073217_960_720We all know the effects of holding grudges and bad feelings toward ourselves and others–it weighs us down and holds an icky place in our heart. But how do we let that stuff go? I used to be a big grudge holder. I came to find out that this was the result of my own insecurities, feeling like what other people did to me was about me instead of simply being  about their own human limitation.

To let all this go, I wrote down the name of every person who I felt had wronged me on a little slip of paper. Then I held it over my sink and thanked this person for what the experience had taught me, like how to be stronger or more compassionate. Or how to take the high road, or how to trust my intuition. I found one positive thing. Even if it was just giving me the chance to practice forgiveness. Then I lit that little paper on fire while blessing this person and myself. My anger literally  went up in smoke! Instead of anger I felt love for them and myself. That bundle of  burdens that I had been carrying for so long was released. And my life changed profoundly.

Buddhism in Action–Compassion

Compassion is a big thing in Buddhism and pretty much any other religious or spiritual practice I can think of. How do we put ourselves in the frame of mind to choose compassion over feeling irritated, angry and judgmental toward another person? And how do we choose compassion over disappointment in ourselves?

For me, if I am feeling irritated or angry at someone, it helps to first make friends with the feeling (not push it away), give it a little space, and be kind and gentle to myself. As I take care of myself and this feeling of irritation, I feel my heart open a little and I’m able to soften toward the other person. It’s an opportunity to thank them, really, for giving me the chance to love myself.

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