In loving memory to the best cat I have known, Leche Cat.
We had to say goodbye to a beloved part of our household this week. Grief and loss affect everyone so differently and at different times. There are countless mindfulness practices around those topics, but what keeps coming to mind today is a loving-kindness practice.
The Metta meditation is a buddhist practice of sending positive energy outward and directing it towards others. But how do you send out positive energy if you can't find any? What happens when you are so low and so dark that there's simply nothing to give?
This is where pets come in. I always remember while teaching a yoga training, one of the trainees lead a loving kindness meditation,and offered this tip: First, bring to mind someone that is easy to love, someone that you instantly feel a warm feeling of loving kindness, if no one come to mind, perhaps a pet, notice the feeling of loving kindness that arises when you bring you think of your pet.
It happened to be at a time when I was harboring a lot of resentment, frustration, disappointment. And anger, probably was in there too. And when I thought of my pet I felt none of that, or I did, but the pet was like a balm, that only wanted to be near me and let me know that everything would be okay.
We can learn so much about unconditional love from our pets. At that same time I was reading a book about attachment theory, and it referred to pets being a great model of a secure attachment. In a relationship with a pet both of you are allowed to make mistakes and still feel loved. You step on a tail, your pet destroys your favorite sweater, neither party will hold a grudge or resentment, at least not for very long. Neither you nor your pet assumes the other behaves in a way that intentionally hurts or overlooks the other. We typically engage with warmth and kindness, even if we had a bad day,Yes, in the way we love our animals, but also in the ways our animals demonstrate love.
You may not think animals have the capacity to love like we do, and that's fine (?) It's true they may not experience the complexities of relationships the same way as humans. But they are so good at showing up for you. They are an embodiment of comfort. Their reassuring presence follows you through some of life's most challenging or abrupt changes, and every day they will be there for you. And you will be there for them.
Loving Kindness Practice: Sit comfortably and rest your eyes. Bring to mind a beloved pet, or an animal that you have known and loved. Notice the feeling of warmth or light that arises when you give this beloved creature your full attention. Maybe it's the the feeling of a smile when you greet each other, or the feeling of a sigh when they put their head on your lap,or the feeling of comfort being tucked in at night. Your pet is personal to you, so bring them into full detail and notice the response you feel in your body. That response is Loving Kindness. Imagine the Loving Kindness as a light that might start as a small feeling you recognize in one part of your body, perhaps around your heart. Begin to breathe into that feeling, and imagine the light spreading slowly with each breath. Breath by breath, the light can spread across your body, until you are alight in Loving Kindness, even if that light is very dim. If you lose some of that feeling, redirect your attention back to your pet. If you are able to imagine the light growing fuller and brighter and feeling more Loving Kindness within yourself, continue to let that feeling grow, breath by breath. Sit in that feeling of loving kindness for a minute or two, or as long as it might last.
In the more expanded version of this practice, we send the Loving Kindness outward. But for this practice, in honoring pets present, and pets past, keep that Loving Kindness within you and your beloved. If you recently lost an animal, it can feel like you will never experience this light again, but for now you have to find the light in a memory. Be open to feeling it and recognizing it in the future, because even in the heaviness of grief there is light.
These two practices serve different purposes, but they can also work together. We clear space out of a cluttered schedule or idea list, and then zoom in on the things we want to prioritize. If you don't know this about me, I love etymology. If I bristle at an ugly word like 'business,' I look it up, give it some context, some history, and I often (not always) feel more compassion for the word. This works for people, too, by the way.
Business: Old English bisignes 14th century "care, anxiety, diligence," "state of being much occupied or engaged" late 16th century. "what one is about at the moment" 17th century, "matters which occupy one's time and attention."
Now this has turned into a practice of setting intentions.
A Mindful Business Practice As if you were in the business of being you, use a pen and paper and ask yourself:
What do I need to do to do to follow through on my mission statement, vision and core values?
The answer to the last question is your business. It is what occupies your time. It is how you engage in your day. It's what you're about at the moment. And anytime you meet yourself at the moment, you are practicing mindfulness. If you feel stuck on any of the questions, you can look up prompts for how businesses bring together ideas. It might start as just a list of words or phrases that are meaningful to you, and eventually you create a coherent and succinct sentence. I'm still working on mine, here:Kaitlynn's Mission You can write out your business, pin it somewhere you will see it, or memorize the contents. When a decision comes your way, and you're not sure the course of action: how do you adhere to your mission? When you have a message that's been waiting for a response: what will maintain your core values? When you have some free time in your schedule: What activity will follow your vision? (Or is it the absence of activity?)
Last year I had an intention of creating space. Funny enough, this relates to a lost word: busiless, ("At leisure; without business; unemployed.") A Mindful Busiless Practice might be more pertinent to you right now, that's okay!! For me, I needed to clear away excess, to figure out priorities, and conserve energy whenever possible. It took the whole year to feel any significant progress, but now that I can see a little bit of clearing, I decided I'm ready to mindfully add business in the things that I truly value.
A Mindful Busiless Practice
What can I let go of? (physical, mental, or emotional activities)
What part of my day can I intentionally reserve to do nothing?
What activities help me to feel calm or clear, and can I reserve space to do nothing before or after? (hiking, running, playing music, reading, journaling, yoga, doing dishes, etc.)
Set a timer for 2-10 minutes and literally do absolutely nothing until that timer goes off.
I've never made a blog before. I do not find myself too great at consistency. It's easy for me to start something....and then never return: Vitamin regimens, Gratitude journals, cleaning out my car--all started, never completed. Here is another start.
I am just now putting together this site, a representation of myself, in a way, myself as a business. You can read a bit of how I feel about that in my first newsletter as a ReInvented Business Yogi Person. Or maybe that newsletter brought you here. The intention of these writings is to share thoughts about mindfulness, but I will be upfront and say this is not fully fleshed out.
My life is in a bit of disarray, not all components have a through-line, nothing feels level, and I think that is a perfect perspective in order to share mindfulness. No one needs mindfulness tips from someone that's got it all together. It is WAY too easy to tell people to manage their stress by simply having less stress when you don't currently have some of life's biggest stressor's in your immediate daily life. (Caring for another adult or child, moving, changing jobs, separation, loss of a loved one, financial/housing/food instability, only to name a few.)
So to those who interact with me in my yoga-teaching world and think, wow, she's got it all figured out, I do not. For those who have asked, or wanted to ask, "do you ever get stressed?" I do, I can feel stress, even at this very moment, an extraordinarily rare moment where I am in my own home by myself, quiet, a thought to myself, and yet, still a bit of stress coursing through my veins.
In closing, I'd like to add that,not only do I not have a practice of writing consistently, I also do not read consistently, I have never continuously followed an author, a blogger, a journalist or an artist of any kind, really. I have no idea who might be reading this. But, to whoever might find their way to my corner of the internet, hello. I hope you always feel welcomed here, I will continue to write, in honesty, and hopefully in kindness. Until next time, Kaitlynn