My cat has very simple needs and knows how to get them satisfied with the minimum of fuss. He either wants to be fed, wants to go outside, or wants to come back into the house. When he wants to be fed he will start by staring at me, if that doesn’t work he will sit on top of my computer, my book or whatever else is taking my attention away from fulfilling his needs.
His problem? He wants food in his bowl,
His Solution? Find a way to get me to the kitchen to replenish his food supply.
When he wants to out, he will put his paws on the door and does the same when it is time to get back in. Sometimes, he will want a cuddle and to do this, he will come up and sit on my lap knocking anything else out of the way to get comfortable. Computers, I-pads, phones, and books are sent flying to ensure his minimum needs are met.
This is where the mind of a cat is so very different from the human mind. If the cat was human then the simple desire for food may lead to a process of swinging back from ‘If only’ thoughts about the past to ‘What if’ thoughts of the future.
If only I had been a better cat
I wonder what I did wrong
I must have upset her, why won’t she get up and feed me
Maybe she doesn’t love me anymore
And on and on, fretting and worrying about what THEY may or may not have done in the past that has let to this problem in the present.
Off their mind goes to the future and what if? What if she never gets up and puts food in my bowl? What will I do for food? I’ll need to find a new family, and, you know I am not getting any younger, I have lost some of my good looks and have a few grey hairs. It might not be that easy to find a new family to take care of me. I might even starve, slowly, over the winter, I wonder how long it takes to die alone and hungry with no one to love me.
Back and forth between regret and catastrophising, torturing themselves, making themselves miserable and not doing anything constructive to solve the problem.
But the cat doesn’t think this way, they want food, that is the problem they have NOW, at this moment, how to get food. So why waste time thinking about the past, thinking about the future, and completely ignoring what needs to be done. Addressing the problem of no food in their food bowl.
Did all the see-saw thinking help? No, it did not solve the problem and if anything, it only made everything worse, not only do we have no food, but we are depressed about the prospect of never having food again, and how bad life is, and will it ever be good again.
Cats don’t think like that, and we don’t have to do it either. When we have a problem we can do what we can to solve it, if there is nothing we can do to solve the problem, then we need to accept it for what it is, trying to forecast the future without a crystal ball will not help and will only make things worse. Why when we try to predict the future when a problem arises do we always see it with the worse possible outcome?
How to think like a Cat?
Become aware of what you are doing. Many people spend most of their waking day either regretting what has happened in their past or worrying about what will happen in the future, like sitting on a swing in perpetual motion going back to the past and forwards to the future without even noticing that this is what we are doing. Once we realise, we can start to slow the swing down and bring it to a complete halt, once there we can sit in the peace of the moment, with no movement to distract us. We can begin to appreciate the wonderful life that we are living right now, at this moment, and it is wonderful. Life is as wonderful as you decide to make it.
Drop the baggage of past regrets, they are gone there is nothing you can do to change the past and no amount of mulling over it will change anything. Drop the worrying about what may happen by looking into your imaginary crystal ball and come back into the present moment.
If it helps, notice, and name your thoughts, that is the past, or that is the future and like all good habits you will gradually change your thinking, and stay longer and longer in the present.
“I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats“