Purr-fect Wisdom: 6 Life Lessons from Master Percy

NYC Mediator Susan Ingram of www.susan-ingram.com uses her cat to share some life lessons that can benefit all.

I recently added a beautiful Siberian cat to my household. This is not the first time I’ve decided to share my life with a feline. I’ve owned two other cats before this, spanning a total of 20 years. It’s been over a year since my last cat died. A few months ago I decided to take the leap once more and introduce a new fellow, this time dubbed Percy, into my life.

Maybe because I’ve been cat-less for a while, I find myself noticing – and appreciating – the special qualities of Percy and his fellow felines. Below are the 6 life lessons Percy has been gracious enough to share with me:

1. BE IN THE MOMENT. Have you ever noticed how effortless it is for a cat to be in the here and now? When awake, they’re ever watchful; when asleep, they’ve totally given themselves over to the dream-state. For us humans it’s a bit harder, but still doable. Think of all those books over the years that have exhorted us to be more fully present in our lives—to live in the moment—and then tried to show us how to accomplish this.

For me, I’ve found meditation to be my answer. I do it for about 20 minutes each day. It has helped relax me and greatly reduced that stressed-out feeling that I used to take for granted. It’s also enabled me to slow down enough to be in the moment more of the time and appreciate everything in my world, smaller details as well as bigger events, more fully.

2. FOCUS…AND THEN QUICKLY MOVE INTO ACTION. Observe how intently a cat studies a spider crawling across the floor as the cat gets ready to pounce. All of its concentration is focused on that one insect as it prepares for the perfect moment to strike.

I’ve realized that I can benefit by applying this concentrated approach to reaching my own goals.  It means that, in order to accomplish a specific goal, I need to focus clearly and give it the attention it requires, including taking all of the necessary follow-through steps. Once all of that is accomplished, I’m fully prepared and ready to spring into action.

3. BE RESOURCEFUL AND CREATIVE. Have you ever noticed how little a cat needs to capture its interest? You don’t have to go out and buy the fancy toys they sell in the pet shops. Just toss it a bottle cap or a piece of string and it will play with that “toy” for hours. We humans could learn a valuable lesson from this.

I’ve been trying to think creatively and be more resourceful in my problem solving. When we think creatively, we switch from our dominant, logical way of approaching a task or problem (left-brain mode) to a perceptual, intuitive approach (right-brain mode). This opens up whole new ways of seeing things. For example, by thinking in the more creative, right-brain mode, I was able to develop a unique approach for this article, using my dear cat Percy as my muse.

4. MAINTAIN BALANCE. Doesn’t it always amaze you how cats can walk on a thin ledge or fall from very high up and somehow miraculously land uninjured on all fours? They have an innate sense of equilibrium and balance. That’s something that we should all strive for as well. I suppose it could be called the yin-yang approach to life. It means that we don’t let ourselves be pulled to one extreme or the other, but try to maintain balance.

Hopefully, this applies to all areas of our lives—emotional, psychological, physical. One of the things that helps me stay balanced is my meditation practice. I also try to set aside some time each week for activities that I find particularly enjoyable and relaxing.

5. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Cats are totally attuned to the needs of their bodies. They eat only when hungry, sleep for many hours each day, stretch frequently, and if they’re the affectionate type, initiate a lot of physical contact with their owners. They’re very connected to their bodies and attend to their needs in a healthful manner.

So too, if we humans had the same perspective, we would feel a lot better. We would eat only when we were truly hungry (still allowing for a few treats here and there, of course). We would get enough sleep at night, and we would routinely exercise to keep our bodies in good shape. Personally, I’ve found that the more I listen and respond to my body and its needs, the better I feel, physically and in all other ways.

6. JUST…BREATHE! Many traditions of the world teach that the breath is the key to life. Cats and the other creatures of the animal kingdom don’t have to be reminded to breathe properly. They just do it naturally. Unfortunately, many of us humans have forgotten this simple fact of life. We’re used to taking shallow breaths instead of deep abdominal (belly) breaths.

Much has been written about the benefits of deep breathing, including the support it provides for the body’s self-healing mechanisms. I’m much more conscious of my breathing nowadays, and I routinely incorporate deep breathing into my daily life. It’s certainly easy enough to put into practice, and I find it makes a significant difference.

So end Percy’s Six Life Lessons. I figure there must be some wisdom to all of this. After all, hasn’t he been granted nine lives in which to test out all of these truths?!

For those of you who are also cat or animal lovers, I look forward to you sharing your own thoughts and observations on this subject in the “Post a Comment” box below. Thanks!

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