Having a pet is awesome. Not only do animals provide tons ‘a’ lovin’, but they’re also a great help when it comes to mindfulness meditation.
Here’s me and Tibby. Tibby’s going to help me with a mindfulness meditation.
[R.I.P Tibby, we will always love you!]
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Why would you meditate on a pet?! Why not just sit on a yoga mat with your eyes closed?”
Well, here’s the thing. Basic techniques are great and all (and we should practice them every day). But where meditation really gets interesting is when you start to focus on different things.
How focusing on different materials changes the meditation
When you are focusing—as you know—you are focussing your mind 100% on one thing. Oftentimes we meditate on the breath. This calms and centres us. Other times we meditate on our body. This enhances the mind body connection.
Every different thing you focus on changes the meditation in different ways. Meditating on running water, for instance, will help you to achieve flow. Meditating on the ground, not surprisingly, helps you to feel grounded.
It’s a bit like osmosis, but like, not with plants, with people. You soak up the properties of the thing you are meditating on.
So why is it so good to focus on a cat?!
Simple! Cats have tons of excellent qualities that we can learn through meditation. Meditating on animals is one of the best mindfulness exercises you can do.
Take curiosity, for example. We all know curiosity killed the cat, right? Curiosity is an extremely important trait (and one of the 24 virtues of positive psychology). When you are curious you look at the world with open eyes, you’re more willing to learn and you are more explorative. Cats have curiosity in spades. When you mindfully meditate on a cat you observe the cat’s curiosity and help to develop that trait in yourself.
Then there’s the cat’s movement. Cats are extremely relaxed in their body. They move with smoothness and grace. They are like nature’s little ninjas. Climbing up trees with ease, full of energy and yeah, sure, sometimes jumping into windows and attacking printers. Mindfully meditating on a cat helps your own body to relax.
And finally cats are nonjudgmental. In fact, I’m fairly certain all animals except humans are nonjudgmental. Judgmentalism is a uniquely human flaw. Meditating on animals helps you to escape the trappings of judgmentalism.
The important thing here, thought, isn’t about cats. It’s about meditation. Mix up your practice. Focus on different things and you will achieve different results.
The key is to be explorative. Explore. You’ll be amazed at the results!
If you’re interested, I go into a lot more detail in my book Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners.