Is there something or someone in your life that really annoys you? I have this cat who won’t shut up. I love her, but she’s annoying. She’s getting on in years, and she just won’t shut up. Sometimes there is something she definitely wants, and often I can do something about that: sometimes there seems to be nothing that she wants, or at least nothing I can figure out. I suspect sometimes she just likes to yowl because she wants the attention. My response to this has been to holler at her to shut the hell up. You can probably imagine how useful this has been.
One of my teachers likes to say that our minds are composed of different parts, that there are parts of our personality that formed before we were verbal, perhaps even before we were even human. These primitive parts of our minds don’t have words or even concrete ideas. All they have are feelings: a sense of danger or of wanting. Without a real clue about what these feelings are, and often without even knowing that we are even having these feelings, we automatically come up with reasons for them. That inner cat yowling for whatever it wants demands a response. Rather than actually hear the annoying feline in our souls, we immediately jump to a habitual desire, trying to settle that sense of disquiet that follows us everywhere. These habitual cravings lead us – nowhere. They don’t quiet the cat, and they certainly don’t do anything to help us become better, kinder people.
A daily sitting practice will slow us down enough to sense these inner voices, but I have found that often I still find myself at odds with my own tendencies. Just knowing the cat is there and that it’s loud doesn’t really make it go away or be less annoying. I would like to suggest something else: look around in your life. Look closely at these things that annoy you in your daily life, and ask yourself: is there a parallel between these things and the unsettledness in my own mind? And, is there a way I can approach these situations and my own mind with more gentleness?
I have found that the best way to get the cat to shut up is to stop whatever I’m doing, go find her, pick her up, and pet her. I hold her and talk to her, and pet her. I get the additional benefit of hearing her purr, which has proven health benefits. I wonder if doing this on a regular basis, in addition to my daily practice, will somehow carry over into a kinder attitude towards the primitive wordless yowlings in my own mind.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to deal with this. I’m too busy to (metaphorically) pick up the cat every time she starts meowing.” What I would like to ask is: how much time are you spending now stewing over whatever is bothering you? How much time do you waste getting distracted by these annoyances? Would you actually be more productive in the time you spend trying to avoid daily annoyances if you were able to just give yourself and the situation a moment of your attention?
I think it’s worth a shot.