One spring, when I returned to Italy, I was feeling rather sad. My miniscule poodle buddy Popcorn had moved on, so she was not by my side as the flowers began to open and the birds began to nest. But then a surprise miracle came into my life. A young cat unexplainably began to visit and sit right by my chair while I was enjoying the warm sun and tea in my blossoming garden. It was as if this creature had detected that I needed the company of a sensitive, beautiful animal and decided to grace me with his presence. As I began to get up close and personal with this being, my eyes opened to a new world. The cat’s world, one of gracefullness, patience, and freedom.
This little animal quickly became king of my garden, chasing away the other visiting cats, stalking the lizards, and stopping by my slider window to see if I would come out and greet him. Suddenly, I understood my fascination with this visitor--it was like being hit with a thunderbolt from the sky. Dolcezza, as I named him, was traveling the fine line between domestic and wild, and I realized that he was also dancing along the interface of the physical and the spiritual, living a life of exquisite balance.
The greatest of artists, like cats, travel this line – they connect with the spiritual and communicate with the physical. In fact, there are many humans, from all walks of life, that manage to traverse both realms with the balancing skill of the trapeze artist. We know when we cross paths with one of these folks, because we are struck with awe. The doctor that seems to diagnose through intuition, the teacher that always senses the perfect creative solution for his/her students, the pianist who seems to strike the very chords of our hearts. How do they do it? And how can we better hone our own skills at this art of living a creative, intuitive and balanced life?
My visiting cat Dolcezza has given me some lessons on just this topic and I’d like to share them with you.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE
Wikipedia tells us that a cat has a success rate of between 1in 3 and 1 in 6. And a cat will search it’s prey whether it is hungry or not, and is always “practicing” its skills on toys and, unfortunately, even furniture. The bottom line is that a cat does not become one of the world’s greatest hunters by sitting around. How many of us have the patience to practice the skills that are necessary to develop our passions as much as our feline friends practice the hunt?
“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”
My garden visitor spends many hours just being still. Watching. Alert. Ready for action. Looking, listening, with non-movement. Not thinking about the last successful ambush, nor if the next one will bring success. Being in the moment. This is one of the hardest things for us two legged creatures to do, even for a minute. A great example of this is to set your phone timer to 3 minutes and try to be still, both in mind and body. This is what meditation is all about, learning to tolerate stillness in a very unstill world.
Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen - that stillness becomes a radiance.
The tail begins to swish, and the feline hunter is ready to pounce. It is his moment to take action, and not a nanosecond is lost to self-doubt or indecision. How often do we get ready to pounce on one of our intuitive ideas, and instead let it “escape” by inaction triggered by fears, doubts and insecurity? How about if we make a commitment to give ourselves permission to go for the “chase” with excitement and confidence? We may not succeed with our actions every time, but please remind yourself that it is the action that brings growth, not the success.
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
Cats, like most animals, spend lots of hours just laying around doing NOTHING. Certainly, we humans cannot do the same, but rest and relaxation is as important as action. This is a concept that is lost on our 21st century living lifestyle—even when we are in “off” time, we feel we must be doing something. If our cats were to go at our pace, there would be no energy left for the hunt. So give yourself a break!
"Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.”
―Leonardo Da Vinci
Do you have something that helps you stay balanced? We'd love if you would share it in the comments below!
Here’s a great book by Twyla Tharp, not only a master dancer but a master at the balancing act of creative living:
Here is the link to her website, which gives a history of her incredible work: