In the middle of this very very hot, very very dry summer, when we would stay inside our wonderfully cool little house all day every day, Ella, our lively little cat, was eight months old, and Mocha, our sensitive and often reactive dog, was ten years old.
One day the shit hit the fan.
Mocha was on her bed, sleeping lightly. Ella came flying into the room, skittered across the wood floor, attacked the dog’s tail with one flying paw, claws fully extended, turned, and zoomed out of the room. But Mocha was ready. Suddenly the dog had the cat cornered under the coat rack, and her jaws were closing around Ella’s ribs.
I shrieked, shouting at Mocha in my fiercest voice, pushing her away from the cat, and sending her to her bed. There was no need really; Mocha knew where to go, and as usual, she seemed genuinely remorseful.
But the incident was over the top for me. All afternoon, I stormed around, imagining the quiet home in the country I’d find for Mocha, designing in my mind the sign I’d hang at the vet’s and the Facebook post I’d write. I was done with her, this difficult, traumatized animal who’d shown up in our lives just when we arrived in our idyllic new setting four years ago. Despite some good progress, she still terrorized tourists, lurched and bared her teeth at moving wheels of all sorts, and snarled at children who approached her uninvited.
I’d had enough. Which picture would I choose for the ad?
Meanwhile, Ella was fine, relaxing on her chair next to Mocha’s bed, stretching, washing herself.
As these things go – more and more frequently it seems – when I sat down and opened my computer, there was an offer to watch a short series of videos on working with sensitive animals. Needless to say, I watched them.
For a little over a month now, I’ve been practicing a new form of meditation that I learned from the series, which is about James French’s Trust Technique. After 40 years of practicing more or less the same technique I’d learned from Ganesh Baba, I feel like I’m being offered a promotion. The open-eyed, focused Buddhist-style practice French uses takes the inner skills I’ve honed all these years and redirects them outward, slowly refining my awareness of my own state of mind and Mocha’s. I’m only on the second lesson of the paid series, and my relationship with her has changed.
I haven’t replaced my Ganesh-Baba-style kriya yoga practice with the new practice – I do both; they enhance each other – and I look forward to both my private practice and my twenty minutes of meditation with Mocha with renewed enthusiasm.
Based on Reiki, the trick to meditating and eventually cooperating with animals is to master moving into a deeply peaceful state of presence easily, a stillness without thought, that they find comforting. Now, using my attention increasingly skillfully and progressing at Mocha’s pace, I’m learning to communicate that peace to her. She likes it very much, and so does Ella, who regularly volunteers to join in our experiments.
Today, as I drifted back into ordinary consciousness after a particularly satisfying session with both dog and cat, it occurred to me that the skills I’m gaining may be very useful in these increasingly chaotic times. I’m practicing being undisturbed by passing cars, by Tom passing through the room, being unruffled by feelings of failure or frustration, detached from thoughts of the future and the past. I sit on the floor next with Mocha and Ella, breathing softly, fully present.
And all around me, there is peace.