Years of study with a Japanese Zen master gave me a strong referent experience of what it means to be here now. He was my first Zen teacher and now there’s our cat, Maow. We can all learn to be here now, like Maow. He is the master of simple enlightenment.
Maow is always in the moment. He’s completely connected to his senses, noticing all that goes on around him (perhaps even when sleeping). He doesn’t worry about where his next meal is coming from, he just asks— often loudly—to be fed when he’s ready.
He simply chirps out a sweet purr
Our cat loves to be loved, knows he is loved, and never doubts he’s worthy or deserves a special place in the world– and that’s wherever he desires to plop his furry body. If surprised by a hand that wakes him from a deep sleep, he simply chirps out a sweet purr, happy for the attention.
Of course he does not share our human worries about house payments, life’s details and keeping other humans satisfied.
But given that I can needlessly anxious myself about a future that is completely imagined or obsess over how I did myself in the past, I find our cat’s omnipresence a constant reminder to simply return to what is happening now.
Be Here Now Like Maow
Even in my most difficult moments, like when a loved one is sick or dies, if I stay connected to this moment, without all of the ‘what ifs’ or ‘should haves’, I can calm myself and hold my center because my pain’s not magnified by concern about the future or regret of the past.
In our Live Conscious Retreats, our cat’s kind of presence begins to become palpable in the group and this kind of attention builds every day. With the help of sensory awareness experiments, unique tools for becoming more aware, and learning how to speak in present tense, we all begin to move at a slower pace and connect deeply with each other and with ourselves.
This is a pace we take home with us, making an enormous difference in how we experience the world around us.
At our periodic Live Conscious gatherings, if no one has cat allergies, Maow often sits in the middle of our circle or walks around gracing everyone with his presence. He’s a great example of what happiness looks like and how we all can be if, like him, we just focus on what is happening now.
So what can you do if you don’t have Maow in your life?
You can begin to practice noticing what is happening right now—what we call Sensory Awareness. Get in touch with your senses. Be Here Now like Maow. Using your sense of touch, notice what you are sitting on while reading this blog. What do you feel as your body connects to the chair? What are your feet doing and touching—and your hands?
Notice what you are reading this on, perhaps your computer, maybe a paper. Notice the room beyond what you are reading. Notice colors and textures. Notice the sounds around you, right now. Notice if there is movement in the room or a smell in the air. Breathe deeply into your belly and drop your shoulders on your out breath. Noticing what is happening right now is really what it’s all about and all we need for simple enlightenment.