The Whiskered Guru, Part II

The Whiskered Guru
by Frank Andrews

The cat snores softly.
I ask her why are we here.
She yawns and stretches.

The cat snores softly.
I ask him why are we here.
He yawns and stretches.

(The English language needs some better ungendered pronouns.)

I wrote this poem long ago after a conversation with our old cat Purr. Since then I’ve been fascinated by the variety of responses that students have to it. Two common ones are: (1) She says we are here to wake up and stretch, to grow and live a richer, more positive life. (2.) She tells us not to ask these cosmic intellectual questions that clearly have no simple right answers, but instead to attend to practical, specific, real areas of life where an answer might be helpful.

I resonate with the second, since I know how easy it is to forget that I am limited in understanding anything. I am not God, and I’ve lived only a short and limited life. There are lots of teachers, lots of gurus, and today I get Purr. So I’ll never know the true reason, the real reason, God’s reason, why I am here. And it would be arrogant to presume I did. In fact, I don’t even know what “here” means, since it could mean here in this body on this planet, or it could mean in my office on campus this morning talking with students, or this afternoon when I’m driving to the store to buy groceries.

I’ve found it empowering to combine useful elements of both of these answers into a third that is somewhat longer: Instead of talking about my whole life, I’ll shorten the task to yesterday, and ask what purpose I had during each block of time throughout the day.

“Well, first thing in the morning I vaguely realized I was awake and the sun was up. I decided not to go back to sleep, so I attended to my body and the bed, knowing that would gradually awaken me. In a minute I rolled over and . . . . . . . . And as I lay there in bed I felt the bedding holding me in a warm embrace as I slipped off into sleep. Goodnight.”

Fine. That describes how I lived yesterday, which is pretty much how I’m living today. But I didn’t come here for a description. I came here to grow – for a challenge and a vision – to learn to wake up and stretch, to live a richer, more positive life. And one way to do that better is to get some useful ideas from a coach who has experience, and then to live a string of richer, more positive moments, one after another. I will learn to improve the habits and beliefs by which I live finite chunks of time. That’s how we learn anything, gain any skill. I can learn to live a better life only by practicing it, one chunk at a time.

For example, tomorrow morning as I welcome in my first student of the day, I could assert to myself, “I am holding as my over-arching assertion, commitment, purpose that this person, the one sitting right here right now in my office, is sacred. In other words, I would simply open my head and my heart to each student and project to them and accept from them the most powerful YES! that I can muster. (Don’t ask me to define sacred. I use it because I like what the word evokes inside me. In that respect, it’s like the assertion, “I love you!”)

“I intend to see you now as sacred.” To hold to that I may silently repeat to myself, “You are sacred!” The word are here does not mean that sacred is a description of you. It is instead a stand that I take as I approach you. Living from that stand in your presence, is one way I can wake up and stretch, grow, live a richer, more positive life. When I illuminate you in a certain light, you show up accordingly, in this case as sacred, and thus confirm my attitude.

And this afternoon when I climb into the car to head for the grocery store, I will assert during the trip: “I am calm and relaxed, driving smoothly, carefully, graciously, and safely. The other people, in cars, on bikes, or walking, make up my community. They may be feeling rushed or threatened, but I bring loving, calming support to everyone.” Again, I say this with strong feeling, not because it describes my attitude, but because it evokes my attitude. When I say “I am relaxed,” it’s really a powerful way of saying “I am living as if I am relaxed.”

Note, when I approach life this way, wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, choices open up for me, countless choices. Am I willing to identify and pay attention to them? However we live at any moment, we are rehearsing for life to come. What am I practicing here? Growth? Love? Same old thing? Take your pick.

Why am I here? What is the purpose, or what are the purposes of my life? What Purr told me, just as clearly as most gurus tell us things, is that I get to answer as I choose. Oh poop! You mean you’re not going to tell me how to live? Precisely. You get to choose for yourself. Isn’t that really a blessing? You are, after all, a human.

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