Like a Tree.
Since my dog Gus died this past August, I have become more aware of our two fluffy cats. One of them, Addie, is quite the princess (her kindest nickname) and doesn't seem to care if we are nearby, or even whether we exist.
The early morning used to be the one time that she engaged me, loudly, because she knew that I was going to be serving her canned food. But a few weeks ago I switched to canned vegan cat food (a macrobiotic mix of veggies and whole grains) and so now she generally ignores me 24/7.
One chilly morning this week, I went into my meditation room to practice and I closed the door behind me to keep in the heat. A few minutes into my sitting, I heard someone pawing the door. When she got no answer (I was trying to meditate) she upped the banging. Pretty soon she was meowing, screeching, and finally resorted to swiping her paw back and forth under the door to get my attention.
Since this was so out of character for her, I got up and let her into the room. I assumed that she wanted me to get up and get her breakfast or fill the sink with water for her to drink. I worried that she might disturb my practice by continuing to harass me once I let her in. But she didn't. Instead she curled up quietly behind me, indulged in some badly needed fur cleaning, and just chilled with me. I was surprised and delighted to have her sitting in the room with me.
That episode reminded me of something that Thich Nhat Hanh said when I was in Plum Village this past June. He said that sometimes we can be there for someone without doing a thing. Like when we sit near a tree and we feel that the tree is there for even though it doesn't say or do anything at all.
When we sit down under a tree, we aren't expecting the tree to do anything, but yet we still feel comforted just being there in its shade. It's the same with all of us. It can be truly comforting and joyful to be with another being, in silence, with no agenda.
It's a teaching that I try to remind myself when someone shares their difficulties with me. I often feel like I have to say something or do something or even be something in order to help them. But then I remember how comforting a tree can be, and I let myself off the hook. Very often, being present for the other person (or cat) is enough.
The quieter you become, the more you can hear. -- Ram Dass
Some of you may have lost trees in this last storm. And even though the tree didn't make you dinner, didn't help you move, or give you any good advice, you probably felt a loss. That tree just stood by, and by just standing by, it provided some comfort. Heck, the Buddha became enlightened while sitting under a tree is silence.
And when Addie curled up in the room with me, I realized that she was looking for that same kind of tree love and offering it to me as well. She didn't want water or petting and she definitely didn't want her vegan breakfast, she just wanted to sit under my tree. I know how she feels. I love to sit near my friends and loved ones (even cats), and quietly relax. Especially in the darker, wintery months, it sure is nice to curl up together with nothing to do and just be there for each other. And in some ways, our quiet presence is the most precious gift we can give each other.