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The mystique of cats : this is how they help us experience a different sensory perception


In summary: Eckhart Tolle describes the special qualities of cats that we often overlook. What does every animal on this planet have to teach us? What qualities do they have that we can learn from and that help us grow and improve ourselves?

“I’ve lived with a lot of Zen masters – all of them were cats.” – Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now. Guide to a conscious and happy life

As Eckhart Tolle tells us, living with a cat (and not ‘having’ a cat) is a fantastic experience. You gain insight almost every day. First, I discovered a whole new emotional dimension the moment she looked up at me with those pitiful eyes and my heart melted. The first time I saw her moving her ears in the opposite direction, like antennae, I was also very intrigued by what was going on in that little head.

The most obvious aspect of her being is that she is so clearly “alive”, unlike my TV or remote. My cat constantly reminds me of the distinction between Being-For-Itself and Being-In-Itself from Sartre’s “ Being and Not Being ”.

“Being In Itself is concrete, has no capacity to change, is not aware of itself. Being For-itself is conscious of its own consciousness, but it is also incomplete. For Sartre, it is this undefined, undefined nature that defines man. Since the For-itself (like man) has no predetermined essence, it is compelled to assemble itself out of nothing. For Sartre, nothingness is the defining quality of the For-itself. A tree is a tree and has no power to change or make its being. But man makes himself by acting in the world. It not only exists, as the object-in-itself does, man, as object-for-self, must perpetuate his own being.”

The difference is that my cat is clearly a Being For Itself. She has a lively, intelligent and willful consciousness in her. Although I have to do my best not to impulsively project human qualities onto her behavior, there is clearly something about her that is dynamic and has a will. Why a will? Because she is always exploring or going somewhere and has her own perspective.

The Mysticism of CatsShe hates sound. She likes sweets. She forces me to give treats by sitting on the table and staring at me, knowing that eventually I’ll give in and give her what she wants. And she can “rob” me of all the sweets by sitting on her hind legs on the table and staring at me. Once, when I gave her candies and she petted me, it dawned on me that she doesn’t see me as “Boss” and maybe not even as another entity. My activity is only part of a changing energy pattern that she is experiencing without a doubt.

One of the great lessons a cat teaches us is that what ‘you’ want doesn’t matter. Living this reality on a daily basis constantly reminds me of the miracle called life, because we cannot describe the existence of a cat, or of ourselves, in any way as we can for a rock or other ‘inanimate’ object.

Another obvious recognition is that although her world overlaps with mine in many ways – I feed her, change the litter box and play with her – despite this, her experience is completely different, yet so clearly conscious. For example, she is tiny, yet she can run at lightning speed and make incredible jumps. In addition, those ears perceive sounds that I cannot comprehend, and her nose has infinite interest in everything within reach of her whiskers. I shave my own whiskers – she uses hers to see where she fits.

I am also amazed at her luck. My cat, Eva, is in the top 1% of inhumane lifestyle anyway. She went from a cage in a shelter to a situation where she is synergistically provided for everything by a human who loves her, while her ilk has to forage for food in jungles or forests. It also shows a justified disregard for the human perspective (this may well be an anthropomorphic projection); but she may or, more often, not respond to my voice, care about what I do, or act in ways I find helpful or logical.

In that way, she is a constant reminder that the human perspective is rather arbitrary. It makes me wonder what the unknown depths are of an elephant, dolphin or whale. Then I think of the pride of our own image that humans are the “dominant” species, and suddenly I find her contempt justified.

Perhaps most significant is the instant recognition that what is “alive” is infinitely more sacred than anything else we know. It’s not just a matter of extra ‘properties’ or ‘characteristics’; being alive is a quality that we cannot imitate, but can only experience.

Let’s remember what the Dalai Lama suggests as powerful meditation: our connection to all life forms. When my cat chooses to sleep on the bed next to me, and I relax in her company, the peace I feel is tangible. Sometimes when she’s frantically running around the house, I think I’m living in the wild animal kingdom, but it’s also a powerful reminder that we’re not really in control of all that much. It’s like living with nature.


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