Whispering in each boy’s ear at night while sleeping, “may you grow stronger every day and stronger in every way;” is a ritual I have done for thirteen plus years. Now I find myself whispering this same sweet sentiment into kittens’ ears. Kittens that are a new addition to our family. Kittens that require bottle feeding and monitoring. And they need an adult to make decisions for them, like the wet warm cotton ball on pee and poop parts to stimulate reflexes. May you grow stronger every day and stronger in every way.
Here’s the backstory. About a week ago, I thought I heard a coqui tree frog in the woods next to our house. I would go outside after hearing it for a few seconds and it would cease, immediately. I was curious because, to date, our home, our neighborhood, our place on the island, does not harbor coqui. This invasive species with the accompanying high-decibel nighttime noise is present in other parts of the island, not here.
I was compelled, as many residents here are compelled, to stop this creature from establishing a population of other coqui. This is akin to trying to stop negative thoughts from setting up shop in the neighborhood of my serene mind. I love quiet nights; I don’t want coqui in my backyard. I love the native serenity of my mind in its pure state, not invasive annoyances of worry and outrage, perfection and doubt.
In order to flush out the coqui, and in effort to preserve nighttime serenity (and sanity), I got to work on the debris piled by our neighbor’s fence. I asked for help. My teenager came to help, barefoot and ungloved. I pulled up big branches and handed them to him. Even without having shoes on, he wanted to go down deeper into the debris and pull it out. I was hesitant and then something whispered in my ear, he is getting stronger every day and stronger in every way. I let him.
Meditation in Action
Now to fully set the stage, I should tell you that I really wanted to be miffed that the debris was piled up on the edge of our yard. Was it our neighbor who put it there? Was it my husband who put it there? I felt the warm wash of outrage prodding me. Instead of raging, however, I simply took a deep breath and observed my thoughts. It was a crystal clear example of meditation in action.
For that split second, I didn’t react with a nasty tone of voice. It felt so freeing to not get personally offended by something that someone does or does not do. Part of me really wanted to blame someone for this mess. But, more importantly, a bigger part of me didn’t want to cast blame. Alhamdu-lillah, an Arabic phrase meaning thanks be to God- to show gratefulness of a situation. (I long to know this phrase in each world wisdom tradition.)
It was profound, yet simple. I simply did what was in front of me to do. Pulled out a branch, broke it into smaller pieces, placed it in the yard waste can. Immersing myself in my surroundings, I whispered to the elusive coqui, please find a new home, not here.
My mother-in-law wondered who I was talking to. I talk to nature a lot; practically all day long and sometimes audibly. Something darted across my field of vision. I reassured myself it was not a rat, it was not a mongoose, it was, indeed, a feral cat.
Still working, feeling strong, my older son helping me. He noticed. “Gosh, Mom, that’s a big load.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
I find it interesting to observe, the stronger in physical body I get, the softer in my demeanor I get. The softer I get with my gaze, my tone of voice, my reactivity, the stronger in spirit I get. Vulnerability, a place of soft and supple willingness, is a sign of strength.
I was taking another load of yard debris to the truck when I saw a look on my son’s face I had never seen before. I heard a murmuring that I had never heard before. Once my brain figured out that he wasn’t hurt, I realized he was elated. Another negative thought—silenced.
The strange sound coming from him was one of pure excitement, no words, just a coo-ing, woo-ing sound. Finally, he uttered something coherent. “They are so cute,” he cried.
He found kittens. Under the truck-load of debris we had pulled out together. A nest. A den. Kittens. The cat I had witnessed dart away was the mama cat. We had unearthed a natural birth place.
More striking to me was just how this little bundle of cuteness ignited the dry kindling that had been growing in my boy, ready to ignite in a heartbeat; he had wanted something to nurture for so very long. Here was a furry animal to cuddle, times two. One black. One tiger-striped. He told his nine-year-old brother and within moments they were both smitten by kitten.
My mama instinct was to leave them be. I stopped pulling out the debris around them. They were tucked away, safe in the cave of nature, granted they had more exposure than previously. We had unearthed them. We had disrupted the natural process, I worried.
While I was hauling the debris, my husband apparently was giving our sons a different message. He told them to go ahead and pick up the kittens. Of course they wanted to pick them up and the next thing I knew they were in the house, drawing the oooooh and aaaaah of other family members.
Then I noticed they reminded me of the kittens my father and brothers brought to me when I was four, a black kitten I named him Pitch and a tabby I named Tiger. This touched an even softer spot within me; a sweet memory. More people smitten by kitten.
A week prior to their arrival, at our family meeting, the vibe couldn’t have been farther from this current vibe of unconditional tenderness. It was tense and painful as we discussed the difficulties of living together multi-generationally, and troubles with communication.
This Sunday, the vibe was one of rallying together, albeit cautiously, to take care of these two helpless creatures who were now our kuleana, our responsibility.
The mama cat walked by our sliding door, mewing and searching for her babies. A cool trade wind blew through the yard, carrying her cries. My beloved brought me a cup of coffee, bringing me out of my mental meanderings and back to the moment with delicious aroma.
The kittens were already adopted by humans. Done.
Angel of Acceptance
I would not have asked for it to be this way, with multiple feedings per day and pulls on our energy. Personally, I would have let the kittens nurse with the mama and work out potential adoption later, and after a family meeting to discuss it. Again, though I wanted to be miffed with what was right in front of me, I felt the angel of acceptance whispering in my ear, let it be. Tend and befriend. Be gentle. This is a gift to the boys. They want to nurture. Let them nurture.
I held one pound of cute in each hand, the furry balls of kitten, for the first time. I found myself smitten by kitten, I softened to this situation, and I surrendered to win.
I am reminded of the Cherokee fable of the two wolves inside each of us, one representing peaceful positivity, the other negative outrage. We observe these two creatures, living, growing, fighting, every day, in each of us. The observer asks, who will win? The moral of the story is that the one you feed wins, the one you pay attention to with soft and tender nurturance grows stronger every day and stronger in every way.
To personally not feed the angry wolf of reactivity and blame was a relief. There are many times in my life when I have quickly fed the negativity that lives within me, the insatiable wolf of perfection and judgment, who is so righteously convinced she must win. I also have tried to remedy this by feeding the other wolf, the more loving wolf, more nutritious quantities of food so it was stronger. This time I actually did not feed the angry wolf.
May I grow stronger and softer, more vulnerable and more powerful, every day, in every way.