Notes on Gratitude
“The joy of Being is the joy of being conscious.” A New Earth, Tolle p. 300
I wanted to write a little gratitude post today about my cats. I mean, look at these two. Aren’t they the cutest things you’ve ever seen? I love my cats, a lot. I felt especially grateful for them yesterday. They knew my girl wasn’t feeling well and closed ranks to keep an eye on her. (That’s Cinnamon on her lap in photo below.) We can always count on a pet to keep us company when we’re feeling down. I so dig that about my cats!
I remembered that Eckhart Tolle had written in A New Earth (I think) about pets and their power to raise our awareness, so I grabbed the book and tried to find the relevant section hoping to add some insight here. I fanned through the pages thinking the word “pet” or “cat” might jump out at me. Neither did. What did jump out at me though was “joy.”
Yes!, I thought. I’ll reread what Eckhart has to say about joy. My cats are one embodiment of joy in my life (except when they barf on the carpet), and joy is an important topic. It’s something I want to experience more of. Who doesn’t? And like most of the topics he covers, there’s more to joy than meets the eye. (I could probably read his book one hundred times and not understand all that Eckhart has to teach us, but I’ll keep trying.)
Here’s what caught my attention:
“Joy does not come from what you do, it flows into what you do and thus into this world from deep within you. The misperception that joy comes from what you do is normal, and it is also dangerous, because it creates the belief that joy is something that can be derived from something else, such as an activity or a thing. You then look to the world to bring you joy, happiness. But it cannot do that.”
I have no recollection of reading these words my first time through the book. I know I did because I underlined and circled them and drew an arrow pointing to the words “from something else.” Meaning, I had a sense of the truth of his words. I seek joy from external sources: people, places, possessions. Yes, I do. No wonder I end up disappointed and as Tolle says, frustrated. I’ve been looking for joy in the wrong place!
Tolle’s point is that to experience joy we must first be fully present. It isn’t the action, he says, that we enjoy, but the sense of aliveness that flows into it. “This is finding the joy of Being in what you are doing.” In other words, joy is already inside of us in unlimited supply. Many days this seems hard to believe. Plus, it means I have to take responsibility for myself. Ugh.
Here’s what’s great—I have to take responsibility for myself. I can make joy a habit. I have a path to follow, albeit a murky one, to bring more of something I want into my life.
Joy may not derive from any external source, but today, when Finn settled down on my lap for a nap, distractions slipped away from my mind. I became present to the softness of his fur, to feeling him inhale and exhale against my legs. Today, my cat activated my sense of aliveness and allowed joy to radiate through me. For that, I am grateful.
How do your pets help you experience joy?
My two cats are a conduit for sensing joy. Their cuteness overwhelms me every day – their faces, their expressions, one's poly-dactyl paws, their vocalizations, the way they ask to be pet. Yes, the barfing on carpet is upsetting, but I have to say that when either one barfs on the wood floors (engineered wood), I am JOYFUL! Ha ha ha…
The fact that joy comes from within means we don't have to rely on things or other people to "bring" us joy. We have control over our joy. It's not necessarily a state one can be in for endless hours, but of course it's the juxtaposition of joy against suffering or the mundane that lets us appreciate the joy.
A long time ago, I had a mental list of what I needed to purchased (like a bigger house, a nicer couch, etc.) to attain "being happy." I don't remember how it happened, but I figured out I didn't need any "thing" to be happy. My attitude about "pursuing" happiness changed to "being" happy, based on all I was already grateful for.
That said, this attitude helped me feel more joy. I think I began to appreciate the little things more. I let little things that upset me go quickly by the wayside, and I even began not getting upset over little things that would have knocked me off kilter in the past.
Am I happy all the time? Of course not. When I need help balancing my attitude, my cats help me purely by their existence. There was a time in my life about 2 years ago that put me in one of the deepest despairs I've ever had. There was a very specific moment I remember, when I had to wait for something and I didn't know how I would get through the next 5 minutes without imploding. What could I do to just get through the next few minutes? There was only one thing that made sense: lay down next to one of my cats that was napping on the bed and pet him.
I love your story Susan. Thank you so much for sharing. It's a big deal when we realize that happiness (joy) doesn't come from without and that we actually have the power over our own emotions. I love that you turned to your cats in such a difficult time. I do that too and so does my daughter. When she's feeling low, she cuddles up with Cinnamon and he purrs her troubles away. We're so lucky to have these creatures in our lives, to love and to be loved by them!
Yes, so lucky! I've noticed that some people who haven't had pets find it difficult to empathize when someone else loses a pet. "It's just an animal, for heaven's sake!" one might say. That sounds so cold-hearted, yet can empathize with a person like that because if you haven't experienced the joy of having pet, of feeling the attachment to a creature you love, it's hard to imagine the feeling of loss when a pet dies. As hard as it is when a pet's time is up, the enrichment a pet brings into your life is surely worth the certain loss.
So I say, "For heaven's sake, if we all thought the pain of loss didn't outweigh the joy of connection, why would we ever try to make a friend, get married or have children?" lol
LOL! Susan, you crack me up. Why, indeed!