Sunday Purrs: Creating Balance

Creating Balance

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance,
order, rhythm and harmony. – Thomas Merton

Do you struggle to find balance in your life?  Many of us lead lives that are anything but balanced. In fact, at times, we often feel like a cat trying to balance on a tree branch, ready to tumble off at any moment. Some of us will manage to right ourselves, others will try to balance by flailing about, and the rest of us will fall off and try to get back on again. But eventually, no matter how hard we try, we’ll all fall off if we don’t create balance in our lives.

Balance is an essential ingredient for a happy life. When your life is in balance, your body, mind and spirit are in harmony. Everything just feels right.

But how do you achieve that balance in these hectic times we live in?

The definition of balance will vary from person to person, but the following tips can help create balance in anyone’s life:

  • Make time for yourself. You can’t be there for everyone else unless you take care of yourself.
  • Exercise regularly and eat healthy. This goes right along with taking care of yourself.
  • Integrate your passion with your work. Most of us spend up to a third of our lives at work. Doing work you’re passionate about rather than work that’s “just a job” will go a long way toward creating balance in your life. If you haven’t found a way yet to combine the two, leave your work at the office. Nobody ever looks back on their life and wishes they had spent more time at the office!
  • Spend time with family and friends.
  • Live within your means. Stress over finances is one of the biggest obstacles to creating balance in your life.
  • Don’t multi-task. You may think you’re getting more done that way, but you’re really not. By putting your full focus and energy on one task at a time, you will work more efficiently and you won’t feel like you’re just spinning your wheels.
  • Spend time with your cats! Spending time with cats is one of the best ways I know to come back into balance instantly.

What one thing will you do this week to create more balance in your life?

contribute banner ad

Allegra’s World: Help from Flower Essences

Allegra The Conscious Cat

I can’t believe it’s been a whole month since I last wrote on here! Well, not exactly – Ruby and I told you about our tunnel adventure a week ago. That was really something! I’m happy to report that the evil tunnel has remained calm, and that we enjoy playing with it again.

Everything is good here. I really like having Ruby around and I hardly ever get annoyed with her anymore. I still wish she’d tone it down a little when Mom gets our food ready. You wouldn’t believe the screaming that’s going on then! Like Mom isn’t getting our meals ready as fast as she can. Ruby really needs to cut her a break. But, I guess that’s why I’m the big sister. I’m the patient one. It’s good to be me.

Speaking of food. A pet food company sent Mom some cans of food that Mom says they want her to write a review about. We mostly eat raw food, but about once a week, Mom gives us canned food, too. I like both kinds. I think Ruby does, too, although with her, you’d probably never know, I think she’d eat anything Mom puts in front of her. She’s also very interested in whatever Mom is eating.

But I digress. So these cans of food have been sitting on the counter for a couple of days, but neither Ruby nor I can figure out how to open them. I wish Mom would hurry up already and let us try them. I told Mom I should probably be the one to write the review, but she obviously hasn’t made up her mind about that. But one way or the other, you’ll see a review soon. (Or else, you’ll see a news report titled “Cat Figures Out How to Open Can” because it’s just too tantalizing to have these cans sitting on the kitchen counter, right where we can see them!)

The only thing that’s been happening that I’m not too crazy about is the frequent storms we’ve been having. They haven’t been bad ones, but I hate any kind of storm, even just a rainstorm. The sound of the rain hitting the house really scares me. I run downstairs and hide in the shower stall behind the curtain. It’s dark and quiet in there, and it makes me feel a little safer.

Mom has been giving me magic water twice a day (Ingrid’s note: I give her Safe Space for Cats by Spirit Essences), and when a storm is coming, she gives me even more magic water (Ingrid’s note: I either give her Stress Stopper by Spirit Essences, or a blend of Anxiety and  Animal Emergency Care by Green Hope Farm Flower Essences), and it helps make me less afraid, but during storms, I’m still not comfortable being anywhere else in the house except in my safe shower stall. Mom comes and checks on me frequently to make sure I’m okay and tries to coax me out, but I’d rather stay in my safe space.

What I don’t understand is why Mom can’t just make the bad weather go away. She can do everything else to make my life nice, why not this? I mean, come on, she can even open cans of food! Changing the weather should be a breeze compared to that!

Are you afraid of storms? What does your Mom or Dad do to help you not be afraid?

Happy Father’s Day 2011

Lion father and lion cub

Happy Father’s Day
Whether your kids are human or furry, enjoy your special day!

My dad passed away seven years ago. I still think about him every day. My relationship with him was complicated at times, but I always knew that he loved me, and I have lots of wonderful memories of him.

His life was shaped to a great extent by his experiences during World War II in Germany, and as a result of experiencing so much loss at such a young age, he held those he loved close to him – at times, too close for a daughter who wanted to spread her wings and fly from the nest!

He instilled in me my love of nature – some of my earliest and fondest memories are of long walks in the woods and parks near our home.  He taught me the names of all the flowers, trees, butterflies and animals we’d encounter on those walks.

He loved the Alps – his happiest times were spent hiking those beautiful mountains.  His love of the Alps dated back to his days as an American POW. When he was first captured, he was held in the basement of a home in Bavaria. Through a small window, he could see the snow covered peaks of the Alps, and he decided then and there that he would climb as many of these mountains as he could once he was free. The dream of one day hiking in those mountains kept him going through those dark days.

He worked hard at a job he didn’t enjoy all that much to provide for my mother and me.  We were by no means rich, but he always made me feel like we were.  He loved to travel, and after taking early retirement, for the next nine years, he and my mother traveled extensively.  He especially enjoyed his travels in the Western part of the United States – every Western movie he’d ever seen came to life for him there.  He would talk about those trips for years to come.

He had a difficult time dealing with my mother’s death, and his life contracted again.  He didn’t enjoy traveling by himself, and other than his annual visit to the United States, he stayed close to home.  When he became ill with prostate cancer six years after my mother died, I wasn’t sure he would want to fight – but he surprised me.  He wanted to live, and he survived.

After the life changing experience of going through cancer treatment, he decided that it was time to make a lifelong dream come true.  He sold his home of forty years almost overnight, and bought a condo in the Black Forest, where he spent the last two years of his life in an environment that he loved.   Having been a life-long worrier all his life, he learned to live in the moment and “appreciate each flower and each butterfly,” as he told me during my last visit with him.  He passed away after a short illness, and knowing how happy he was the last two years of his life was a great comfort to me.

My dad had a long, sometimes difficult, but ultimately good life, and I miss his physical presence in my life every day.  His spirit, however, is never far from me.

Ingrid King with her father

If you still have your father, tell him that you love him today.

Photo of lions: iStockphoto, photo with my Dad taken during my last visit with him in June of 2003

Sunday Purrs: Make Time for Contemplation

contemplation

Could the purr be anything but contemplative? – Irving Townsend

It’s hard to find time for quiet contemplation in these busy lives we lead, but without making time for it, we end up stressed, depressed and anxious. Cats are masters not just at purring, but also at quiet contemplation, as Amber demonstrates in the photo above. We’d be wise to take our cue from them.

Contemplation can take many forms: it can be something as structured as a meditation practice, or something as simple as taking a walk in the park. For me, even watching my sleeping cats can be a contemplative experience.

Most people use the excuse that they’re too busy to make time for just being quiet. I think you can’t afford not to make the time, or your mental and physical health will suffer. And it’s really not that hard to carve out a little extra time each day. If you’re a planner, you may need to schedule quiet time into your day, just like you schedule any other activities.

To help you along, here are some tips on how to create extra time for quiet contemplation and solitude. Whether it’s an hour, or even just ten minutes, I promise you, you will find that your life will improve. Solitude is not the same as spending time alone watching tv, surfing the internet, or reading. There’s nothing wrong with any of these activities, but they won’t result in the quiet space you need for contemplation and reflection.

  • Cut back on your TV time. Americans spend an average of seven hours a day watching tv – how hard could it be to cut back on what, let’s face it, is often wasted time? Stick to watching only shows that you truly enjoy, don’t just sit in front of the TV because it’s there.
  • Get up a little earlier. Spending quiet time first thing in the morning (after you feed the cats, of course!) assures that it won’t fall by the wayside as you get busy later on.
  • Cut back on your e-mail and internet activities. (Just don’t cut back on reading The Conscious Cat!)
  • Plan your errands ahead of time. By organizing your route and sequence of errands, and grouping them together, you can save time, and, as a nice additional benefit, gas money.
  • Minimize housework. Relax your standards a little bit if you can. Do some basic cleaning once a week, and a more thorough cleaning once a month.

Do you make time for contemplation? How do you do it? If not, why not?

Allegra and Ruby’s Great Adventure

Alelgra and Ruby, The Conscious Cat

We had some excitement at our house the other day. I was working in my office when all of a sudden, I heard a strange noise coming from the kitty playroom downstairs. Now mind you, strange noises haven’t been all that unusual since Ruby joined our family and the girls started chasing each other through the house. They get so carried away that they occasionally bump into something or take something off a low shelf as they race by. In the beginning, I would go and check on them as soon as I heard anything unusual, but lately, I’ve come to realize that it’s just the new normal at our house. But that noise was different.

When I got to the top of the stairs, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Our crinkle tunnel had made its way halfway up the stairs, and it was still moving. All of a sudden, two cats came flying out of it in rapid succession, fur and tails puffed up as they scattered in opposite directions. But why don’t I let the girls tell you what happened.

Allegra: Ruby and I were playing in the kitty playroom. We were stalking each other – we love doing that! There are lots of places we can hide behind. We can lay in wait behind the bathroom door, or around the corner in Mom’s Reiki room. There’s also a big crinkle tunnel. It’s really great fun! I usually surprise Ruby when we play stalk each other. She’s not that good at paying attention, she gets distracted by all the toys that are everywhere in the kitty playroom.

Ruby: Not true! I always know exactly where she’s at! I just let her THINK that I don’t pay attention….

Allegra: Anyway, so the other day, we’re down there playing. I was crouched  behind the play house, watching Ruby. She crawled into the crinkle tunnel. Ha! Now I knew I had her. She’d never pay attention to me coming up from behind her, and she was too busy making the tunnel crinkle to even hear me approach!

Ruby: I was checking out the tunnel. I love the sound it makes when you walk in it. Crinkle scrinch crick crinkle – very cool! I admit, I wasn’t paying attention to much of anything except those fun sounds, so it really took  me by surprise when Allegra pounced on me from behind! Yikes!!! I tried to run out of the tunnel, but I couldn’t find the opening. Usually I just shoot out on the opposite side from where I went in, but the exit wasn’t there! Now what?

Allegra: I knew I’d get her! What I didn’t understand was why she didn’t run from me. Doesn’t she know yet that that’s how the game works?

Ruby: The front of the tunnel had collapsed, and I couldn’t get out! Allegra was behind me, so the only thing I could do was run forward. Now I didn’t just have Allegra chasing me, but the tunnel joined in the chase. All the cool noises weren’t so fun anymore all of a sudden. The tunnel had turned into a monster!

Allegra: I wanted to get away from Ruby and the tunnel, but I couldn’t! I got dragged along with the tunnel. It was awful! I yelled at Ruby that we needed to call for Mom to help us, but Ruby told me to shut up, we’d get in trouble.

Ruby: I just kept running – there was  no time to get Mom. The tunnel monster was out to get us!

Allegra: I was getting more and more scared, when finally, I heard Mom’s footsteps at the top of the stairs. But she was too late to help us. Ruby managed to break free and raced up the stairs. I wasn’t far behind her and I tore off in the opposite direction. I was really really scared!

Ruby: I was pretty freaked out, too. Mom tried to grab me, but I wasn’t having any of it. What if the tunnel monster was going to come after all of us? I ran underneath the dining room table. Allegra hid under the sofa.

Allegra: I could tell Mom was worried and just wanted to check us over to make sure we were okay, but I was way too afraid to let even Mom near me right then and there.

Ruby: My heart was pounding really fast and I was still pretty scared, but then I heard Mom shake the treat bag, and I came out from under the dining room table.

Allegra: I heard the treat bag, too, but I was still too scared to even think about treats, and I decided to hide under the sofa for a while. Ruby, of course, was over the whole thing already and was busy gobbling up treats. Mom tried to coax me out from under the sofa. I wanted to, but I didn’t trust that everything was safe quite yet. When I finally came out, Mom praised me for being so brave and gave me treats, and I did eat them. I started to feel a little better. I very cautiously approached the stairs and looked down. It looked like the evil tunnel had disappeared, so I slowly made my way down the stairs, one step at a time. I peeked around the corner. Oh no – the evil thing was still down there! Mom saw me, and gave me another treat. Huh. Okay. So maybe it was going to be okay to go downstairs after all?

Ruby: I wasn’t so sure about going downstairs, either, but there were other things to keep me busy upstairs, so I didn’t even bother. I chased a bunch of toy mice instead. Wee!

Allegra: I finally got up the nerve to go all the way downstairs, and then I sniffed every inch of that tunnel, and spit on it for good measure. There! That surely dispelled the negative energy that thing had taken on all of a sudden!

And there you have it – Allegra and Ruby’s great tunnel adventure. From my perspective, my biggest fear was that they would associate the experience with each other, rather than the tunnel, and turn on each other. This is why I immediately brought out the treats, so they could associate coming off of this scary experience with something positive. I wasn’t surprised at Ruby’s quick recovery, but I was worried about Allegra, who, even though she’s improved considerably, is still my little scaredy cat. I was very proud of how quickly she came out from under the sofa and proceeded to explore downstairs. Perhaps Ruby’s fearless nature will eventually help Allegra get past her fears just by example.

Ruby: It was actually kind of fun. Maybe we can do it again…

Ingrid: Don’t even think about it, missy!

contribute banner ad

When Two Cats Are Better Than One

Allegra and Ruby on the stairs

As regular readers of The Conscious Cat, you’ve been hearing directly from Allegra (and Ruby, too) how much fun it’s been for her since Ruby joined our family. It’s been an absolute joy to watch the two of them together, but what has been particularly wonderful for me is the transformation Allegra has gone through in the last six weeks. She has gained confidence, the behavioral challenges we’ve been working with for the past year have improved considerably to the point of being almost non-existent, and she continues to blossom and come into her own in ways I never expected.

I wrote about this topic for Pet Connection, and I thought you’d enjoy this slightly different vantage point. Click here to read the article.

Ruby’s Reflections: Wake Up Tactics and the Stolen Shrimp

Ruby The Conscious Cat

Check it out, everyone! Mom had the blog header changed to include me! How cool is that! I love my Mom!

Allegra and I have been having fun. She’s an awesome big sister. I know I annoy her sometimes, but she always forgives me very quickly, and then we play together and chase each other around the house.

I also have fun with Mom! I love to entertain her! I think one of her favorite things is when I first wake up in the morning, and I bounce all over the bed, back and forth. It’s my way to slowly warm up for the day ahead. Can I help it if it also serves to get Mom out of bed? I’m not sure why Mom always groans when I do it, because it feels so good! Some mornings, just to add a little variety, I play with her hair, or bop her on the head. It appears that on those mornings, breakfast is served earlier – hmmm. If you’re wondering where Allegra is when I do this: she usually watches and quietly cheers me on, but then looks all innocent when Mom opens her eyes to see who’s making all the racket.

Another thing I love to do with Mom is share her meals. She doesn’t seem to want to share, though, so it becomes a challenge, which, of course, makes me want to do it even more. I jump up on the table where she’s eating to check out what she’s having. She picks me up and sets me back on the floor. I climb right back up on the table. She puts me back down. I figure eventually she’ll get tired of this and just let me have some of her food, but so far, that’s never happened.

I almost pulled one over on her last week, though! She was having shrimp, and the smell just about did me in. I wanted some so badly! And I got my opportunity, too! Her attention was distracted for a moment, and that’s all I needed. I grabbed a big shrimp by its tail and started to take off with it. Drats – Mom saw me before I got away, and took the shrimp from me. I was mad, and I let her know it – I growled at her! I caught myself right away, though. What was I doing? I was growling at my Mom, who I love! And since she’s the best Mom ever, she broke off a small piece of the shrimp and let me have it. OMC, it was soooo good! I could eat that every day!

I love that Mom never gets mad at me. I know she gets exasperated sometimes, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a high maintenance kitty. I love to be around Mom, on top of Mom, or at least near Mom all the time, and I make sure she knows it. I talk, chirp, mew and purr all day long! I know that the purr always gets her – even if I’ve just done something she may not be entirely happy about, if I roll around on her lap and purr, all is forgiven. Good to know.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I need to go find my sister and wake her up from her nap.

Mom wanted to show you this video of me enjoying the sunny window perch in her office. Am I cute or what!

contribute banner ad

Sunday Purrs: A Different Point of View

IMG_4012

Being willing to change allows you to move from a point of view
to a viewing point — a higher, more expansive place, from
which you can see both sides. – Thomas Crum

Sometimes, we get so mired in our day to day lives that we can’t see the forest for the trees. We find ourselves stuck in our routine, entrenched in our point of view of things, and unable to move forward.

While I’m not suggesting that you climb up on top of your dining room cabinet like Allegra in the picture above, what better way to change your view than to see life through the eyes of your cats? In their lives, every little thing is a cause for delight, whether it’s a speck of dust on a sunlit floor, a special treat in the food bowl, or a nap in the sun.

Spend some time this holiday weekend and look at life from your cat’s point of view. What are you seeing?

Sunday Purrs: Moments of Magic

Moments of Magic

That’s the thing with magic: you’ve got to know it’s still here,
all around us, or it just stays invisible for us. – Charles de Lint

Moments of magic happen every day if we allow ourselves to let them become visible. And they don’t have to be big, splashy moments, either. A perfect cup of coffee, first thing in the morning, can be magic. A walk in the park at sunset. An unexpected meeting with a friend. There’s a quiet joy in these moments of magic.

I had a very special moment of magic last week. The fact that it happened on my birthday made it even more special. I was reading, and Ruby was sleeping on my lap. All of a sudden, Allegra decided to join us. Now mind you, the two girls get along beautifully, but so far, there had been a limit as to how close to each other they were willing to get. But in that moment, Allegra jumped up on my lap, and settled down right next to Ruby. Ruby barely opened her eyes. Allegra started grooming herself, and gave one of Ruby’s paws a quick lick before curling up for a nap of her own. There they were, my two girls, on my lap, right next to each other! It only lasted a few moments, a noise outside distracted Allegra and she got up to check it out. But while it lasted, it was pure magic.

I didn’t have my camera nearby to capture my magic moment, but I thought you’d enjoy this shot of the two girls together from the other day. It, too, qualifies as a magic moment: a photo with both of them looking at the camera at the same time!

What magic moments have you experienced lately?

Allegra’s World: Meal Time

Allegra's World The Conscious Cat

I can’t believe I now have to compete with my sister Ruby for time to write on here!  Maybe I need to get my own catputer!

Even though I wasn’t sure at first what it was going to be like having a sister, and having to share Mom with her, I have to say that I really like having her here. She’s lots of fun to play with. I especially enjoy bopping her on the head.

Our favorite game is chasing each other, and I always win. Her little legs aren’t as fast as my long ones, but I pretend to let her win every once in a while so she doesn’t feel bad. That’s what big sisters do. Of course, she’s got a way to get me back for winning, and I haven’t figured out how to stop her from doing it. The little stinker vaults right over top of me! Sometimes, she does it when she’s on a mission to somewhere (don’t even ask what she’s so busy running around for, half the time, I think she forgets where she was going before she gets there!). Other times, she does it when we stalk each other. All of a sudden, it’s like she’s coming out of nowhere and there she is, jumping right over me! The nerve!

I have to say, though, she can be a little annoying when it comes to meal time. As soon as Mom goes into the kitchen, Ruby races in there after Mom and starts to scream her little head off! I know Mom always gets our meals ready as fast as she can, but it’s never fast enough for Ruby. The racket she makes! It hurts my poor  ears. Do they make ear plugs for cats? I’ve learned to just sit at a slight distance and watch her make a fool out of herself. Hasn’t she figured out yet that there’s always going to be enough food for both of us, and that it’s always served to us on time? And she’s not polite at all about waiting for Mom to put the dish down, she practically leaps at the dish before Mom even has a chance to put it on the floor. I’ve learned to accept that I get my dish second. I’m the big sister, so I guess I have to be okay with it.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn to eat faster than I used to. Ruby inhales her food, she’s just too immature to understand that savoring your meal is one of the great pleasures of a cat’s life. The first few days she was here, when she was done, she’d march right over to my dish, while I was still eating, mind you, and stick her head right underneath mine and start to eat my food! I was so fed up (hm – poor choice of words, because actually, I wasn’t full yet!). Anyway, I just walked away in disgust. Mom grabbed Ruby and held her so I could finish my dinner, but that wasn’t fun for anyone. So now I just eat fast.

We both sleep with Mom at night, and I really like that.  Ruby is respectful of my space, so we can both be snuggled up on opposite sides of Mom. It’s almost the best part of our day.

That’s all for today. I think I’ll go wake up my sister so we can play.