“The cosmos is always in motion but it is never in chaos. Only humans create chaos.” This sentence was staring me in the face one day when I opened the file to continue the translation of the book The Ultimate Guide to Yinyang. And what made it stick out for me was a cat-related incident right before it.
Me and my husband share our living space with to feline creatures. Having grown up with dogs and exceedingly allergic to cats, I didn’t have much experience with them other than the at-at-distance acquaintance with the outdoor cats at our country house during my childhood. I didn’t quite speak “cat”. Dogs I could read, could easily communicate with. Cats, not so much.
Due to various circumstances, we ended up with not one but two Siberian cats — fluffy, gorgeous creatures that trigger zero allergic response in me. (And no, it.s not because I hitherto imagined my allergies. It turns out these fluffballs so not, despite what one might think, produce that much of one of the three cat-relatated substances that might trigger cat-allergies. And apparently, that was the one I’m reacting to in other felines. Sometimes life’s funny like that.)
So, as it turns out, very few people do speak cat, actually. I read a study that concluded that pet vets are usually the most skilled at it. Cat owners (or servants, depending on where you stand) are usually adept at reading their own pets, but it turns out cats are individuals in this respect, too. Reading one, you don’t necessarily read them all.
Anyway. As you might be aware, one of the most significant differences between dogs and cats are that dogs are a gregarious species, whereas cats aren’t. This is not to say that cats aren’t social animals, as we might use the word referring to instinctual capacities. They do read each other, and they do form bonds. But their well-being not being directly linked to their social skills — as, roughly speaking, is the case with dogs — they tend to be much more their own person. And what’s been fascinating to me is observing how this means they don’t weigh their preferences against those of others (their owners or fellow felines) in the same way dogs, or humans for that matter, do.
As I say yes to myself right now
Because if this, cats are keenly attuned to the constant movement mentioned in the quote at the top. I forgot the specific nature of the cat-related incident, on this occasion, but it illustrated this for me, yet again. I prefer this now. And then they leave. Or eat. Or don’t. They lovingly wash their “kitty’ (in our case, she is well into adulthood now, but since she lives with her mummy I suspect the who-washes-whom balance will never truly even out), or they hiss at her for coming smelling of Something Foreign. This climb onto your lap, intensely enjoying a belly rub for 4.5 minutes — and then they abruptly get up and go off somewhere else, not looking back once. It is fascinating to watch in its simplicity.
In an experiential growth retreat once, we were encourage to move around the room, feel whatever we were called to do, and then do it saying, As I say yes to myself right now, I … As I say yes to myself right now, I’m walking over to the window. As I say yes to myself right now, I lie down on the floor on my back. As I say yes to myself right now, I scratch my shoulder.
When we got the cats, it was striking how completely they lived like this. Innocently stalking prey, sleeping on the sofa, washing themselves or each other, eating or refusing to eat, fighting off neighbouring trespassers, crouching near the bushes when strangers walked dogs past our house. No malice. No sense of conflict, or doubting what was best. Only relying on their inner, instinctual response, listening to and heeding the signals within. I like you. That guy’s scary. No, I don’t want to cuddle; the moment passed. It was just so refreshing.
Inadvertently creating chaos
“The cosmos is always in motion but it is never in chaos. Only humans create chaos.” When I read the sentence, it was just so obvious why this is. And how — at least in theory — we could not. How we could navigate back to the subtle but clear inner guidance, “saying yes to ourselves now”, and how that is the way not to create chaos.
It’s challenging, of course. Sometimes it’s not too bad — when we’re alone, when the choices we are facing are “softer” rather than hard, when it’s only a matter of actually taking the time to listen to all three centres within instead of trying to think our way through life. Sure, “only” might feel a bit hollow; sometimes, that’s challenge enough.
But at other times, the challenge is a major one. When we want to express our sympathy but are afraid it’ll be misconstrued as something else. When we waver between pride and compassion, and they seem to be mutually exclusive. When we know that tomorrow, we will want to have chosen one option, but in the moment our whole system is crying out for us to choose the other.
In those latter situations, it’s easy to believe that what creates the chaos is our inner discord. That’s what we’ve been taught, in a way, to believe. Worst case, we have been taught to go with reason, with logic, with understanding, with what we can figure out, and ignore whatever impulses or reactions or emotional responses that don’t seem to go along with that. Don’t you see — they just screw up your judgement? Behave yourself! While not in so many words, our western cultures taught us that it’s listening to the gut and the heart that leads to chaos. A few of us might have clawed our way back into one of these faculties but in that process, on the contrary, been taught that we should “get out of our head” because there’s no truth to be had there. So the culprit is still the discord between these inner channels.
But in fact, that’s not true. The chaos is not the result of the seeming discord between gut, heart, and mind. The chaos is our resistance to that seeming discord.
Taking a look at “seeming”
So is there truly a discord? If one part of me wants to punch someone in the face, or run out of the conference room, or ugly-cry in my superior’s office, while another part of me tells me how a mature adult should behave (in short: not like that) — isn’t that the definition of discord?
Well. Our instincts, our emotional responsiveness, and our thoughts — even our superego, actually — ultimately all want the same thing. They want to keep us safe from harm, and having accomplished that, they want to provide love, acceptance, and a safe space to be as we are. On the surface, in our day-to-day busy lives, how they want to do those things seems contradictory. But if we just scratch the surface a little bit, not willing it to make sense from a adult-at-the-office perspective but with open curiosity, what we find starts seeming more harmonious. Feelings under feelings, instinctual impulses in response to tender emotions, instinctual impulses in response to instinctual interpretations of mental material — of course it seems like a mess. We’ve been stacking things on top of one another for so long, now we are going to have some work set out for us trying to de-tangle the mess.
Restoring responsive, quiet order
But then we do. We go home, and we revisit the situation at work to probe deeper into our various layered responses to it. Curiously, we explore what lies beneath the surface. We might find old feelings there, things that don’t really belong to this situation but which were triggered by it. We might sort those out: sit with them, feel them, address them to the extent that they can be addressed, or just exploring for them get more accessible to us. Then it starts becoming clearer what was actually going on in the office, and to whatever extent we actually do want to address a particular concern with our colleague. It might not be the same concern we thought that we might be wanting to address, now that we’ve weeded out some of our old baggage.
So, basically, we go home to say yes to ourselves for a bit, and see where that lands us. We sit on the sofa and feel into something. And then, a minute or thirty, or two hours down the road, the moment is gone and it’s time to cook dinner, or go for a walk, or say yes in another way. Granted, sometimes the window of saying yes is narrowed by the fact that we have children to tend to, or other duties that must be handled. That’s another challenge — but still one where we can practice saying yes to ourselves.
When we do, we gradually climb our of chaos and start restoring the quiet, natural movement of our innards, our relationships, and, by extension, our world. Now, creating the most beautiful kind of order.