Week 7, Day 5 – Spirituality

The choices for today were:

  1. What do you bring or not bring to your spiritual beliefs from the religious beliefs of your childhood? How does this help you now? What was it that you had to overcome?
  2. John Keats called the capacity to feel, listen, and wait when much is unknown as “negative capacity,” a state when someone is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without reaching after fact or reason. How have you employed “negative capacity” in your life? Explore how this could be a strength.
  3. Observe your pet for 10 minutes (or a bird outside your window) and write about spirituality. How are you like this animal or bird? What does it have to teach you?

I found myself laughing uncontrollably for some reason when I read assignment 3. As I sat there and watched my cats first stare me down trying to figure out who was going to win the battle for the next serving of Friskie’s treats. And of course, yes they won. They always do.  Once they had received their blessings, they ate them, although I am not sure that they said a prayer of thanksgiving or not. Ate them, and then began the ritual of stretching and cleaning and licking themselves in a diversity of position. Then they stretched out in their respective spaces, got into what I am assuming was a comfortable position in their favorite sleeping areas in our office and settled in for a good nights nap. That is until they wake up at 2 am and do the cat races up and down the hallway. I am sure there is a spiritual lesson to be learned in there, but I am not sure that at present I have the eyes to see it. Relax, chill, stand up for what you need, have a routine, and know that you are in control. Perhaps when I wake up from an 8-hour nap I will see the spirituality in their behavior. Tonight, however, I am just not seeing it. 

What really caught my interest was this whole notion of negative capacity. This whole notion of just being in the world without having to have answers, without having to know where we are going or how we are going to get there. It is reminding me of a story Jack Canfield who wrote Chicken Soup for the Soul tells about headlights. In the movie, The Secret, Jack Canfield offered the following analogy. “You can drive from NY to CA in the dark with your headlights shining only 200 feet ahead of you.” I just have to be in the 200 feet I am in for that moment. That 200 feet is ever changing and what I know in the moment is ever changing. The story is going to unfold and it is not going to unfold any faster or smoother if I go searching for answers then if I just let it unfold.

Sometimes, we just need to be in the moment. We need to not be planning or thinking or worrying or pondering, but just being. The running joke in my household is that I do some of my best multitasking in the bathroom. So I decided that I would use this little space as a place to practice being present. So in the time I am in there doing whatever I have to do, I am now just focusing on the fact that I am sitting on the toilet. I am not thinking about who I can call while I am there or what I have to do once I get off the toilet, but just that I am on the toilet. I had this epiphany this morning that when I go back to my desk, there would be plenty of time to make that mental checklist of what I can do, but at times I need to be in that space of negative capacity and just focus on the fact that I am sitting on the toilet. Or I need to focus on the notion that I am drinking a cup of tea and experience that tea. It just is.  I have noticed that there are times that I need to put myself in that space and not try to figure out the whats and the whys behind why someone said or did X, but just know that they did and it is. In the midst of the peace, the silence, and the lack of planning about how I am going to respond to X comes a wave of peace and then clarity and then action. It is that simple. Maybe that is what the cats are doing just being in a state of negative capacity as they just sit there and state at me waiting not knowing if or when I am going to give them treats or what flavor, assured of only one thing, they will be Friskie’s because they have taught me quite clearly, there is no other brand to be brought home from the store.

And as much as I do not always understand their routines, they are there’s and they seem to work for them and I have my routines to and I am sure that they may be as non-understandable to them as theirs are to me, but they accept me for who I am and my routines and I accept them for who they are and their routines. So why is it that we can manage to accept and celebrate differences with our cats and other non-human members of our families and we can’t seem to do that with each other?