November 7, 2020 by Molly Patrick
A lesson from Panther
The range of human emotions is goddamn impressive.
Fear, sorrow, hope, uncertain, frustrated, determined, discouraged, heartbroken, confused, lethargic, wired, nervous, worried, helpless, blessed, moved, thankful, vulnerable, edgy, perplexed, gutted, unmotivated. These are just a handful of the emotions I’ve experienced this past week.
And on Wednesday morning, I experienced the very special (read: terrifying) sensation of having all of these emotions at the EXACT SAME TIME.
Imagine taking a big handful of pens in each hand, wrapping your fingers around them, and scribbling wildly on a big piece of paper, as you press down the pens as hard as you can.
Like that. My brain felt like that.
And this was after 8 hours of good sleep, a big warm glass of water, some fresh organic fruit grown right down the road, an hour-long session of Qigong, 30 minutes of movement therapy, and a cup of herbal tea.
Having a healthy lifestyle is an enormous help to our physical and mental health. And also, it’s not a golden ticket to magically escape the difficult parts of our humanness.
As I was in the middle of my pen panic, I remembered something that sweet Panther boy reminded me of before he died last week.
A few days before we had to put him down (fucking horrendous, btw—one of the worst days of my life), I decided to give him a few hours of supervised time outside in our back yard. He was an outdoor / indoor cat, but he mainly liked to be home, never far from me.
When he did go outside he stayed in the yard and never ventured off. So I knew he wouldn’t bolt if I brought him outside, but I still had to keep a close eye on him because he was wearing a cone around his neck, and he had a catheter that was attached to his tail. I had to make sure he didn't get tangled up in plants or make any big jumps to avoid having his catheter tube ripped out.
I followed him around the yard, going with him wherever he wanted to go. I was on Panther time and he was so happy to be outside. He made his curious way to the corner of the yard and jumped up on a short little wall that holds in a bunch of plants. He sat on the wall and looked up at the corner of the canopy that covers the plants, where a lizard was taking refuge in the shade.
Panther proceeded to sit in the exact same position, looking at the same lizard, for 45 minutes straight. And so I sat there for 45 minutes with him. During these 45 minutes, Panther did not move an inch. He did not look around. He did not lay down. He did not look at me. He did not tilt his head. He was totally zoned in and focused on this lizard. It was incredible to witness. The only thing that moved was his long tail, constantly flapping around.
Apart from taking a few pictures of the sweet boy and the lizard, I stayed off my phone and joined Panther in locking in with the present moment. I listened to the birds sing their songs. I watched the palm trees sway in the breeze. I watched ants crawl on the wall. I smelled the briny ocean and the stench of the condo’s garbage container behind our house. I watched Panther’s black fur glisten in the sun. I felt my heart beating. I noticed my hair touching my neck. I heard the neighbor talking on her phone.
Life was in session, and I was right there witnessing it.
After the lizard found another spot, out of sight, Panther took a big stretch, looked up at me, and continued walking around the yard, being thoroughly entertained by the present moment. As for me? I felt the same.
Earlier this week, my Qigong teacher told me about an exercise that she calls the “amygdala hack.”
When you are stressed or feeling like many pens scribbling on paper, stop whatever you are doing and do this instead:
Name three things you can see.
Name three things you can smell.
Name three things you can hear.
Name three things you can feel.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is exactly what Panther reminded me of last week as he immersed himself in lizard watching.
I was able to stop and experience exactly what was in front of me. Not what used to be in front of me. Not what I wanted to be in front of me. Not what might be in front of me later. Not the fear of what might happen. Not the regret of what already happened. Just what was in front of me. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Should we strive for shifting things in order to better ourselves, each other, and the world? Fuck yes.
And also... never underestimate the healing power of simply witnessing what is.
Thank you Panther for this reminder. I might not be able to witness your physical presence anymore, but your sweet spirit and your love will always be with me.
Today over on the blog we’re sharing another Wellness Video that was recorded earlier this year. It’s a lovely yoga session taught by Dirty Girl Flora from Amsterdam.
You will also find a recipe for delicious whole food plant based Chorizo Tofu Crumbles. Let’s do it up over here.
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