Zen: a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort. Zen creates peacefulness and calm and comes from the Japanese School of Mahayana Buddhism which emphasises the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship and study of scriptures!
There is an enormous amount of calm and intuition, and indeed, instinctiveness in this delightful little video. The cat on the right has chosen a box which is far too small for him. That is not untypical of the domestic cat. They love boxes to reassure themselves, to feel more secure and they don’t mind if they are a tight fit. In fact, it’s better because there is pressure on the sides of their body which is delightful. This in the true spirit of Zen in my opinion.
And in a yin-yang symmetry, the cat on the left is doing a gentle somersault in another very tight space, clearly enjoying being upside down. There is a beautiful balance between these two cats. It seems remarkable that the cat on the left enjoys doing a backward somersault in a clear plastic container which is also a tight fit! Nothing should surprise is about the domestic cat.
This is definitely a Zen-type cat moment.
You didn’t know that there was a book about Zen and cats, did you? It’s called Zen Kittens: Meditations for the Wise Minds of Cat Lovers. It asks whether kittens really are meditating when they are staring into space. The author believes that domestic cats “embody the essence of Zen Buddhism-harmony of body and mind and living fully in the present moment”.
Now there is a thought: living in the present moment. This is certainly something which cats do and which humans struggle to do. Humans tend to torture themselves when looking back nostalgically, perhaps, and also worrying about the future. The experts say that if you want to live better you should live more in the present. This is certainly more important when you are retired as you have time on your hands and the idle mind tends to wander to the past and the future and asks too many uncomfortable questions.
We can take a little bit of Zen-education from the domestic cat.
Yin-yang is a Chinese philosophical concept. It describes interconnected opposite forces. In my view the forces should be in balance which is why I’ve chosen this description for the video because we have two very different methods of achieving a Zen-like calmness, one of which is very static and the other active.