Assurance : The Work

I mentioned I wanted assurance.  Ease, solace, soothing.  For all of us, beans and cat-beings alike.

I now see, in my golden years, that I need to loosen my grip on that ’60’s flower-power pipedream.  This flower doesn’t grow by itself.  It’s a complex piece of gardening at the best of times.

I like what I’m seeing in the work of psychiatrist and brain-scientist Daniel Siegel.  He shows that the human brain – and I believe this is also true for all sentient beings, to a greater or lesser extent – functions by handling four streams of input:  Sensation, observation, cognition, and knowing (“SOCK”).  To live as mature beings, we need to learn the skills to juggle these four streams, to integrate all four, to mediate and to intervene, into this playground neuron-fest, by exercising executive functions of choice and desire –

And just you try pulling off that party-trick when you’ve got a kink in your tail.  When you’ve learned your chops on the street.  When you’ve had the kind of upbringing that’s left you, shall we say, less than clear about how, when claws come out and fur gets ruffled, to come back home to ease and soothing solace.

The Siegel book I’m reading is THE MINDFUL BRAIN.  Siegel is a Harvard medschool grad and director of the Mindsight Institute (see here for on-line courses):

And he’s co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center:

Or for an easy introduction, invest an hour listening to my favorite BRAIN SCIENCE PODCAST with Dr. Ginger Campbell.  Campbell is a truly great interviewer, with a real gift for clarity and accessibility. Here’s a link to her Siegel interview:

So the “assurance” work continues over here with Bugs and this Bean.

Jackson Galaxy says cats are like balloons:  You either put energy into the balloon, or you take it out.

Putting energy into the Bugs balloon seems to mean that I work with, honor, his hunt-catch-kill | eat-groom-crash cycle.

Putting energy into the Bean balloon means I inculcate, in myself with meditation and FELDENKRAIS, the ability to tolerate feeling and sensation in a more balanced manner, so I don’t let depression and denial drain me, or let rage and frustration burn me up.

Taking energy out of the Bean balloon?  Same strategies – meditation, FELDENKRAIS, plus blowing off steam by consulting with my lovely empathetic NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION partners.

Taking energy out of the Bugs balloon?  I’m kind of making this up as I go along.

I’ve written about how just my touch, without Teresa and TELLINGTON, hasn’t worked out the way I need it to – i.e., fast enough.  I’ve written about how, for me, it works better to disagree with Bugs’s energy by using the “TSSHT” expression, followed up by agreement with praise and treats.

Now I want to expand the repertoire.  I’m nervous about over-relying on treats.  Weight and health issues come to mind.  So I’m trying treats plus things like:

Deep breathing, even audibly, in Bugs’s presence.

Not waiting for the claw-launch to even enter Bugs’s head, but by getting the jump by “owning” a circle of space around me, and disagreeing when Bugs even looks at that space with more energy than I’m comfortable with.  Jackson says cats allocate territory amongst themselves.  And swatting and hissing is not unheard-of.

Using my meditation work to concentrate attention – but to diffuse the energy I bring to bear on Bugs by focusing on what he’s doing, but softening too-strong deployment against him by ducking my head, using sweeping round gestures, and avoiding eye contact.

Watching his body-language as intently but softly as ever I can – the carriage of his tail, the look in his eye (which changes rapidly and constantly), where he points his chin, with what speed and emphasis.

All which require, at key times, that I put this computer down.  (Which may be the hardest part.)

It’s been a long morning.  We started our engines at 6:00 and I believe he’s finally careened-off into his morning pit-stop – for the moment – at 10:15.

But even in the middle of this duel negotiation, I like the softer eyes I see here.  I took this in a hiatus about half-way through, at around 8:00.

It’s quiet now.  It’s about 107 degrees outside – but it’s cool and quiet in here. Well, quiet except for the roar of the window-unit.

Frankly?  Music to my ears.


About nadbugs

Anita loves cats. This must be because she, too, has had nine lives. She’s been dancing since she could walk, she was a commercial artist and advertising producer, she earned a third-degree black belt in Aikido, she is a drummer with the Afrique Aya Dance Company, she is an attorney, and she’s a meditator and a devoted student of Nonviolent Communication. She also spent one lifetime sidelined with a devastating back injury in 1992. Since then – FELDENKRAIS METHOD® to the rescue. The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is all about dreaming concretely – thinking intelligently and independently by way of a gracious and kind physicality. The work affords all who study it a process by which to reach, with movement, into the mind and the heart, to make nine lives into one whole being.
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8 Responses to Assurance : The Work

  1. MelanieJ says:

    Bugs is lucky to have you. Not just anyone would have the patience to decode and defuse a half feral guy like him! I’m glad to hear that the duel/negotiation session at least at times yielded a softer, more compliant Bugs. He does have a lot of energy, doesn’t he? And I’m sure that you appreciate that air-conditioning. My trip to Missouri over the weekend makes me really, really glad that I’m not in the same heatwave that you share with them right now.

    • nadbugs says:

      Melanie, I really believe I am lucky to have this particular guy too. I have a lot to learn about myself, and he truly is a wonderful “push-hands” partner (in the t’ai chi sense). If I want a softer, more compliant Bugs, I might try asking myself how come softer, more compliant me isn’t so readily available either! And his energy is relentless — and he does not lie. He is The Bugs no matter what. As for the heat thing, it’s really interesting you’ve had a taste of what it’s like over here. I’m so glad, for you, that’s all it was. It is really, really something scary to be in. Friends in Little Rock have just advised that they — fearing climate catastrophe — are moving away, to an intentional self-sustaining community. I’m sad and a bit afraid for myself — and very glad for them. They’ve apparently had this dream for a long time. Glad they’re realizing it.

  2. Anne D says:

    Once the heat wave is over, would it be possible to let Bugs have some outdoor time? Is it safe enough to let him out before feeding to explore, sniff and be a cat. I have had some warrior cats and was fortunate enough to be able to let them out at times. Improved their dispositions immensely.

  3. nadbugs says:

    Anne, hi, great to see you here. Your suggestion feels like just the ticket. So while this heat wave continues to batter us, I plan on continuing to work, inside (literally and metaphorically), on our relationship. And when fall eventually comes, as I believe it’s supposed to but permit me to doubt, perhaps Teresa and I will go back to our halter-leash idea. I would love him to get grass under his feet and smells in his nose. That would make him — and me — happy!

  4. 107? Wow — you are lucky to have AC. That last picture is just beautiful, with such an air of serenity.

    • nadbugs says:

      The AC is essential, you’re so so so right, dear Julia, about the “lucky” bit. I’m way too old to go back to trying Arkansas summers without it. No AC, no serenity over here. Fact!

  5. lifewith4cats says:

    a bugs balloon. Thinking of it as a real kitty, makes me chuckle.

  6. nadbugs says:

    Are you getting the sound that happens when you squeeze the mouth of the balloon and then let air out? HA!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE —

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