I am an admittedly intermittent practitioner when it comes to seated or walking meditation. i don't know why, I love doing it. I love the pure calm when I FINALLY get the brain to shut up and just take in what's going on. I just forget or run out of time in my day.
I haven't visited the zafu in 6 months, and it shows in my daily life. I have been cranky, easy to irritate and in pain. Negativity is definitely permeating my reactions to things. I don't like it, and I don't like what it's doing to me.
Yesterday I intended to grab 5 minutes on the cushion to clear my mind and get myself centered. My body immediately relaxed in to the proper position, the way you arrange your elbows and knees to ride a bike years after you initially learned. It knew what to do. It hurt, too, and ached for a good half a minute until the muscles released and fell in to place. To say it was wonderful is an understatement.
But as soon as I sat down, the inevitable happened. I saw the mess across the room and thought about making a list of what was over there, ticking off what needed to be done downstairs.
As always I would catch myself, take a deep breath, and recenter. Then I would watch my mind veer off course again about 1.5 seconds later, take another breath, and do the whole thing over again.
At one point I actually got my brain to shut up for a full minute and a half as I just breathed, and I count that as the biggest victory in my career as a Failing Buddhist. I already knew that this was not going to be one of those sessions and prepared to accept it.
Then on some mysterious and magical queue, my place of meditation was suddenly inundated with 2/3rds of the felines in the house. This is a well-documented phenomenon, wherein I sit down to do something that requires concentration and peace -say yoga, meditation, preparing taxes- and the cats show up and lay on whatever I'm doing. They seem to feel the change in the energy and come in like little psychic vampires to just baste in the happy.
Wondering offhand, as I usually do, whether petting a cat while meditating negates the meditation, I did that very thing. They flanked me, one to each hand, and began to purr like crazy happy little monsters. I petted them. And then something awesome happened.
I realized that a full 2 minutes had gone by where I was minutely aware of the tones of their purring, the touch of their fur, and the muscles they were using in their backs to press against my hands. I was aware that my own breathing didn't progress much beyond my diaphragm and I just could not relax enough to draw it down towards my navel. When I fell out of that, it occurred to me that my cats were not something to be endured during zazen. They were, instead, in the moment and sharing that with me. Maybe they knew what I was trying to do better than I did, and they wandered in to help me out.
In the future I'll happily let them get their white and calico hairs all over my black zafu without complaint. After all, it's just rude to try and correct the master when he's teaching!