A cat is not a dog. How do I know this? Simple observation of the animals with whom we share our home. It’s been said that dogs have owners, but cats have servants. Our experience bears this out. While these animals exhibit some of the same behaviors, they do so in very different ways.
For instance, neither has any problem commandeering my lap. Both the dog and cat will gladly join me when I’m relaxing in my favorite armchair. The difference lies in what these animals do when I change position or close the iPad I’m using. At the slightest hint that I’m going to move, the dog will jump down and clear the way for me. I’m pretty sure this is because she secretly hopes I’ll be going outside to play “fetch.”
On the other hand, the cat will not move despite my repeated attempts to roust her from her roost. This is because she could care less what I wanted to do. She is only interested in her pleasure, which is remaining motionless on my lap.
No one taught these animals to behave this way. It’s their natural instinct to do so. Not being a student of animal psychology, I have no idea why they do this. I do know it has given me some insight into why I do certain things. As usual, these insights relate to my spiritual journey.
I have come to see that most of what I do daily is not the result of conscious volition. While I am awake physically, I am certainly not conscious in the sense of being aware of the underlying motivation for many of my thoughts, feelings or behaviors. Like my animal friends, most of what I do is conditioned, reflexive, and far from conscious.
Take, for example, the way I reflexively tried to salvage the burned dinner rolls last night. After a few seconds of frantically scraping the black layer off the bottom of one roll, I “woke up” to what I was doing. More importantly, I woke up to “why” I was doing it. Having been raised by parents who had lived through the Depression as children, I had absorbed the lesson of “waste not, want not.” While I will never be profligate, I did have the awareness to know that throwing away four burned dinner rolls would not bankrupt my family, financially or spiritually. Immediately upon having that awareness, the stress I felt over burning the rolls left me. I turned to my husband and told him I’d have freshly-baked, golden-brown rolls in 12 minutes. At that exact moment, the power to choose differently became an exhilarating liberation over my programming.
Not only did I release the Depression-era mentality that fueled my attempt to save the rolls, but I also became aware of the underlying self-talk that runs much of my programming. That self-talk sounds something like this: “You’re only as good as what you do. You can’t make any mistakes.” I was delighted that I knew that the voice inside my head wasn’t telling me the truth, and I could counter it with the truth.
How much of our lives are run by the internal programming implanted before we are seven or eight years old? While experts might vary on the estimates, I venture to guess most of our lives are lived mechanically. Our animal friends don’t have the option of awakening, but we do. Whenever I feel myself tightening or speeding up physically or when I feel myself panicking, I have learned to stop and identify what program I’m running. I’ve been amazed how just noticing the exact words in my negative programming results in a general loosening and relaxing. I have been able to see my negative programming as NOT TRUE. I have been able to claim my divine inheritance from there: “I am a child of the Most High, by Grace, I can act like it!”
I invite you to look at all the ways your behavior doesn’t bring you peace, comfort, and joy. If you’re courageous, you might just notice that you are acting out a program that doesn’t support your highest good. The sooner we wake up to our programming, the sooner we can be free of it. Then, the Kingdom of Heaven will be ours, right here and right now.