Have you noticed how our pets can bring us into the present moment? How when you run your hand against sleek feline fur and are rewarded by a cat engine purr, the chatter in your head is replaced by the soothing rumbles and you find yourself firmly in the present moment?
Our pets know how to be in the present. All animals do. Think for a moment about a dog when he is in full belly-rub mode: his tail thumping in gratitude; the glazed look of pure bliss; and when you stop rubbing, the way his expression changes as if to say, “Seriously, you’re not going to stop are you?” The sudden switch in their eyes tells us just how present they were to the belly-rub experience: they were not distracted by anything and were 100% in the moment.
But for us humans, it is a different story. The gift of our more developed human thinking brain can actually be a double-edged sword: with all our high level thinking, it is easy to be so deeply entrenched in our minds that we miss the present moment.
“[Human Beings] are so anxious about the future, that they neglect the present, and thus live in neither the present nor the future.” – Paul Coelho
So, what does the gift of a purr give us?
- “…We can hear the sound of purring through our ear drum – but that’s not all. ‘You also detect low purrs through the lamellar corpuscles, which are nerve endings that come up right against the skin. Purring is at low frequencies between 20 and 50 hertz. This helps transmit positive messages of wellbeing to the brain,’ [Vetrinarian] Gauchet explains.” –
- “This relaxing sound induces ‘brainwave entraining’ eliminating stress factors, the “noise” of the chaotic thoughts and is helping to harmonize people’s inner being.” –
- “Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing. This association between the frequencies of cats’ purrs and improved healing of bones and muscles may provide help for some humans.” –
We can also take it a step further and consciously use our pets to ground us in the present moment.
- The Psychology Today article , describes how you can use the purr of a cat or a bark of a dog, in the same way that a “mindfulness bell” is used to remind oneself to stop and take three conscious breaths to bring yourself into the present moment.
- Seeing the impact her cat’s purr had on clients (calling her cat “a great hypnosis assistant”), describes how to meditate with your cat.
And if you don’t have a cat nearby but want to hear the soothing, rumbling sounds of a purr?
- – free 20 minute audio (purring sounds mixed with relaxation music)
- – free 21:36 minute audio (straight purring sounds, no music)
- (CD sold by Health & Beyond Online) – “After listening to a 30 minute track of Cat’s Purr, I was so impressed with how it made me feel that I have since made it a regular part of my daily routine.” ()
I know that even when I’m distracted, stressed (anything but in the present moment), our cat Gator has a way of snapping me into the present. When my stroke is a bit too distracted he bumps his head against me, nudging me as if to say “Hey…you’re not really here!” When he revs his engine to full throttle, the sound of his deep rumbling purr can almost always pull me out of my head and into the moment. The strange chattering sound he makes as he fixates on a bird, helps me enjoy a moment of laughter; or a full out belly laugh, when he goes into hyper-chicken-mode (our term for when he gets that strange look in his eyes and has a sudden maniacal burst of energy).
And when Gator’s purr or his antics have pulled me into the present moment, I am learning to use it as reminder to ground myself further: to consciously choose to slow down, breathe and fully experience the moment. Sometimes it is Gator coming to me and giving me this “mindfulness meow” reminder, and other times it is me seeking him out. I call this the ”I need a purring”: where I find Gator, purposefully pet him to get his motor running, then I lay my ear on his belly and let the sound and vibrations of his purrs ground me, quiet me. If Gator lets me stay there for a while (he is still a cat – smile), I imagine the healing power of his purrs, coursing through me. Whether it is a few seconds or a few minutes, I do see them as mindfulness moments: a way to stop and be truly present, several times throughout the day.
“A meow massages the heart.” – Stuart McMillan
“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” – Dean Koontz