Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Where's Your Purr Place?

Dear Friends,

I stretch out in my recliner and reach for my book. Cody leaps onto my lap, crawls upward to curl up on my chest and immediately begins to purr. On a cold winter day, he likes to take naps stretched out on my legs to absorb their warmth but he never purrs. Up close to my face is his purr place. He likes to tilt his head back and press it against my nose so that he feels the warmth of my breath on his skin. For Cody, life doesn’t get any better than this. My other cat Luke also jumps up to lie down on my chest and likes to snuggle next to my face. I look in the mirror and don’t see why that thing attached to the top of my neck is so attractive to my cats but cuddling next to it is also Luke’s only purr place. My cat Sean’s purr place is on the floor, lying on his back with his stomach being brushed. He closes his eyes, his head lolls back and forth as he purrs and he is instantly relaxed by the caresses of the natural-bristle cat brush. 

A good friend who happens to have over 80 years of accumulated wisdom recently told me that her New Year’s Resolutions were to “Listen First; Talk Later; Waddle Around More” – perhaps a good set of resolutions for anyone of us, especially me. And I would add just one more: “Discover your own ‘Purr Place’ and go there often.”

As a child our world was filled with wonder and today our world is filled with worries. We obsess about our past and we fret about our future. My cats live for the moment. They don’t get their tail in a knot over their past. Luke is not fuming about that scuffle with Cody yesterday over the catnip mouse. Sean is not nursing that hurt feeling when he turned upside down so that I could give him a stomach rub and I was too busy and ignored him. They have no worries about their future. They’re not worried about their health, finances, living situation and have no concerns about anything called “impeachment.” Their goal in life is to eat, sleep, play and to go to their purr place as often as it is felinely possible. Perhaps, as often as it’s humanly possible, we should too. 

What is a human “purr place”? For many of us it’s the convergence of a physical place and a state of mind. When I’m walking on the Carpinteria beach at low tide, the scent of the salt water, cool breeze on my skin, the soothing sound of the waves washing up on the sand, the vividly blue skies are the elements that synergistically combine to be so overwhelming that I’m drawn into an intimate relationship with God’s Creation and no worrisome thought has ever penetrated though the peace I feel at that very moment. That’s what a purr place looks like to me. Your’s will be different. 

For some, a walk through a botanical garden is their purr place – captivated by the sights and scents, it’s an intimate connection with the Creation and with the Creator Himself. For some, their purr place may be the church service on a Sunday morning or sitting with the day’s first cup of coffee in the back yard. When I was younger, I often started out the day on the back of my horse, Cass, riding through the wooded area in the hills and enjoying just being in the moment. Today, being in a different place on my Christian journey, it’s opening the Daily Office prayer book of the Anglican monks and engaging in the morning prayers and scripture readings that bring me to that state of spiritual mindfulness into which no worrisome thought about the past or future can penetrate and disturb the peace of God that my prayer time brings. Again, your own purr place will be different than mine, but in describing what some of my places have looked and felt like, I’m hoping that will be helpful as you seek to discover your own.

Okay.. What if you’re a dog person or even just the above photo of Cody makes you sneeze and your eyes water? Just substitute the word “dog” for “cat” and the expression “puppy place” for “purr place.” What if you’re a seriously sophisticated intellectual and the silly phrase “purr place” makes your eyes roll up so far in your head that your mother’s warning that they will stick there becomes a painful reality and a surgical challenge for your ophthalmologist? If so, you might be more comfortable with the modern therapeutic term, “Mindfulness.” 

Because what I’m calling our “purr place” brings about the state of mind called Mindfulness and where we are or what we are doing can simply provide the helpful context that takes us into these mindful moments. Mindfulness means being fully immersed in the present moment and it is what Christians have practiced from ancient times when we capture every thought for Christ 2 Corinthians 10:5 and set our mind on things above and not on the earth Colossians 3:2. In our purr place, we’ve stepped away from today’s earthly world of terror, politics, dysfunction, social injustice and rage, and in those moments we do so, all is right and well in our personal world where it’s just us and God. We are living in the moment, unencumbered with thoughts of our past and future. 

In 2020, eating healthier and waddling more are good resolutions for us to have. But perhaps the healthiest thing we can do for our body, mind and soul is to discover our own personal “purr place” and go there often. Amen?

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