Yesterday afternoon, I was trying to nap, and Fred plopped himself down right next to my head. This isn’t all that unusual but this time, just as I was drifting into a very peaceful sleep, he started grooming himself (and Fred is a very loud licker!). I kept trying to ignore the sound, but his licking seemed like it was getting louder and louder and it was also right in my ear. I could feel irritation begin to rise.
After a couple of minutes, I reluctantly opened my eyes to move him, and was very surprised to see that he wasn’t grooming himself at all, he was grooming Noah, whose head was resting on Fred’s paws. Suddenly, instead of feeling irritated, I was filled with a feeling of warm delight. Our cats rarely groom each other and I love it when they do.
As I quietly watched them, I also noticed my thoughts. When my mind told the story that Fred was too loud, I felt irritated. When my mind told the story that animals grooming each other was a soothing activity, my mind felt peaceful. The sound was the same in either case. My mind was the only thing that changed. In one scenario I was in hell (not really, but I wasn’t happy) and in the other scenario, I was in heaven.
I was raised with the belief that people should not make noise. Chewing (especially with our mouths open) slurping, and burping, were severely criticized and ridiculed. As a result, everyone in my family became extremely intolerant of these human (or animal) sounds. We didn’t question these beliefs as little children, we just accepted them as truth.
What I have come to know is this: if something disturbs me, it is my thinking about it that is the problem. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been bothered by “this thing” for my entire life. It is still my thinking that’s causing the problem and I can change that (even though with some very old habits of reactive thought, it might take a little time to do so).
Being intolerant of others is an unhappy way to live. This may have been the way that my family was, but it isn’t my choice to continue along that same unquestioned path….and what is my alternative? Stop eating with people? Put all of my animals in another room when they are grooming, eating, licking or scratching themselves? Try to get the entire world to stop making noise so I can live comfortably with a limiting belief? I think not.
Instead, when I feel unhappy, I question my mind, my beliefs, my opinions, my “convictions”, and every time, I find that they are small, petty and unworthy of continued support.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.” Steve Jobs
It is Friday again! It might be interesting to watch your reactions to people’s (or animals) behaviour this weekend, and if you find yourself irritated, maybe challenge those judgements, refuse to give them further support, and open up your world a little bit more.