My Friend Peter
“Most of the time I just try to rest and play with my gentle little cat in the sunlight. Nothing else is important.”
Recently I was privileged to carry on an email correspondence with a man named Peter who is ill. The things that he said carried great resonance for me and with his permission, I am taking the liberty of sharing some of our dialogue below.
Peter: This life of ours is so short—an eye blink and it is gone. I think it is very lovely that you and your husband could hold hands together even while walking through hell. Who knows what may come? In joy or in suffering, this amazing life dazzles us all.
Vicki: You sound as if you might be ill yourself.
Peter: That’s what my doctors say. I don’t believe them. My little cat never gives tomorrow or yesterday a thought. Sometimes she hurts and asks for comfort. Sometimes she is tired and lies gently in the warm sun smiling up at me. What more could there be? No wonder Ramana Maharshi loved Lakshmi (his favorite cow) so very much. Lakshmi and my little cat are not going anywhere. They never have. How blessed.
Rest is greatly undervalued. It seems to me that most people in this society have not had genuine rest since they were young children. No wonder there is such unhappiness. I feel that most of the folks sitting in satsangs are really just looking for a little rest. Animals are so much smarter. They rest when they are tired. Now there’s a sensible life.
It is my own experience that pain is something of an eye opener. Pain that goes on for years tends to drown out the silliness of belief systems in favor of direct contact with life, God, or whatever one wishes to call truth. Intermediaries are a waste of time when the body is crumbling. I have found that such difficulties tend to make all other sounds meaningless. Only the beating of one’s own true heart has meaning.
Vicki: I wrote Pamela Wilson right after Bob was diagnosed and I clung to her “Rest and rapture, what else is there?” quote.
Peter: The person that Pamela says was her teacher (Robert Adams) took a long, slow time in dying of Parkinson’s disease. I met him about a year before the end. He could barely speak and shook constantly, but his inner peace and beauty shone like a beacon. Even in the middle of a failing body he rested deeply within himself. Very lovely.
It is my own experience that suffering is what most of us do best. And much of that suffering is a result of trying to fend off strong feelings. It is my experience that nothing works anyway. In really serious illness there often is no way out. So why not do the only thing left open, which is to rest and enjoy the light sparkling on the trees. There really is nothing else. You will think I’ve lost it, but for me the aloneness has become a very lovely thing. I do not feel alone, as in isolated or cut off. Rather this aloneness is in a sense a powerlessness, which is very peaceful. There really is nothing I or anyone can do, so I may as well smile with my little cat in my arms and live as best I can.
As I type, that cat is asking for dinner. She is really good at being present at all times, especially at dinnertime. I think she has more wisdom in her little finger than 99.999% of all the so-called teachers out there. And talk about good-looking! Only Ramana had a face as lovely as hers.
Illness (and anything else for that matter) is beyond my or anyone’s control. Sigh, I’m not very good with words. I think I’m trying to say that I have found that planning and worrying (which the mind is designed to do) go on, of course. But so what. My mind may continue to suffer, but that’s not me, so let it suffer if it wants to. It is none of my concern. There is nothing it can do anyway.
Vicki: I understand how little energy you have. If I had any choice about the matter, I would just stop everything and be like your beloved cat.
Peter: I feel my friend the cat has more competence as a healer than all of these others combined. Not to mention infinitely more compassion.
Vicki: Gurus can be just as bad as doctors.
Peter: Yes. Why anyone would want to teach (as opposed to sharing) is a mystery to me. I feel that sometimes someone has an experience and thinks he is special, so he puts up a sign and advertises his services. The desperate and the frightened come, invest heavily, and eventually end up with an experience of their own, and then put up their own sign on the street. Invisible prison walls.
It has been many years since I felt a difference between guru and student, or awakened and unawakened. It is my experience that such terms have no meaning, serving only to get in the way of time spent lying in the warm sunlight with a cat in one’s arms.
Note: God speaks to us in varied ways, including cats and sunlight and newfound friends. The only thing to do is listen.
From my book, Life With A Hole In It