Compassion is Like a Cat’s Warm Belly and Why You Should Stroke It

Close your eyes and imagine having never pet a cat. You’ve read and heard all about it, but how soft is soft if you’ve never actually experienced it first hand? Then you actually pet a cat and it’s a sensory explosion! It is soft! And the purring and head nudges absolutely melt your heart. Oh, wow!

This cute little anecdote is what I tell people before confessing that, at 37, I’m just coming into my identity as a person of color. I grew up in Hawaii where my neighborhood, community and classroom was primarily Asian. It wasn’t until I left that I experienced shameless racism and racial micro-aggressions. I developed — and sometimes still feel — anxiety walking into a store, not knowing if someone is going to ask me where I’m from, heckle me, or treat me differently because of how I look. It’s not cute.

I was still struggling with my identity when I watched our president run a campaign on demagoguery and hate, emboldening racism and contempt as he continues to do so today. As a person of color, I’m still finding ways to empower myself and trust my emotions when faced with oppression. There’s this phrase, “Hate begets hate.” It pretty much sums up why my stomach gets tied in knots and my rationale gravitates to a “They just don’t get it” mentality over it all. As the phrase implies, it’s easy to respond to negativity with negativity. The good news is I’ve found a way to interrupt this pattern of thinking. Its effects on the psyche are akin to what petting a cat’s warm, furry belly can do. “No way!” you might say. WAY.

Compassion. When today’s state of existence is all about being pulled to either extreme of the spectrum, having compassion grounds me. It acts as an anchor, a reminder to be kind, patient and present with the people, animals and world that surrounds me. Sometimes compassion happens passively, like when I’m sitting in my garden and a hummingbird hovers for a moment and then whizzes away, reminding me of the beauty in all living creatures. Other times, it has to be coaxed, like turning around a difficult situation by re-focusing on something positive. Compassion and presence go hand in hand.  

Ever wonder about the buzz meditation is getting these days? In these ever-connected times, we’re constantly looking forward, fretting over the next best thing or how to get through our lists.

Meditating is by no means a breeze to practice, but I’ve found it helpful to adopt mindfulness, a process of focusing on experiences occurring in the present moment.

It gives me perspective when I’m feeling overwhelmed and helps me to let go of any ill-will, anger and frustration I may be feeling. Stepping away from my ego and everything associated with it, even if only for a few minutes a day, can reveal a truer, more positive frame of mind.

I’ve also sought out people and resources that give me hope. Out of the whirlwind of our social media feeds, it’s never been easier to find resources that are gems like Earthjustice and Southern Poverty Law Center. Earthjustice recently compiled a list and map of national monuments being threatened to lose their protections. Can you imagine waking up one day and there’s no Yosemite because the government decided giving it to the logging industry was more important than conservation? Both are invaluable resources for getting/staying informed when human rights and the environment are being threatened by this administration’s decisions. Both offer a current and historical reference to navigating the unpredictable state of the nation.

Without compassion there would be no humanity. Compassion reminds us that there is a whole world happening around us that is much bigger than ourselves. It’s grand, beautiful and here to be experienced if we want to. We may not all immediately feel the effects of the executive orders and decisions coming out of the White House, but that doesn’t mean these rights should be taken for granted. Staying informed ensures that we all work toward a better future together and all have a chance to pet those warm furry cats.

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