Zen teachers say a lot about shit (the word they use), at least compared to ministers I have known. It is a vehicle for getting germs out of the body, so we should be cautious around it; but it is essential to life. Believe me, I know, for as my kidney function declined over the years, constipation became a constant problem. If your body can't get rid of waste, you are done for. So.
It's not that I am repulsed by what the Vet calls feces, but I find it distasteful, despite all these years of tending cats. Practice, as I get it, means we recognize that distaste, not grasp it and make a big deal, but not try to suppress it, either. This certainly is not practice as in sitting sesshin on a retreat all day. But even in a monastery, someone has to clean the toilets. Personally, I think it should be the Abbot. In a business, the CEO.
Okay. Thirteen minutes to do my body practice before the next litterbox check. I am thinking "real practice" is exactly this.
I ended up with only half an hour to do my bodywork and meditation, because the Poop Patrol was successful. So it was stop everything for both me and Tom, pack that up, get dressed, put the poor cat in her carrier - her paws needed trimmed, too - and off to the Vet. (It turned out the fecal float and stain were negative. So we will start adjusting her diet - bland food - to see if that helps.)
Something about writing on this subject this morning made my whole day nothing but practice. Not the easy kind, either. If I were to write about it and explain all the occasions when I had to step back, breathe, divert the energy or anger, or step quite away from a problem, or discipline myself strongly to get my weekly pills done, honestly, it would make a book, and I am not Virginia Woolf. Just what Buddhists call a householder, as opposed to a monk. I am grateful to John Tarrant for writing about practice in the lay life. And here it is. And here is a paragraph of it:
I think of the old story of the warrior who did zazen with such energy that all the mice in the house grew still until he had finished. His wife remarked on this and he said, "Well, this won't do, I'll have to try harder." His zazen deepened and soon, as he sat, the mice came out and played all over him, completely unafraid.
[Zen Cat image from Northern Sun]