We brought Sheba home late last summer. A very nervous little tiger cat, who had spent six months in Cat Welfare in the little glass room where unadoptable old lady cats like to stay. She sat on a low pillar there, jumping about in fright whenever the door opened. Jumping down to take a bite of food, jumping back up to safety to eat it. When we visited, we were not able to pick her up or even to pet her - she was so generally afraid.
When we brought her home, she kept her distance. She was starved, starved for touch, and allowed us to pet her a bit, but then ran away. When anyone else came into the house, she walked away and curled up in a bedroom.
Here it is, about six months later, and Sheba is sitting on an armchair in the living room watching TV with our friends. She is letting strangers come in and disturb her nap and pet her. She has gone from neurotic to just, oh, timid. Cautious. You still can't pick her up, and she won't come up on my lap, but my friend Scott assures me that just takes patient training.
In other words, Sheba has substantially healed. I remain impressed by that. What has healed her? No therapy. Just a safe, affectionate environment.
When we think about healing from our own psychological difficulties, the fears that constrain us, the unmet desires, we so often think of doing something. Often we need to do something. But the other kind of work, meditation, is about "just sitting," doing nothing. Being there without any hope of gain, letting ourselves abandon our thoughts and desires instead of working them.
Zen postulates that this is a healing activity, this plain sitting. When we do it, we are giving ourselves the luxury of time in a healing environment, for in the present moment there is nothing to harm us. It is a safe place. I have often had the sense walking into a Zen center that there is a deep, healing silence there. These bright days of riotous bloom, I sometimes feel that when I come home and into a dim room.
I have also found that as I meditated, I have become more sensitive to how I feel around certain people or in certain places. Whether someone is good for me or makes me uneasy. This enables me to keep putting myself in the environments I need. "What is good for me" becomes simple. I find myself thinking, these beautiful spring days, of Julian of Norwich's famous revelation, a reassurance that we can abandon striving and trust in the Tao or in God, who she believed spoke these words to her:
"…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well"
[image: Sheba in zazen, sitting on a sacred text (the morning Times).]