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jake 1My husband has been accused of being a “crazy cat man.” (You know, the guy that, if he weren’t a happily married father of three, would live alone with 17 or 18 cats.) So when he asked what I thought it would be like to live like Jake, our cat, it wasn’t really that strange a question. In fact, because he is just a tiny bit obsessed with the cats, I almost ignored him. Almost. But he happened to ask as I walked by Jake, who was sitting on the bed minding his own business. As I brushed past, the cat looked up at me and started purring.

“What do you mean live like Jake?” I asked. “Well,” my husband shrugged, “it’s just that he’s a pretty contented guy.” And, when I paused to think about it, he was right. Jake’s “motor” has the easiest on button ever. Just seeing you makes him purr. In fact, just seeing the dog makes him purr. Even when I scoop him up to move him from my desk chair, he purrs with pleasure. The cat spends a remarkable amount of time taking pleasure from whatever comes his way.

So, what would it be like to live like Jake?

Jake’s life, while pretty nice, isn’t all sunbeams and full bowls of food. He has to deal with his annoying sister, Lola. Sometimes, the litter box isn’t all that clean. Sometimes his water bowl gets empty in the middle of the night. And we absolutely refuse to let him outside like he wants. Yet, despite these trials and tribulations, he’s mostly purring. Even when he’s being removed from his favorite spot so I can sit down, he chooses not to get worked up, instead relishing the physical contact and little rub under the chin that I give him before I set him down.

A friend of mine’s mother used to tell her, “Find the good in it.” That’s what Jake does. Not a bad rule of life.

My daily yoga practice has helped me get pretty good at “finding the good in it” – whatever “it” may be. After all, there are as many days when I unroll my mat that I am tired or stiff or something aches as there are days when everything feels peppy and great. After all, I always have to spend five breaths in Utkatasana, chair pose. After all, it’s far from a sure thing that I’ll make any progress in the posture I’m currently working on. In other words, I have a lot of moments when I can choose to not get worked up. I have a lot of chances to find the good in it.

So I do. I may have to go a little slower through my sun salutations or even retreat to a gentler series on tired, stiff or achy days. But it’s all good. Just the chance to be on my mat to nurture and even heal my body is a very good thing. And I’ve learned that the best way to navigate my lack of fondness for Utkatasana is to look for “ah ha!” moments. I suppose it’s not surprising that doing this every single time I take the posture has helped me to become (gradually …) more comfortable in that position. As far as those poses I’m working on? Practice has taught me that success doesn’t always mean nailing it. I’ve learned to notice (and to celebrate) all kinds of little milestones along the way. Each of these takes me a step (even a baby step) closer to eventually figuring it out. Even if I’ve fallen over yet again, each little step forward is evidence that I’m growing and changing — and that is absolutely worth celebrating.
It turns out that living like Jake may be a lot like living my yoga. It’s looking for the silver lining in the thunder clouds. It’s trusting that the challenge you’re currently facing will be the source of great growth. It’s habitually choosing to “find the good in it.”

Now, if I could just purr …