Whole Life Magazine

January/February 2015

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42 wholelifetimes.com U sually I like lessons spoken to me. Audiotapes by Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson and Pema Chodron have saved my life on many occasions. Through all the break-ups, deaths and rejections, I've relied on their daily cheerleading sessions—in tandem with regular yoga and meditation—to stay positive, live in the moment, experience nature and give fi rst to receive more. Nevertheless, after many years living with my adorable but sometimes contrary husband, his sense of humor and darkly sarcastic survival technique started to rub me like a cactus. I was getting cranky, which felt out of character and very uncomfortable. I'd always been a champion cuddler, starting each day with the attitude that today is another anniversary of our union, but not lately. Then I found my lesson in a surprising place. Sophie, our tiny black and white cat, and Fritz, our 80-pound German shepherd, clearly have some kind of contract, be it marriage, domestic partnership or peace accord. She rules. I know this not only because she's a feline, but also because she talks a lot. Her meowing sounds more like a squawking goose— loudest when you scratch her butt, but also when she's hungry or mad, or simply acknowledging your passing presence as she sleeps for her 14th hour in a row, barely opening her eyes. But she doesn't squawk at Fritz. Sometimes she lets out a silent mini roar, mouth open, slight head tilt, always mellow. And he might just sniff her nose and lick her across the chops. She likes that. I can be on the bed with her curled up next to me and Fritz will levitate up over us and manage to land gently like a hovercraft. He then curls up—almost mirroring her—and they both rest their heads on their paws. She purrs; he exhales. When we leave them at home together, he eats her dry food. When we are home he doesn't. And although she has her own bowl of water—in the kind of contained, out-of-the-way space cats generally prefer—she drinks from his huge water bowl in the middle of the kitchen. Sometimes he's in a downward dog… and so is she… and then I join them. Ah, yoga. They weren't always this way. Leave me alone, I do things my way, I will love you when I want and claw the furniture and stop eating my favorite food anytime I feel like it was more her style. And he was a big beast of a guy that galloped through the apartment at hyper speed, sometimes licking everyone, other times barking and even nipping the ankles of perceived predators—including family members or dinner guests. Then something changed—the under-standing, the arrangement, couples' therapy perhaps—and it has rubbed off on me. I have more patience, more of a Zen attitude toward things that would normally distress me. I use their covenant as a symbol of the right kind of surrender. I used to think that disagreeing and not standing up for my point of view was weak, and would make up for my insecurity with volume. I had to have things my way. Now I take a breath and say to myself, "Don't react, see how it goes, what would Sophie and Fritz do?" I'm at my most loving with my mate when the pets are around. As for my husband, he's in "cat-therapy." Every day, right when he gets home, Sophie lies on his chest as he strokes her back, her chin tucked under his chin, with Fritz curled up against the bolster inches away, not uttering a sound. Fritz knows the power of a Sophie snuggle. Being with animals opens our hearts and teaches us instinctual behavior that can be profound and life changing. Just like my spiritual cheerleaders, they offer daily reminders to stay positive, live in the moment and give fi rst. backwords LIFE LESSONS FROM A DOG AND A CAT By Nina Giovannitti Four-legged role models may have saved my marriage

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