We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever-changing. Open yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo. — Bruce Lee
The late Bruce Lee, beloved martial artist, poet, philosopher, actor and filmmaker, is almost as famous for his words of wisdom as he was for his astounding athletic prowess. Though it’s been over 40 years since his sudden and tragic death at age 32, Lee remains a hero to countless students and fans of kung fu, the ancient Chinese martial art my son and I study together.
Ben and I train together frequently, as part of our larger goal of trying to become as healthy as we can, in mind and body. Kung fu has become such a big part of our lives that when we adopted a kitten back in October, Bruce Lee seemed like a perfect name.
Until then our only cat was Whisper, the outdoor cat for whom we’ve been providing food and medical care the past several years. Although we’ve tried for so long to bond with her, Whisper has never seemed especially interested in humanity. She will voluntarily enter the house occasionally, primarily seeking warmth on cold winter nights, but most of the time she prefers to nap on the back porch and explore our large back yard.
She has always rejected our attempts at showing affection, and while it made me sad she seemed to hate us, my husband shrugged it off pretty easily. Fortunately he shares my love for dogs, but he has never been a huge fan of domesticated cats, mostly viewing them as “weird, smelly, self-serving little fur-bastards.”
I’ve always considered myself more of a “dog person” as an adult, but I’ve been very fond of at least a few cats I’ve known in the past. It’s been a long time since I’ve really bonded with a cat and I was actually a bit disappointed by Whisper’s repeated rejection. When my husband suggested we locate and adopt a human-friendly kitten for my birthday last year, I was simultaneously surprised, apprehensive and excited.
We loved the sweet-tempered and playful new kitten from the start. We actually selected his name based on the spinning jump kicks and other feats of acrobatic wonder he performed while chasing his little red laser pointer, but true to his name, he ended up teaching us more than we ever imagined.
– The way of the open mind and heart. We find the opportunity to learn and love so much more when we let go of our prejudices and open our hearts to others. Scott always thought he disliked cats, based mostly on a handful of unpleasant experiences with cats in the past, and he was pleasantly surprised when Bruce Lee stole his heart almost overnight.
Through Bruce, he realized he never disliked cats, but merely misunderstood them and the ways they are not dogs. In fact, our great affection for Bruce Lee has helped the entire family understand Whisper in ways we never did before, and to our surprise, she has slowly begun to enjoy the indoor life with a family.
It still blows my mind sometimes to find Whisper chillin’ in my husband’s lap, but it’s a nice reminder that people (and cats!) can change if they’re willing to open their minds and challenge their old beliefs. These days Scott describes cats as “weird, smelly, self-serving little fur-bastards, and all the more delightful and hilarious because of it!”
– The way of just enough, but not too much. Bruce loves for us to stroke the fur on his neck and head, and sometimes even his tummy, and he often wallows in ecstasy for several minutes. However, if you linger even a moment too long after he’s given off his subtle “that’s enough” signals, he’s not shy about communicating his annoyance.
– The way of discipline and consistency. It doesn’t matter if we’re busy, tired, distracted, stranded across town or flu-ridden and nearly immobile, Bruce Lee requires his can of wet food by seven each evening. There are obviously consequences for failure to comply, such as the food bowl or perhaps a favorite vase being flung to the ground in anger, but deep down we know Bruce Lee understands discipline is its own reward.
– The way of practicing self-care through adequate rest. Bruce Lee is an active and very busy feline, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need time to recharge his batteries. For optimum mood and performance he requires 27 naps per day in addition to an extended overnight rest period involving deep sleep interrupted at midnight, 2 and 4 a.m., for half-hour sessions of wall-climbing, ceiling fan swinging, human-face-dancing and assorted hyperactivity.
– The way of living in the present. It’s pointless to dwell on the past, which is already gone, and just as pointless to worry too much about the future, which hasn’t even happened yet. Real life is happening in the moment, right in front of you. You can reach out and grab every beautiful second, or you can let it pass you by as you cling to regret and anxiety.
Bruce Lee doesn’t care that yesterday he got in trouble for climbing the blinds, and he doesn’t care that maybe I’ll lock him out of my office soon if he doesn’t stop knocking my plant off my desk and pushing the CAPS button every time he walks across my laptop. The only thing that matters is that right now, there is a tiny piece of string dangling from my coat hanging across the room and, obviously, it must be destroyed.