Zen and the Art of Cleaning Up Cat Hair

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It’s Sunday morning at 7am and I’m up with unexpected energy.  We were responsible last night instead of going upstairs for extra drinks with our neighbors.  We went to bed at 11!  We had plans for the morning, and look at me sticking to them!  I start the coffee, write a bit, and head out for a walk.  When I get back, the town is still waking up and I am ready for yoga.  I am on it.  I lay out my mat, sun salute to plank position – and this is when it happens.  A tumbleweed of cat hair the size of a small muffin bounces maniacally past my face.  My eyes come into focus with the ground and, horrified, I realize that the floor is covered in mini-tumbleweeds of cat hair and other mysteriously-produced dust.  I lunge my body back into a child’s pose of despair and debate interrupting my practice to vacuum.

But here’s the thing – I vacuumed last night, literally about twelve hours before this moment I went through the whole room with my “pet hair specific” vacuum, equipped with this crazy little air filter that sucks the floating fur out of the air, you know, the pesky ones that get caught in the ceiling fan and circle you as you’re trying to sweep.  And here I am, convinced that the coast is clear, that I can be proud of my morning floor!  Instead, I lay here in shame wondering what I did wrong.  Tiber and Viola have already found a corner of my yoga mat to flatten themselves across, launching a *tuft!* of loose fur as they plop.

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This isn’t a new problem.  As soon as I moved into an apartment with my husband we got a cat.  We made it about three months of our new domestic lives together without owning one.  And since then, our very loved fur balls have been haunting my yoga time.  So, I realize the great irony.  The purpose of yoga and meditation is to rejoin my body with my mind, it’s the way I set my brain and intention up for the day ahead, it’s what I do to avoid marching around like an anxiety-ridden grump-pants all day.  And normally, it does a wonderful job, which is why yoga and mediation is such a large part of my life now.  However, I’ve had to a do a lot of work in order to find a way to tackle this cat fur distraction, a distraction which was clearly trying to teach me something.

Over the years, here were the three options I saw before me, and their results:

Ignore the dust, keep doing yoga.

In other words, suppress!  Suppress with all your might.  I found that carrying on with yoga with the intention of ignoring the floor dust did not help me.  It was the same as seeing an emotional issue, telling myself to “choose happiness” and quashing those nagging little emotions back from whence they came.  The remainder of my yoga was rushed, frustrated, disconnected.  And it was always during these moments that Viola would get up in my face even more, usually finding some way to lovingly wrap her paws around my head while I try to hold a precarious position.  It’s as if to say, “Hey, we’re still here, do you see me?  Helloooo, do you like my fur?  Are you gonna clean that up?”

Stop doing yoga, clean the house in a fit of rage

Also not awesome.  For a period of time in my last apartment, I began a campaign against the dust.  I decided that come springtime, I was going to eradicate dust and fur from our house forever.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I’ve been to so many people’s houses with cats that do not seem to struggle with this, so there must be something wrong with me.  So I’d put away my mat, or sometime leave it for the kitties, and break out the swiffer.  I’d get in the corners, the table tops, under the side tables.  Nothing was going to escape me this time.  And then by the time I look up, my yoga time has passed, I have to get my butt to work.  And as I am packing my purse and saying goodbye, I see a rogue tumble weed bouncing in the breeze, newly produced by Tiber, currently snuggling my foot.  So I storm out of the house, completing nothing.

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The Cat Fur Practice

I have some good news.  Though it is still a work in progress, as a yoga and mediation practice will always be, I have finally made some peace with the cat hair.  One of the biggest challenges for me as I have been studying Buddhism is discipline.  I consider myself a caring and responsible person, but as far as discipline in my cleaning and organizing, I’m still a bit of hot mess. And I didn’t expect decluttering, a simplistic home, and a discipline in cleaning to be a part of this tradition.  Turns out, having a clean home has little to do with impressing your guests.  It is your space to develop and care for, the same way you care you strive to keep your body healthy.  It is a vehicle for your creativity and growth.  So of course you want to take care of it.

The difference to cleaning is in my approach (and again, this is a huge work in progress).  Instead of seeing the cat hair that creeps up on my downward dog as something to be guilty of, I see it as the next step to my practice.  Just the way I will never say, “Well, I did it!  I have completed the yoga for all of time!” I will also never say, sadly, “Well, the house is clean forever, I did it!”  I think that is one of the misconceptions about cleaning anything that slowly drives us mad.  If we do the dishes, there will never be anymore dishes.  Or if we vacuum up the cat hair, that’s the end of that.  But we love our cat, our Instagram proves that for sure, and we would never give them up for a little less vacuuming.  Nor would I want my husband and I to live in a museum of a home.  We live here, and we love living here.  So it is going to get dirty.  And as the Buddhist idea of Impermanence has taught me, everything is always changing, no matter how much we think it’s going to stay the way we left it.

When I was little, my mother used to sing while she vacuumed.  She often picked the song, “If I Loved You,” from Carousel.  When I was in high school, I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out that a callback song for a show was “If I Loved You,” from Carousel.  I jokingly asked my musical director if I could bring a vacuum to the auditions.  But I learned a lot from her singing and vacuuming.  Cleaning was a part of a practice.  If I could remove the dust as part of my yogic goals, then I am simply continuing my morning growth, opposed to “fixing” something that I had somehow done wrong.  It is just another step to focusing my day.

Since Sundays are days I often set aside for some cleaning, usually the kind I don’t have time for throughout the week, I hope this helps you in your tidying, dish washing, and cat fur wrangling.  Because no matter what anyone tells you, no one has a perfectly clean home all of the time, and if they did, then I couldn’t imagine a whole lot of living was going on there.  But there is also a way to not crash into a pit of cat-tumbleweed despair.  Just as you eat a nice breakfast, go for a run, or write a blog post, cleaning can be a part of your daily nourishment, and does not need to be saddled with guilt.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

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3 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of Cleaning Up Cat Hair

  1. My solution? Vacuum the cats! (As though that is going to happen.) Perhaps you need one of those little vacuum robots that zip all over your house, under beds, tables and chairs, keeping house as constantly as you wish. It is even programmed to avoid you on your yoga mat! These devices always remind me of “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury. Enjoyed your essay.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Offbeat Home Publication | Maybe there will be cupcakes...

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