I am cooking, trying to get the food ready quickly. I notice my body feels tense, and then the cat comes in, meowing. She wants food – and not just any old food but the kind that comes out of a little sachet and has lumps of meat and gravy, and is fish. (No other flavour will do.)
She has already had some wet food today and, according to the vet, she is overweight. Certainly she is a little barrel of fluff. I am equally sure that if I put dry food into her bowl she won’t eat it and that she is not really hungry.
I wonder why she wants food when she’s not hungry. Then I remember reading that when animals live closely with humans they develop human-like traits. I have no idea if this is true, but it reminds me to look beyond the obvious. I also remember that when I see some trait in someone else, even if that someone is a cat, most likely it’s also in me. I say thank you to the cat for alerting me to my own feeling of wanting, and tell her she’s a wonderful little thing and I love her. She understood every word.
Then I ponder what is it I want? For a start, I want the tension in my body to go. I want a reply to an e-mail I’ve just sent and I want that reply to be favourable, for the recipient to think that I am wise or clever or some other such nonsense. I want a reply to something I’ve posted on a forum and I want it to be similar to the e-mail. So it would appear that what I want is approval. As I allow myself to welcome this desire for approval the cat goes quiet, and sits still and apparently peaceful. (Of course this could be projection on my part, perhaps she’s really seething underneath and plotting her revenge.)
More importantly, as I allow myself to welcome this desire for approval, I feel calmer. It releases.
In her book, I Need Your Love, Is That True? Byron Katie asks: “Who would you be without the thought you need to make an impression?” She also writes: “Seeking love becomes so much a part of our lives that it’s automatic. We hardly know we’re doing it. It’s easier to notice the anxiety it creates out there among our friends and colleagues.”
Can we ever be totally free of wanting approval? Perhaps that’s the wrong question to ask, perhaps a better one would be can we be free with wanting approval?
Instead of trying to stop wanting approval, can we accept it in ourselves, accept how we are right now? I’d say the answer is yes. When I welcome that feeling of wanting approval, I feel more peaceful, aware of the freedom that is beyond it, that is here in this moment.
All that ever stops me noticing that awareness is a thought or belief that I’m not free, that I need approval, that happiness is somewhere else at some other time: when I have got rid of all my accumulated baggage, when my career is flourishing in exactly the way my fantasies demand, when every one of my friends and family are happy and healthy, when my children have grown up safe and well, when they have careers they love, when their children have grown up safe and well…
by which time this body would be
Ah, maybe I’ll just take a lesson from the cat, and be peaceful right now, whether or not I get that special sachet of food I thought I wanted.