The Tao of Meow

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.


  1. I love your kitty! And I love your Tao here.
    First, one of my cats has to have his food “mixed” up from week to week: it has to be fish, and it has to be a “gourmet” brand or he won’t eat it. My other cat? If it’s edible, and it’s food, it’s fine. LOL
    In any case, the rest of your post: that wanting of approval, and for me, wanting to avoid negativity, conflict – I so understand! What I love about the Tao (I’m reading two versions of the Tao Te Ching right now, actually) is that it encourages you just to “feel” the feeling you have in a nonjudgemental way. That’s helping as I navigate a particularly stressful time of the year as far as school and academics go…
    In any case, sending you hugs! And thank you for the reminder to be gentle with myself. 🙂

    1. Author

      Cynthia, the reminder to be gentle with yourself really comes from my cat, since she reminded me! I love her too! Sounds as if your cats are similar to ours. Our other cat has to have a certain amount of food in his dish – he won’t touch it if you can see the bottom of the bowl! 🙂

      I haven’t actually read a full Tao so I’m impressed you are reading two. But the philosophy you describe encouraging “you just to “feel” the feeling you have in a nonjudgemental way” is exactly the way I try to live. Of course, like most people I don’t always remember, but it is such a healing way to approach life. Glad it’s helping you as you navigate the stressful time at school etc.

      Thanks so much for taking time from your busy schedule to read and comment! I do appreciate it.

  2. When I was little I used to look at my cat napping in the sun and wish I had as few cares as she did. Now, like you, I try to take the lesson of living and loving without other’s judgment factoring into my sense of self. It is tricky stuff…but the cats have it down.

    1. Author

      Anna, I sometimes look at my cat napping in the sun now and wish I had as few cares! 🙂 Though mostly she just reminds me to let go, stop worrying and enjoy life.

  3. Ah, I do love this. My three Rottens are such pains! They are all very particular about different things – fresh water only from the upstairs faucet, and things like that. But I think that’s the part that makes their personalities really stand out and why we can’t help loving them.

    1. Author

      It is funny how cats are so particular. Funny how they only like water from one faucet (seems strange the write that, since we say tap!) Ours often shun the water we put out for them, and drink out of dirty puddles instead. And yes, we can’t help loving them either!

  4. You have such a pretty cat! It’s funny that no matter how self-confident we are, we still seek that nod from another to validate ourselves. I guess cats are truly smart! My dog also always looks for our approval too! LOL!

    1. Author

      Ah she’s cute isn’t she Roshni? And has us all wrapped round her paw! As for seeking validation – a man I consider a mentor recently pointed out that we learn this before we can even talk because our survival does depend on our parents’ approval. So instead of trying to stop feeling that way, it makes more sense to accept that we do and approve of ourselves anyway!
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Beautiful post, Yvonne, I love how you use your cat’s communication as an invitation to go in. My children have been great teachers in that respect. Your self-awareness is truly inspiring.

    1. Author

      Thanks Gulara. Like yours, my children have also been wonderful teachers! We can learn anywhere really, if we are willing, I guess.

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