Estremera: When the master becomes the slave and other ruminations

THE mind can be conditioned, we know that too well. It's been said that when you keep at something everyday for two weeks, it will start to become a habit. Train your pet to respond to commands and soon you will soon be communicating with it and getting the desired result.
But of course, that is when the training is deliberate. In our lives, there are many things that we do not deliberately do but would son pick up as the normal reaction or become a habit. No wonder Buddhism stresses on mindfulness, to be in the moment of your every action, from chewing your food to closing the door and interacting with fellow humans and the environment.

I've pondered over that after discovering that my cat Faith was accidentally trapped inside my housemates' bedroom and has torn to pieces Maymay's notebook. Maymay is a senior high student, and you know how we had tons of notebooks when we were in school. That's how it is with Maymay. Now one of her valuable notebooks is in pieces, chewed and torn. Faith picked up the habit of my original cat Miming of tearing up a piece of paper using her paws and teeth. Of course, I hate it. She doesn't pick what she will tear to pieces. Receipts, tickets, bills, veterinary prescriptions, sometimes even venturing in biting into books or my sketch pads. Thus, whenever I hear a teaing noise. I shoo her off. Now imagine this happening in the bedroom when we're ready to sleep.

At the sound of a tearing paper, I'd get out of bed and open the door and command her to leave. That was how it started anyway. Except that, I have been gifted with a very sharp sense of hearing. The sound of a cockroach entering my room while I'm asleep would wake me up and I'd know where the cockroach is and have time and again squashed an intruder with a 'tsinelas' in the dark. Yes. It's a gift, I know. Now, imagine, the sound of a paper being torn. That is definitely louder than the footsteps of a cockroach... Thus, even when asleep I'd wake up open the door and order the cat out. Go back to bed and sleep.

It's never one way, however, given the intelligence of cats. A few months into this, Faith apparently concluded that when she wants to go out of the bedroom, all she needs to do is tear a paper, and her human will quickly rise from the bed and open the door for her.

Trapped inside a closed bedroom door, something didn't work right no matter how many notebook pages Faith already tore and chewed. The door stayed shut. There was no human to open the door, until I arrived from my trip in Cagayan de Oro and found it unusual that Faith was not among the welcoming party of pets.

Just pondering over this mind conditioning between pet and master, or cat and human, and imagine the unintended responses we have spawned through our unmindful way of going through life, how many more unintended stimulus-response cycle have we developed with our pets, with our peers, with our families, and with the people around us.

We know there's a lot. Like when children start talking about achievements or things, the next level of talk will be trying to outdo each other, and thus we now know that sooner or later, it will reach the Lolo level. Like, "Wala 'yan sa Lolo ko!"

Again, among children, especially when a quarrel is fanned, at least one or a group of children will be dragging someone else, totally dissociated from the quarrel into the fray, along the line of: "Bleeeh, ang tatay mo bakla, bakla, baklaaaa!" (Even if the tatay isn't as the intention here is just to hurt.) It's a Filipino stimulus-response psychology. Now we see it everyday, in Facebook, on posts by either of the two contending parties -- the Yellows and the Duterte Diehards. Click the publish button and watch the reactions start pouring and getting more rabid in 3.... 2.... 1.... But, as the experience with Faith shows, be careful, because any interaction goes bothways, and who started out as the master could end up as a slave. But worst, what you think works might not outside the environment the situation plays out. Learn from me, learn from the cat. Mindfulness in everything we do, is still the key.

*****

saestremera@gmail.com
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