My Inner Teacher Cat
The Mind Illuminated is my favorite book on meditation since it strikes a great balance between explanation of the high level goals of meditation and specific instruction.
One analogy that the book uses to understand your mind is picturing your mind as a bunch of cats. There’s the worrier cat, the planner cat, the impulsive cat, etc. One of the ideas of the book, and an underlying philosophy of some of the associated spirituality, is that none of these cats are the real you. You are just in their presence as they each separately compete for your mind’s attention.
It can be a helpful analogy to understand when trying to understand why you might be “of two minds” about things. It’s also helpful to understand why, even when “you” truly want to just focus on an object like the breath while meditating, there will constantly be competing internal voices vying to steal your attention away.
Often times, people dealing with addictions like to identify the Addict Voice, or the part of your mind that tries to rationalize you making decisions that serve your addiction. Often times those in recovery find it useful to give a name and a label to the “addict voice”, thereby being able to more clearly disassociate their true self from the voice inside their mind that keeps them trapped as an addict. Sometimes people even give silly names or a silly voice to this voice so that they are able to take it less seriously.
There’s another voice that the book doesn’t talk about that I personally find useful. It’s the voice inside your head whose values are best aligned with your values and your mission. I call this voice the Inner Teacher Cat.
Sometimes in life we face genuinely tough decisions, but so often in life we face decision we pretend are tough but really we just have some bad cats rationalizing bad decision as reasonable options. At these decision points, I find it useful to search inside myself for the Inner Teacher Cat who often has the right answer. The Inner Teacher Cat is not omniscient but generally has better life advice for myself than anyone else could provide for me.
Of course, I’m far from the first person in history to explore this concept. There’s probably been a few million people before me with a similar concept.
I grew up and went to a Catholic elementary school, and we were often told to ask “What Would Jesus Do?”. We were also taught that Jesus was one and the same with God, and the Holy Spirit (creating the Trinity), and the Holy Spirit was inside of us. So really, “What Would Jesus Do?” is asking the Holy Spirit inside yourself what you should do, which is a similar concept to the Inner Teacher Cat. I just like the image of cats better as it often makes me laugh a little.
The book Be Here Now has a page dedicated to finding something akin to an inner guru:
These days, often times mental health advice on the internet stresses the absolute importance of talking to a professional, or talking to a therapist. I’m not denying that those resources can be extremely valuable for some people. But I also think people are too quick to dismiss the idea of finding answers inside yourself. If you dig deep, and can distinguish between the helpful inner voice and the unhelpful inner voices, you might find the bet ansewrs of all.