Whacking cats and bad karma


Monks cure an injury suffered while trying to protect my cat from a bullying stray, writes BRIAN O'CONNELL

SEVERAL YEARS ago, I had a cat called Oscar. He was great as a kitten, sitting on my lap most days while I worked, but as he grew older he started to wander.

Soon, he was hanging around with other cats in the neighbourhood, and I’d only see Oscar at mealtimes, or when it was very wet or cold.

There was one cat in particular he hung out with – a large marmalade coloured stray – who I didn’t trust.

It soon became clear to me that this older cat was your typical neighbourhood bully and Oscar would become shy and retiring when the marmalade cat was around.

One evening, I heard a cat-fight out the back and looked out the window to see Oscar getting a pasting from the stray cat.

I grabbed the sweeping brush beside the back door and ran at the oppressor, with my arm extended.

Just as I was about to connect, I slipped and my shoulder came down full force on the ground. A trip to AE later confirmed some muscle damage, and over time I went through various physiotherapists and specialists, including an X-ray-guided cortisone injection.

While the advice I got was expert, it still troubles me slightly when I am on the phone for a long time or driving. I even went to an Indian medical doctor in Kerala once, hoping he might resolve it. When I told him the background to the story, he said he could do nothing to help as it was all down to “bad karma” for trying to whack a cat.

To make matters worse, shortly after the incident, Oscar ran away and from time to time the marmalade moggy appears, as if taunting me from the back wall. The point of relating all this is that on a recent weekend at Monart destination spa in Wexford, a visiting Shaolin monk assured me he could sort out my shoulder and succeed where modern medicine hadn’t.

Monart is a place where people walk around in their bathrobes all day long and mobile phone use and newspaper reading is frowned upon – pretty much my idea of hell then.

From now until early December, two Shaolin monks are on site, and the programme organised for my wife and I included an 8am Sunday morning meditation; an evening “warrior massage” and classes; health drinks; relaxation opportunities; general wellbeing; and emptying-your-mind type events. This is the third visit by Shaolin monks and the idea is that they impart something of their culture and traditions, albeit in a five-star setting.

They come from the Henan province in China, and have specialised since they were children in martial arts, meditation and Buddhism as a way of life. While at Monart they teach qigong, a series of eight ancient exercises aimed at promoting health and longevity, as well as t’ai chi and meditation.

Some guests at the resort were suffering from stress as a result of overwork, another had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and many of them were repeat visitors. The monks are up at the crack of dawn and in bed early at night. As an aside, it was somewhat reassuring to see these disciplined Zen masters lashing into the Danish pastries during breakfast – apparently it’s all about balance.

I wasn’t especially keen on having the “Shaolin warrior massage”, having had all sorts of dodgy massages over the years, which generally left me feeling far more tense afterwards than before. I was even more nervous after watching the two Shaolin monks – Master Zheng and Master Li – put on a martial arts display the night before. They were masters of swords, sticks and fists, and also displayed incredible feats of strength including breaking an iron bar over their own heads. Now, any man who doesn’t feel an iron bar breaking over his head isn’t exactly the kind of person I want as a masseuse.

However, the warrior massage was incredible. Master Zheng had a natural rhythm in his hands as well as a very precise touch. Within about two minutes, Master Zheng could pinpoint the exact spot in my shoulder giving trouble and adjust it so that it felt looser than it has done in years. With that done, the qigong classes were great at stretching out sore muscles, while being disconnected from the outside world, if only for 24 hours, did ensure a relaxed and healthy mindset.

My only hope now is that with the flexibility returned to my shoulder, should that cat happen to wander into the garden again . . .

To view a video of the Shaolin Monks in action see monart.ie

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