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Excerpt from "Choosing To Be: Lessons from a Feline Zen Master" - Lesson One

Deciding To Stay by Poohbear Degoonacoon, the Feline Zen Master

by Kat Tansey


Let me begin with a story. Some twenty years ago, our heroine, Kat Tansey, was a very successful business consultant. She was dynamic, charismatic, well connected, full of energy, and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. The book tour for her new book, Winning the Change Game, was scheduled to begin in a month, and everything she ever wanted was coming together – fulfilling work, success, recognition, love, “the works” as you humans like to say.

And then, suddenly, it was all over. Kat was struck down by an unknown malady (now known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and was forced to spend years on her couch, figuring out how to get well. I arrived in her life and on her couch at this point.

My name is Poobear Degoonacoon, the Feline Zen Master. I became the steadfast companion Kat so desperately needed during her lengthy recovery. My coaching in the art of Aggressive Rest Therapy helped her slowly regain her health, but ultimately this was not enough. Other life events conspired to drive her into a deep depression from which she could see no relief other than to end her own life.

Then one rainy morning, Kat picked up The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and read about the difference between Ordinary Mind, the mind she was using to make her decision to leave this world, and what the author called Buddha nature. He described Buddha nature as the “sky-like nature of the mind, which is open and limitless and the birthright of every living being.”

As Kat read on, she began to consider the possibility that there might be another way out the deadly prison of depression, that perhaps suicide was not the only solution. This prompted her to turn to me, waking me out of a lovely nap, to ask if I knew anything about Buddha nature. This subject had never come up before, so Kat did not know the depth of my understanding of the Buddha’s teachings.

What happened after this is the subject of Choosing to Be, the story of how I helped Kat learn to meditate and transcend the limitations of her Ordinary Mind – and ultimately to find the true freedom and inner peace of Buddha mind.

It has recently occurred to me that it might be a good idea to help other humans discover Buddha Mind long before they reach the state of driving around looking for tall buildings to leap from, rather than over. I have therefore decided to share my lessons in a series of articles, beginning with this one.

My first lesson, Deciding to Stay, is very simply about the extraordinary benefits of keeping your mind in the present moment. As I explained to Kat, the human habit of spending so much time in the past or the future is much of what gets you into trouble. I know it is not an easy habit to change, as many of you are quite unconscious about where your mind spends its time. You do not yet fully comprehend that much of the pain and suffering you experience is a result of the unending incursions from the past or imaginings of the future.

I am not asking you to commit to keeping your mind in the present moment, as this is too big a leap. I have learned in teaching humans that we must start with small steps, so all I am asking today is that you decide to fully embrace the importance of this.

Those of you who may have some experience in trying to stay in the present moment know this requires practice. If you have not attempted to do this before, please close your eyes for just one minute and watch very closely what your mind does. Do this now.

. . . What you no doubt observed during this one minute was that your mind hopped around like a flea, jumping about, back and forth, from the past to the future and back again, rarely ever touching down for more than an instant in the present.

Welcome to your Ordinary Mind, the mind in which you spend most of your life. It is your ignorance of this condition that deludes your thinking and prevents you from even comprehending the spaciousness and freedom of Buddha Mind. This is why many of you do not choose to seek your Buddha mind – you do not even know it exists. Like goldfish swimming in a bowl, you cannot imagine the immense body of water that lies outside your tiny world.

If you are ready to begin your own journey toward the inner peace and freedom of Buddha Mind, I suggest you spend several minutes of quiet observation each day. Watch what your mind does. Do not fight it, praise it, judge it, or do anything to it. Just watch what it does. If you do this on a regular basis, I suspect you will be quite eager for my next lesson.

Next Month: Building the Team

Drawn from the deeply personal reflections of a formerly depressed person, this lively, magical, and enlightening book revolves around a wise Maine Coon cat, his kitten muse, and the author Kat Tansey. They take the reader on a challenging and often amusing journey as Kat moves through the disorienting haze of depression to the freedom and clarity of her Buddha mind. Kat Tansey is a magical storyteller who shares from her soul to open our minds and reveal to us our true inner wisdom. After twenty years in a high-pressure career, her active life was derailed by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Her journey to regain her physical, emotional, and spiritual health was the genesis for Choosing to Be. www.choosingtobe.com

Kat Tansey

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