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Excerpt from "Choosing To Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master" - Lesson Two

by Kat Tansey

Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master

Lesson Two: Building the Team

by Poohbear Degoonacoon, the Feline Zen Master

Lesson One began with a brief story. Twenty years ago, our heroine, Kat Tansey, was a very successful business consultant. Her book tour was to begin in a month, and everything she ever wanted was coming true – fulfilling work, success, recognition, love, “the works” as you humans like to say.

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

In Lesson One, I introduced you to the concept of Ordinary Mind, and asked you to spend a few minutes each day observing what goes on there. If you have done this, you no doubt have learned how chaotic and flea-like your mind is, jumping about from past to future, rarely setting down in the present.

I instructed you to do this to help reveal the vagaries of your Ordinary Mind. Exploring such mind spasms can provide motivation for learning to meditate. Your apprehension of these limitations will perhaps encourage you to seek respite from this state by learning how to access the spacious freedom and inner peace of what we call Buddha mind.

If you wish to explore this further, first you need to build a team. A mistake many new meditators make is to try to learn to meditate on their own, without support or teachers. This leads to frustration and usually results in giving up, deciding that meditation is just something you cannot do. So before you even begin your instruction in meditation, it is important to create the right environment.

As I explained to Kat when she began this journey, you need an example of pure, unspoiled Buddha nature to remind you of your own origins – to inspire you to rediscover this in yourself. Because Kat was still recovering from Chronic Fatigue and didn’t get out much, I recommended she get a kitten. Kat had been deeply depressed for some time, so I felt it was important for her to bring some new life into her environment, a creature who looks at everything with the awe of seeing it for the first time.

I told Kat it was very important that she find a kitten who truly knew his Buddha nature, So Kat decided to find out whether the Maine Coon breeder had any kittens from the same lineage as mine. It turned out my mother and my grandfather had recently birthed a new family, so Kat set out to meet them and choose the kitten she had decided to name Catzenbear Degoonacoon.

Kat was very selective, spending time to quietly observe the kittens with their mother, Tikka. As the kittens continued playing, one of them noticed Kat and walked toward her with eyes clear and focused and his tail straight up. The other kittens were tumbling over one another, involved in their own activities, not the least interested in meditative pursuits. This kitten was the only one who approached Kat with an air of knowing his purpose and where he belonged. She knew that this was Catzenbear.

The purpose of this story is to open your thinking to important possibilities in selecting the right support team for your journey. While your choice may not be a kitten, you need to pay close attention to the beings you gather around you, whether they are human or otherwise. It is very helpful to have companions who embody Buddha nature and are interested in meditation.

I also explained to Kat the three jewels of Buddhist practice: the Buddha, the dharma (the teachings), and the sangha. The sangha is the term for the group who sits in meditation and pursues the practice of Buddhism together. You may wish to begin some research to find out who hosts such gathering places in your area. You can also create a space for a sangha in your home, even if, like Kat’s, your sangha only consists of a Feline Zen Master and his kitten muse.

Meditation is not something you will master overnight. It is a practice that you will hopefully make progress in for the rest of your life. While I am happy to share my wisdom and teachings with you, I also think it is important for you to find a teacher who is one of your own species. Take your time in choosing your teacher to find one who is right for you. Kat spent many months meditating with and listening to various teachers before finding her own teacher, Jason Siff. As it turned out, he was in very close accord with my own teachings, although Kat did not know this at the time.

Next: Just Sitting

Choosing to Be is a deceptively simple story that delivers a powerful message for all who are better at “doing” than “being.” 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 an award-winning author and innovative educator who believes in the power of a well-told tale to teach while it entertains. 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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