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

Lesson Six: Dealing with Dogs (The Hindrances) by Poohbear Degoonacoon, the Feline Zen Master

by Kat Tansey


Twenty years ago, our heroine, Kat Tansey, was a successful business consultant. Everything she ever wanted was coming true – fulfilling work, success, recognition, love – “the works” as you humans like to say. Then Kat was struck down by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and had 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 your Ordinary Mind, and asked you to spend a few minutes each day observing its chaotic and flea-like nature, as this often provides excellent motivation for learning to meditate. In Lesson Two we discussed the importance of building your support team and finding a teacher, and in Lesson Three we covered the basics of learning how to sit. We looked at finding joy in your meditation practice in Lesson Four, and Walking Meditation in Lesson Five. Now we turn our attention to the Hindrances faced in meditation, and in life.

The most important lesson you must learn is that your progress in the practice of meditation will most assuredly be bumpy. Kat was very frustrated when she hit the Hindrances, proclaiming quite forcefully that, “For every step forward, there are a thousand steps back!” Now, Kat is prone to exaggerate when she is exasperated. I calmly pointed out to her that as she progressed in her meditation practice, she would often be given new challenges.

I suggested that Kat consider this difficulty with meditation as a sign of progress. You see, when one is able to sit for longer periods of time and get into deeper states of concentration, thoughts and feelings that have been repressed will begin to emerge. I reminded Kat of this by once again telling her of the Buddha’s experience with Mara, the god of darkness who embodies the hindrances. When the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree for 49 days to reach enlightenment, Mara did everything possible to make him abandon his seat– throwing at him all the hindrances of clinging, anger, sleepiness, restlessness, and doubt.

I had known that Kat was going to meet Mara in full force sometime soon, because she had experienced what she considered a very profound meditation. She described her experience with reverence and pride, which is often the first sign of difficulty on the horizon. Here is how she described it: “I reached a very deep state of concentration and experienced my whole body being surrounded by a radiant white light. There was a softness to my breathing and a velvet quality in the air around my body. I was filled with gratitude and a deep feeling of peace.”

Kat was ecstatic about this meditation, clinging to the delusion that this was the way her meditations would be from this point on. I disabused her of this notion, but she resisted hearing the truth. Then, as often happens, the very next day at her weekly meditation retreat Kat experienced one of her most difficult sittings and came home ready to abandon the practice.

A surprised and disheartened Kat was now open to hearing about the hindrances, and this is when I recounted the story about the Buddha and Mara. When I finished, Kat went up to the bedroom to review her journal and reported back that, indeed, she had been assaulted by all the hindrances in that one sitting.

I was very pleased for her, as now she was getting some real issues to work with. Being able to recognize the need to deal with the hindrances is key to developing the power of Buddha mind. Now I could begin the real work, helping Kat develop the investigative powers and skills to examine these hindrances and learn how to deal with them. It was time to help her open her mind to a much larger vision.

Next Lesson: Letting Go of Tuna – The Hindrance of Clinging

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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