Choosing to be:
Lessons in Living From a
Feline Zen Master
By Kat Tansey
What a Beautiful Book! Patricia Heller, in the Foreword, notes that she thought it was odd that the book was classified as fiction. I wholeheartedly agree! Choosing to be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master by Kat Tansey just may be the self-help book you are looking for!
It is clear that the book was written based upon the personal experience of the author. That she chose to use her cats as characters in telling her story does not detract, but rather enhances its effect, in my opinion. Admittedly, most people know that I love cats; however, the storyline itself is what I related to and learned from most. The cat tales, dialogue, and pictures were fun additions! And cat lovers will enjoy it just for the joy of reading about these two Maine Coons!
Let me first point out that, while the author is presenting information regarding Buddhism, she in no way is suggesting that readers must follow these principles to benefit from her story. What I found interesting was that I personally can attest to much she writes about. Her diagnosis was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Depression...my own diagnosis was Job Burnout/Depression. Both of us faced exhaustion on the job; both of us found it necessary to give up our former professional careers. While I never reached the point where I considered suicide, I did sit, many days, thinking that it would be all right if I just died... Given the high numbers of individuals in the United States now taking medications for clinical depression, as the author says in her free tape...now must be the time for this book to be published!
Believe me, there is much to learn from her book, with or without the meditation activity being a part of your process. She does use the philosophical teachings she learned from her trainers; what readers will see is that there are few new words and the words used are important words to be considered “in living.”
I found my Catzenbear about a month ago. She was one of two litters that had arrived at my niece’s home when I was there for Thanksgiving. I picked up a little kitten about eight weeks old; she was shivering and I pulled her close to me, holding her in one arm, while I covered her with my hand. She immediately began to purr...and she never stopped, even while she was in the car with me, coming home. I could tell she was different (I have 15 outside cats and 3 inside cats) and even commented on it to my niece. I called her Cali, but you can read about her in this book, with the unique Catzenbear name!
“The Mind is much like a flea, hopping to and fro from one thought to the next, rarely pausing to reflect and learn from its wanderings.” (quoted by author on p. 1) Kat Tansey knew exactly what this meant—her mind was constantly moving from one subject to another. Some things caused her pain, others anger, others fear—but they always resulted in exhaustion. Kat’s choice was to start to study and practice meditation. Meditation is not easy; you can tell that by the frustration that Kat went through! But in each case, she explains the problem she was having and then how the problem was solved. The very first thing that will hit home for many people was that Kat “was brought up to feel a lull in the conversation embarrassing and silence unproductive.” As with the flea, Americans are extremely busy people and they jump from activity to activity...finding it also embarrassing not to. In her confusion, she was now told—“Good, confusion is an excellent place to begin...”
Consider the words: clinging, anger, sleepiness, restlessness, and doubt. Recognize them? I’m sure you do because we all share them to one extent or another. Five Hindrances is how they are discussed in this book. The exploration of each or all of these may be helpful to readers. For myself, I knew them all well!
Here’s a small example of how the author brings in her cats: Poohbear had developed an extreme liking for tuna. So Kat gave him nothing but tuna (feeding Pooh’s craving). It resulted in Pooh becoming allergic and his hair started to fall out. Moving from this illustration, Kat then proceeds to discuss how she was treating herself in the same manner!
Fortunately, for me, this book came as an affirmation for many of the things I had done to get through a similar experience. If you are there, then you will enjoy the book and may use it as closure to some extent. If you are not there, then this book may be your first step. I highly recommend this book to those who will know they need to begin living again.... As soon as I finished reading the book, I ordered a copy to be sent to my best friend!
And no, Virginia, this is NOT fiction...
G. A. Bixler
IP Book Reviews