Book Review: The Dalai Lama’s Cat

By Barbara Vitoria

David Michie is the Zimbabwe-born internationally best-selling author of The Dalai Lama’s Cat series of novels, as well as non-fiction titles including Why Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate and Hurry Up and Meditate.

David’s first book, The Dalai Lama’s Cat, is a fictional tale about His Holiness’s Cat (HHC), her observations about life and how she gradually changes by being in the presence of those living according to Buddhist principles of kindness and wisdom. After catching and almost killing a mouse, for example, HHC reflects on her actions: “I had been listening to the Dalai Lama point out that the lives of all sentient beings are as important to them as our own life is to us. But how much attention had I paid to that?…. As for the truth that all beings wish to be happy and to avoid suffering – that thought hadn’t crossed my mind while I was stalking the mouse. I had simply let instinct take over. Not for one moment had I considered my actions from the mouse’s point of view.”

Like HHC, an American, life-coach billionaire who visits the Dalai Lama because his life has lost direction, begins to understand the paradox that the best way to achieve happiness for oneself is to free others from suffering and to give them happiness. The Dalai Lama explains that a true cause of happiness is a cause that can be relied upon. “Heat applied to water is a true cause of steam. No matter who applies the heat or how often …. the result is always steam. In the case of money or status or relationships” – His Holiness chuckled – “we can easily see these are not true causes of happiness.” The life-coach billionaire begins to see that the Gospel of Self-Development he once preached often leads to self-infatuation, the opposite to the cause of happiness and that by focusing on the well-being of others, the happier we become.

David was hosted for a talk in Harare by the Mindfulness Foundation of Zimbabwe (MFZ). MFZ promotes mindfulness through training courses and retreats. Mindfulness is paying attention to our moment-to-moment experience with kindness and curiosity, and without labelling our experiences as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

In his YouTube talk, Why Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate, David recounts a study done involving more than 2 000 people with smartphones. At random intervals they were sent the same questions: What are you doing? What are you thinking? How happy are you? The study found that 47% of the time, people weren’t thinking about what they were doing …. and …. that people are much happier when they are mindful of what they are doing. “Turns out that it’s not so much what you’re doing that makes you happy. It’s whether or not you are being mindful of what you’re doing.”

David Michie

For more on David and MFZ see https://davidmichie.com/ and https://www.mindfulness.org.zw

Photographs provided by Barbara Vitoria

This article was originally published in Ndeipi Magazine

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