Summer Reading Review: "The Art of Purring" by David Michie

It's always exciting to get vouchers as gifts.  For me it means going shopping with someone else's cash!  So I was excited to receive a voucher from our local store The Himalayan Trading Post which has a great selection of books.  I picked out two books (and spent a little of my own cash), for my holiday reading and finished the first one on our way home from Taranaki yesterday.  The Art of Purring by David Michie follows his book ‘The Dalai Lama’s Cat’.  If you haven’t read that one, read it first and then pick this one up. 

Told through the eyes of HHC (His Holiness’ Cat) the story addresses you, the reader, as HHC aka Rinpoche or as she is referred to by the His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Snow Lion.  HHC is charged with investigating the art of purring while His Holiness is absent for seven weeks.  Based at her home at Namgyal, a Buddhist temple in McLeod Ganj, home to the His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) overlooking the snow-capped Himalayas, HHC shares her adventures during the absence of HHDL. 

There are many lovely stories within this book reflecting on our spiritual selves and inner knowing.  Some of the poignant sections which resonated with me I’ll share …

How we think about the future:  Comparing the year of our birth with now, today is the future, and one of the reasons why we are so poor at guessing how we’ll feel about certain things in the future, particularly what’s likely to make us happy is because we imagine that everything in our lives will stay just the same except for the one thing we’re focused on.  “Some call this presentism, the tendency to think that the future will be just like the present but with one particular difference.  Our minds are very good at filling in everything else, apart from that difference, when we think about tomorrow.  And the material we use to fill it in with is today …”  I was reminded here about the creativity of our own minds and how we’re so excellent at telling ourselves stories about what we experience or can expect to experience, rather than awaiting an event with curiosity and openness. 

How to be happy:  “There’s something very fulfilling when you can do what you really care about, and it’s appreciated by others … ”  So what is it that makes you purr?  This got me wondering, what really makes me purr?

The book referenced some great quotes including this one, “Don’t aim at success.  The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.  For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue … as the unintended side effect of one’s dedication to a course greater than oneself.” – Viktor Frankl

Happiness can only be found in the present moment.  Right here, right now.  “Believing in I’ll be happy when I retire.  When I have such and such an amount of money.  When I achieve this particular goal … we create our own superstitions and then persuade ourselves to believe in them … like inventing a relationship between two things that have no connection, like a broken mirror and bad luck or a black cat and good luck …”   Once again the ability of our incredible minds to create stories and meaning from any and all of the events we experience.  Note to self – it’s my story of what happened. 

The formula for happiness is also discussed as being H = S + C + V.  “Happiness equals what’s called your biological set point, or S, plus the conditions of your life, C, plus V, your voluntary activities.”  You can change your set point through meditation.  There are some life conditions that you can’t change such as your age or race for example and depending on where you’re born in the world these factors may or may not have an impact on your level of happiness.  The voluntary variables include activities you choose to pursue such as exercise, music, getting involved with a cause.  The key is to focus on the things that you can change that will have a positive impact on your feeling of well-being, thereby giving you good reason to purr.  And what a timely time of year to be reading this as I focus forward into 2019 with a focus on doing what makes me purr. 

Consciousness:  How empowering is it when we see ourselves as consciousness capable of human, feline or even canine experiences, rather than as people, cats or dogs capable of conscious experience.  This can be a profound realisation for those who haven’t thought this way before and is a profound reminder that we are but a speck of dust in the universe. 

This book for me was an enjoyable, easy to ready novel that provided pause (or paws?) for reflection on how we create our own happiness, with a gentle nudge in the ribs.  What will I do to purr more in 2019?  First thing - read another book - next up, "The Power of Meow" ... watch this space!  Happy Holidays!