Thursday, December 18, 2008

Choosing to Be

Kat Tansey went from a successful career to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to severe depression. In 1993, she crashed, with her moods swinging between depression, and compelling thoughts of suicide that would end her depression. Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master is her fictionalized story of her discussion of meditation, and the Buddha nature, discussions she held with her cat, Poohbear Degoonacoon.

Poohbear is a wise Maine Coon cat who suggests to Tansey that she bring home a kitten because kittens "truly know their Buddha nature." A kitten "just is." Catzenbear, the Maine Coon kitten, is "one who looks at everything with the awe of seeing it for the first time." For Poohbear, meditation was a method to open up the mind to the limitless possibilities, possibilities that are there for the innocent kitten.

Tansey had gone into a four year spiral downward, suffering first from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Then her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at the same time Kat hit menopause full tilt. She had lost the ability to find joy in life. Poohbear's lessons, along with Tansey's retreats and work with meditation teachers, helped Tansey find answers in her own life.

Although it's a fictionalized story, Tansey's Choosing to Be is a thoughtful guide for readers looking to find some peace. For some readers, a cat's wisdom will sound ridiculous. However, for those of us who live with cats, it makes sense that cats would understand meditation and philosophy. It makes sense that a cat could teach a human to learn how to relax, and accept life. And, the book is an easy introduction to Buddhism and meditation.

Kat Tansey's book is called Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master. I picked it up because it was a fun title. I have more respect for meditation, and, naturally, the wisdom of cats, after reading the book.

Kat Tansey's website is

Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master by Kat Tansey. iUniverse Incorporated, ©2008. ISBN 9781935278146 (paperback), 143p.


Kat Tansey said...

Thank you for reviewing my book, Lesa. I'm honored that you included it in your collections of mysteries, but then I see Choosing to Be as a mystery of the mind. The killer is one that attacks millions of people, a serial killer if you will -- depression.

My hope is that Choosing to Be will help people who live with depression, whether their own or someone else's, gain insight into the distortions of thought produced by this killer.

When I was struggling with my own depression, I read William Styron's Darkness Visible. This was back in the days when depression was not widely talked about, chronic fatigue syndrome was unknown, and Alzheimer's was just beginning to raise its public voice. Styron's book brought great comfort to me -- someone knew what was happening inside my head!

There are now studies that show just petting a cat produces a relaxation response that releases beneficial hormones, and many studies reveal that meditators also receive the benefit of these hormones.

We see commercials every night on TV about how depression hurts. In one of them, a woman who has recovered by taking the medication is holding and petting a kitten. I think the two need to go together -- sometimes medication is needed, but pets and meditation can go a long way to helping depression sufferers observe the workings of their Ordinary Mind and rediscover the wonder of their Buddha Nature.

I hope that in some small way Choosing to Be can make a difference in the lives of people who suffer from depression. I acknowledge those writers and artists who were not able to find their way out of the black hole of hell -- and give thanks to those who did and lived to write about it.

Lesa said...

Thank you very much, Kat. I have lived with, and worked with, people who have gone through severe depression. It isn't easy for anyone to live with it. I do believe that cats can help relieve stress and tension.

Thank you for taking time to comment on the blog. And, good luck to you. Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts with others. Hopefully, you'll touch someone who needs it.

sharonanne said...

This looks like an amazing book!

Lesa said...

It was very interesting, Sharon Anne. It was unbelievable what Kat had to overcome.

Yvonne said...

I have this to review next and it looks so good.

Lesa said...

I'll be interested to see what you think after you review it, Yvonne.