My reading list is usually filled to the brim with non fiction books, so it was a refreshing change to jump into a novel and what better way than through the eyes of a kitty cat.
On his way back from a trip in America from the window of his car the Dalai Lama sees a kitten being dumped in the gutter, naturally he sends a staff member to rescue the poor little kitten, soon to become known as His Holiness's cat, or HHC for short! If you ever wondered what life as the Dalai Lama
was like, here’s the chance to find out through the eyes of his resident rescued cat!
Yes, the story is underpinned by Buddhist teachings and philosophy, but regardless of your own beliefs and background the concepts are things we can all learn from. Each chapter focuses on a different principle building objectivity and self awareness, it leaves you being able to relate such mindset skills to your own life, which is why I’ve chosen to and summarise it. Contentment and happiness are things we all strive for and this is at the heart of this fluffy kitty's story.
So here are my top 3 takeaways from HHC and how we can use her stories in our own lives. After all...
a wise person learns from their mistakes, a wiser person also learns from the mistakes of others!
1. Happiness Is A Choice
Eh? No really, it is. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can always control how we respond. It is not the circumstances of our lives that make us happy or unhappy but the way we see them. Most of us pin happiness to a circumstance e.g. I’ll be happy when I’ve lost weight, bought a house, or got a pay rise, as if until then happiness cannot be. We think we have to change our circumstances to be happy when really this is not the route of our unhappiness. This comes from our mindset and beliefs towards these circumstances.
How can we use this in our own lives? Quite simply by realising that happiness IS a choice and seeing our journey and circumstances as an opportunity for personal growth, rather than a waste of time until the circumstances change.
This relates to the control, influence, accept model. If we dwell on things we have no control or influence over unhappiness is perhaps more likely to brew. Accepting what we cannot control and focusing our attention on what we can, helps shift our mindset and our productivity, making the choice of happiness easier for us.
2. Coping With Change
Change Is unavoidable, as HHC finds out when the Dalai Lama’s office is refurbished and she’s moved to live with his assistant for a week. On arriving to her temporary new home HHC curls up in a ball and refuses to move for 3 days. On the 4th, she ventures out and discovers what amazing things surround her in this new place, only then left regretting she’d spend half her time there resisting the change curled up asleep!
"I had robbed myself of that opportunity with my ridiculous self- pity."
What can we learn from HHC's self-pity? Well, this relates to the negativity bias in our brain that is very good at immediately jumping to negative conclusions, usually not based on any evidence whatsoever! Understanding that change is inevitable we can approach it with open eyes (rather than curled up in a ball.) Knowing that what's ahead may be different and challenging, but it also may also present us with opportunities to learn and discover new things.
3. The Realisation
We all have things we want to do, goals we want to achieve or new ventures we're thinking about taking. But, how often do we really chase them? And if we do, how long do we spend talking ourselves out of it beforehand?
"Fear, an instinct that prevents many people from taking actions that they know, deep down inside, would liberate them. Like a bird in a cage whose door has been opened, we are free to go out in search of fulfilment, but fear makes us look for all kinds of reasons not to."
Are you scared or worried about saying yes to something? This is normal. Once we get through the other excuses we tell our brain to put ourselves off, the realisation becomes clear. The true reason deep down is fear.
Is there something you've been umming and arring over for ages? Take a moment to consider the reasons you've told yourself not to do it? Are they rational? Or, stripping it back are they excuses? For years I've been thinking about doing a charity challenge going back and forth thinking whether or not it's the right thing to do. This single chapter of this book and this simple objective thinking principle has given me the push I needed to make a deal with myself to say YES.
So, if you’re looking for an accessible introduction to the world of mindfulness and the basic concepts of Buddhism, The Dalai Lama’s Cat is a great place to start. Equally if you’re a cat lover and are after a charming story that will enlighten you to reconsider your mindset towards happiness this is the book for you.
Why A Book Review?
I use the key findings from evidence based thought leadership and psychologies to create the mental strength content for Make Your Mind Up. Soon we're going to be launching our Pocket Mentor app.
The best way to test your understanding of a topic is to use the information and then help others understand it too. Creating book reviews help me process what I’ve read and increase the amount of times I’m interacting with the information, so the better I (should!) remember it.