The Joy of Winefulness


I practice and teach meditation.  I also enjoy wine.  White in summer, red in winter is what floats my particular boat.  I drink in moderation and only rarely over-indulge.

I have no doubt at all that mindfulness makes drinking wine very much more enjoyable.

When we are being mindful – ‘paying attention to the present moment deliberately and non-judgementally’ – we are able to extract the full intensity of any given experience.  We focus with our undivided attention.  We don’t allow ourselves to be side-tracked by cognitive chatter.  As a result, the experience is a much more vivid and all-absorbing one than if we allow ourselves to be distracted.  Neuro-scientists call it being in ‘direct’ mode when we attend directly to what we are seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and touching, as opposed to ‘narrative’ mode, when we are caught up in our thoughts.

Significantly, there is a small and elite group of people in the West who have been serious practitioners of mindfulness for well over a hundred and fifty years: sommeliers.   Their mindfulness may have been developed in relation to a specific range of objects, but it has evolved with a rigour that would impress even the strictest Eastern master.

A sommelier is expected to recognise three different elements of appearance, three of nose, and five different aspects of taste, sweetness, acidity, tannin, body, flavours (e.g. fruits, flowers, spices) and finish.  A specific wine lexicon of over 120 terms has been developed and increasingly it is the case that sommeliers must pass blindfold tests where they should differentiate, for example, between the tastes of a black current, black berry and black cherry. 

The ability to give forensic attention to something, and discern subtly-different aspects of it is the very heart of mindfulness.  And watching it in action can seem close to magic.  I was so impressed when I poured out a splash of red for a sommelier friend and, after a swirl of the glass and meditative sip he told me it was a Barossa Valley Shiraz.  I would do this a lot more often but my wife tells me off for treating him like a performing monkey.  The truth is, I am in complete awe of his skill!

While most of us will never be sommelier-level wine tasters, we can all benefit from being more mindful when drinking wine.  We appreciate each sip all the more when we really give it our full attention.  When we are aware of all the subtly-different characteristics it may have, ours is a richer, more multi-layered, and appreciative experience.

You’ll find a link here to an online document provided by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust which details different characteristics you may try to look out for when mindfully tasting wine.  It also has a very helpful list of different words in the sommelier’s lexicon:

Here’s a suggestion: next time you have wine-quaffing friends round for a meal, get in a couple of alternative options of the same varietal, print out the tasting notes from the bottle for them to read, and offer the options to your friends in glasses with different coloured ribbons on the stems (one of you will have to know which ribbon represents which wine).  A blind taste-test is a wonderful way to experience the joy of winefulness and a great start to the evening!

Please ‘Share’ this blog with any friends you feel may enjoy it!

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the bottom right of your screen now to receive future blogs from me.

(Thanks for photo of Jane Lopes, Master Sommelier, to:

You’ll find much more on mindfulness in my book, Why Mindfulness is better than Chocolate.  Different covers in different countries, but same content

USA and Canada:

US cover


Chocolate front cover


Chocolate front cover


Chocolate - Spain cover


Read by me:

chocolate - audio cover

Listen to David Michie and 99 others at the Hay House World Summit


Hi Everyone,

I was honoured to be invited by Hay House, publishers of my Dalai Lama’s Cat series, to take part in the 2016 Hay House World Summit – the largest health and wellness event in the world!

A few key points about the World Summit:

It is an online event, enabling you to access sessions with 100 experts, authors and spiritual teachers covering multiple topics including, physical, mental and emotional health, spirituality, prosperity, relationships and self-empowerment;

The event starts on 7th May, but if you register today you’ll receive 4 free audio lessons to jumpstart your learning adventure;

You can also get inspirational movies to uplift, stimulate and renew your mind, body and spirit.

You can download the Hay House World Summit Welcome Pack to help you follow through in making changes that are important to you.

If you’re struggling in choosing a lesson to listen, be sure to look at the “Choose Your Personal Growth Path” infographic to guide you to the lessons you most need to hear.

Don’t miss out on your 20-day journey to self-discovery, heath and success!

Check out the list of luminaries in the spirituality and wellbeing space via the link below!

To register, just go to:

Can you be a Buddhist if you don’t believe in karma and reincarnation?

blue buddha face

I am sometimes asked this question, especially at the end of an introductory class on Buddhism.  The person asking me will usually have been struck by one of the life-enhancing insights offered by the Dharma.  Perhaps they have experienced the gentle but powerful impact that meditation has on our state of mind.  Many Buddhist teachings have a strong resonance among busy Westerners for a variety of reasons.

But karma and reincarnation?  Not so much.

It’s not at all surprising that most people struggle with these concepts.  I certainly did. Quite simply, they are not part of our culture.  The Western view, largely shaped by Christianity and materialist science, has it that when we die our souls go to heaven or hell, or alternatively that they go nowhere at all because they never existed in the first place.  The idea that some part of us continues through successive experiences of birth, ageing, death and rebirth, and has done since the beginning of time, is not our way of thinking.

After all the sane and life-enhancing wisdom of Buddhism, it may seem disappointing to drag such outlandish concepts into the picture – especially as most of us can’t remember a single thing about a previous lifetime.

Hence the question: can you be a Buddhist if you don’t believe such things.

My own response to this question is simply to ask: why do you want to be a Buddhist?  It isn’t necessary to give a label to yourself or what you do.  If you find certain things in Buddhism that are useful to you – take them.  If there are others you find weird – leave them.  The objective is not to get people to join some sort of club.  It is to offer tools to be happier.

If the idea that the consciousness of your now-deceased mother in law is currently experiencing reality as a termite in the jungles of Papua New Guinea sets you on edge, then, no problem.  On the other hand, that suggestion may be sparking a renewed interest in this Buddhist rebirth malarkey!

Karma and rebirth are core to Buddhism.  Yes, they were part of the culture in which Siddartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, grew up.  But he didn’t plod along in sheep-like acceptance of convention.  It is said that on the night he became enlightened he reviewed his own previous lives – one imagines, like fast-forwarding through a pre-recorded drama series – clearly noting the law of causality, or karma, playing out from one lifetime, or episode, to the next.

One of our biggest challenges, as Westerners, is letting go of the preconceptions we have about what exactly moves through different lifetimes.  So conditioned by both Christianity and, ironically, materialism, about this entity known as the soul, we have a tendency to think that our acquired personality, together with memories, likes and dislikes, the ego and all its kit and caboodle, are transferred wholesale from one body to the next.

This is not the Buddhist view.

Even we beginner meditators can come to recognise, after a while, that consciousness exists at different levels.  Those aspects of personality and memories, which we may have come to believe is who we truly are, turn out to be conceptual notions which come and go, with no independent existence at all.  Running behind this, all the time, we discover mind to be something more subtle: a formless continuum of clarity and cognition.  It is this very subtle consciousness that Buddhists say moves from one life to the next.

As for karma, all of us ‘believe’ in the law of cause and effect on a material level – we rely on it every time we turn the ignition key in the car, or press a light switch.  We can also observe it at a psychological level, perhaps more easily in others than ourselves, in the way that negative thinking leads to self-harmful behaviour, which in turn reinforces the negative thinking and so on, in a vicious spiral downwards.  Just as the opposite is also true.  Perhaps it is not so outlandish to suggest that causality can occur on a longer term basis, constantly propelling the formless continuum of clarity and cognition through different experiences.

Karma and rebirth are big subjects – certainly too much to deal with adequately in a short blog.  But I hope I have provided a few tools to help any readers who may have been struggling with these concepts.

Coming back to the original question, you don’t have to believe in karma and rebirth to be a regular at Buddhist classes.  But you do have to have an open mind.  My advice would be to put less helpful subjects to one side, and focus on the ones that are most useful to you at this moment in your life.  Often it is the case that as our understanding of one subject deepens, it illuminates others in a quite unexpected way.  Step by step, we discover an elegant coherence to all the teachings.

The last word on this subject goes to Buddha himself:

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

(Asvaghosa’s Buddhacarita or Acts of the Buddha.)

Please ‘Share’ this blog if you know others who may find it helpful.

If you would like to receive blogs from me in the future, please click the ‘Follow’ button at the bottom right hand of your screen now!

My introductory book to Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism for Busy People, can be ordered from your local bookstore or bought online.  It has different covers in different countries, but the content is the same:

BBP - Oz coverBBP US cover




Enlightenment to Go, an introduction to Shantiva’s famous work ‘A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ is for readers who’d like to explore Tibetan Buddhism a little more deeply.  Again, different covers in different countries:

ETG - Australian coverETG US cover





Do you know your pet from a previous lifetime? Call out for stories!

rebirth puppy and kitten

The Buddhist view is that those who come into our lives, aren’t here by chance.  They are with us because of a previously created cause.  Perhaps they are drawn to us, or another family member or even where we live.  Some kind of connection, previously established, has given rise to the current effect of them being with us.

Most of us are oblivious to what that original cause may have been.  It may have been created in the very distant past, during a previous lifetime.  And the kind of relationship we had with the person or pet we currently share our life with may also have been different.  This is part of the reason why we are encouraged to treat animals with all due respect: they may have been our mother, our lover, our best friend, in a previous lifetime. 

The way we are together now is not only a result of a previously created cause.  In the way we interact we are creating the causes for future results.  Another reason to practice love and compassion: we are setting up our own experience of reality in the future.

I’ve heard of people who’ve had a strong sense that their pet is a being with whom they’ve had a previous connection.  A cat, for example, who has come back to the family as a cat once again.  Sometimes this intuition is supported by particular evidence of similarities in behaviour or other quirks.

Humans may also come back as animals.  Animals as humans.  If we allow ourselves an open mind on the permutations, we recognise just how limitless the possibilities are.  And, therefore, how important the close bonds we share with other beings in our lives, at any one moment.

I am currently writing a book about animals and spirituality from a Buddhist perspective.  I look forward to sharing much more with you on this intriguing subject when the book is published next year.

Right now I am actively interested in any personal experiences and anecdotes blog readers may like to offer, in the area of pets and reincarnation, which you’d be happy for me to include in the book.  Interesting stories of animal spirituality and human-pet interactions would also be great!  Feel free to share your story in the Comment box at the bottom of this blog, or email me directly at:

Please feel free to ‘Share’ this blog with anyone you feel may have a story, or an interest.

Click the ‘Follow’ button, at the bottom right hand side of the screen now if you’d like to receive future blogs from me.

 (Adorable picture of puppy and kitten from:

5 Benefits of Suffering

lotus flower

Most of us will do whatever we can to avoid suffering.  We don’t like the idea of it.  We don’t much like even the word.  Whether it’s trivial inconvenience or major life-changing suffering we want no part of it.  But the reality is that for much of our lives we experience some level of dissatisfaction.   This was Buddha’s first ‘Noble Truth’ – or as The Dalai Lama puts it, his first ‘fact of life.’

Buddhism has many ways of reframing our experience of reality, to find mental outcomes that better serve us.  What is beneficial about suffering?

When we go through a terrible experience – health, financial, legal, relationship or other problems – our empathy for others in the same situation develops quite naturally.  We really know how they feel.  We feel the same.  Because of our suffering, we can relate to them strongly, in a heartfelt way.  Our capacity for empathy deepens.

We also learn humility.  When everything is going our way, it’s easy to become so caught up in our own busy world that we may overlook or diminish the challenges faced by those who are doing it tough.  Some people even become arrogant and judgemental, perhaps believing they are somehow immune to the problems that, in time, we all must face.  When we suffer, we know the truth.  There is no place to be a big deal.  And with humility, we develop gratitude for things we may have overlooked: the kindness of friends and strangers.  The happiness to be found in everyday things.  As Cicero said ‘Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.’

Suffering makes us stronger.  When, eventually, we get through our ordeal, we are wiser, more experienced and capable than before.  Learning from our difficulties, we don’t need to be told to avoid them in the future.  We are more confident in dealing with life’s ups and downs. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.

Suffering motivates our spiritual practice.  In Buddhism, turning away from the true causes of our suffering marks the beginning of our journey of inner growth.  This is sometimes symbolised in the form of a lotus, a plant which has its root in the muddiest of swamps, but which rises to the surface of the water to blossom in flowers of the most exquisite beauty.  As Thich Nhat Hanh puts it so succinctly, ‘No mud, not lotus.’  In motivating us to transfer more of our focus from conventional reality to those practices that best serve our experience of ultimate reality, suffering propels us towards the light, and those values which are of enduring benefit to self and others.

Are you sold on suffering?  Feel like experiencing more?!  The head of the Tibetan Buddhist Society, our kind and precious teacher Geshe Acharya Thubten Loden was often visited by people seeking counsel in times of despair.  ‘Do you want my advice on how to deal with suffering?’ he would ask.

‘Oh yes, Geshe-la!’ they would sincerely reply

‘Are you quite sure?’ he used to confirm.  (For those in the know, this is a red alert from a lama: you are about to be told something you may not wish to hear, and this is your last chance to get out).

‘Quite sure, Geshe-la.’

‘Then ask for more suffering!’ he would say, bringing his palms to his heart.  ‘Please, Universe, give me more suffering and pain and misery.  Bring it on!  I want more of it!’

Of course, there is no universal donor of pain and suffering.  Rather this is a classic example of powerful, counter-intuitive, Buddhist psychology.  Transforming ourselves from a weak and enfeebled victim to someone capable of dealing with much more suffering marks a fundamental shift.  And curiously, the more insistent we are that we can take more suffering, the easier our current burden seems to be.

For more posts, click the ‘Follow’ button on the bottom right hand of your screen now!  Please ‘Share’ with any friends you feel may benefit from this blog.

(Image of the lotus flower from:


Do animals use telepathy to communicate? Intriguing video evidence.


Many pet lovers have had the experience of a dog, cat, or other being appearing to know about something without having been shown it.  Or inexplicably understanding the significance of something that happened.  In some cases a persistent thought may arise in a pet-lover’s mind which, when they respond to it, seems to have been communicated by the pet himself – especially when the pet, or someone else, is in danger, or need.

The idea that animals communicate using what we call telepathy, is by no means new.  But scientists, who have traditionally dismissed both telepathy as well as animal sentience, have only just begun to investigate this intriguing phenomenon.  Many scientists would unwilling to risk the ridicule of their peers even suggesting this subject is worthy of exploration.  Fortunately for us, Cambridge-educated biologist, Rupert Sheldrake is not one of these.

Sheldrake was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge where he was Director of Studies in cell biology, and was also a Research Fellow of the Royal Society. He is currently a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California.  In recent years he has been willing to undertake properly controlled trials investigating phenomenon such as ‘Dogs that Know when their owners are coming home and other unexplained powers of animals’ – which became the title for one of his fascinating books.

More recently, he investigated the telepathic powers of an African Grey parrot called N’kisi who lives in New York City.  The 10 minute video below provides all the context you need, as well as live footage of this extraordinary experiment.  I hope you find it as intriguing as I do!


By the way, if you have any stories of pets who have displayed telepathic or other interesting psychic abilities, I’d be delighted to hear from you!  I am actively seeking personal anecdotes for a book I am currently writing.  Simply post your story at the end of this blog.  Or if you prefer, you can email it to me at:

If you are new to my blog and would like to follow it, please click the Yellow ‘Follow’ button on the bottom right hand side of your screen now!

Please ‘Share’ with anyone you think may find this blog of interest!


For the latest Dalai Lama’s Cat book, ‘The Power of Meow‘, go to:


Meow US cover




Meow - UK


Exciting news on The Dalai Lama’s Cat Movie!


I am thrilled to report that The Dalai Lama’s Cat Movie now has a Director!  Not just any director, but Ben Gosling Fuller, the seasoned director of many successful comedies in UK including That Mitchell and Webb Look and the TV series IT Crowd; You, Me and Them; Citizen Khan, and many others.

As soon as Ben read the screenplay written by Jon Tilley, he fell in love with His Holiness’s Cat (HHC).  “I receive many scripts but the moment I read this, I could see the whole movie in my head- it was so evocative and enchanting. I saw the potential for this as a clever, exciting and wonderful family film,” he says.  “HHC is such a funny, dry and engaging character, I could see the chance to take people on a journey that would move them but also make them laugh.”

“My vision is for a warm-hearted, multi-layered story in an incredible setting I haven’t seen on screen before, which will keep the audience spell-bound from the first moment to the last.  There will be plenty of action and laughs, but also the underlying messages from The Dalai Lama’s Cat book series which have resonated so strongly with people around the world.”

Ben expects HHC and other non-human cast members to be computer generated images (CGI), with the humans played by actors.  Working so closely with many actors over the years, Ben already has plenty of casting ideas.

Those of you familiar with the movie Paddington, will know how effectively a CGI hero can combine with a cast of actors.  Paddington was directed by Paul King who, like Ben, is a British director with extensive experience in comedy.  As it happens, Paul and Ben know each other and have worked with many of the same people in the past.

Next step is to produce a trailer to show potential financiers, including at the Cannes Film Market in May.  Over future weeks there will be a lot of work bringing HHC to life as a CGI character.  I can’t wait to see how our flawed, but adorable feline friend turns out – I am sure she is going to be just amazing!

I will share whatever images I can – as well as news about casting and other developments.  Just click the ‘Follow’ button, on the bottom right hand of the screen if you don’t already receive my blog.

*  *   *


Quite separately, there are only three rooms left for my Mindful Safari to Africa this August.  If you’d like to join me for six magical days on a journey of a lifetime, reserve your place quickly by emailing Barbara Turner.  You’ll find her details at:   and some photos of our 2015 safari at:


(Image of cats at the movies from:

Calling out for real life mindful pet stories

reaching out image

Dear Blog Readers,

I am busy writing a new book and I need your help please!

The book is non-fiction – for those of you who are Dalai Lama’s Cat fans, don’t fret, I have a new novel coming out this year.  More on that in future weeks.

My new factual book involves mindfulness in relation to pets, and I’d like to illustrate it with real life stories. Which is where you come in.

I am looking for stories which may have happened to you, or someone you know, where something interesting happened as a result of practising mindfulness in relation to your pet/another animal.

Even as animal lovers, we are often so caught up in our own thoughts that we pay less attention to our pets than we should.  So what happens when we do pay close attention?  Do we realize that our animal companion is trying to communicate something to us about himself or herself – or about us – that we hadn’t noticed before?  Can this insight shift our relationship onto a different level?  Or see us pursue a course of action with intriguing or important consequences? Of course, our pet doesn’t speak English, but we all communicate in many other more powerful ways besides verbally.

It can be fascinating what we notice when we are truly present for our pets.  I’d love to hear your stories.  They don’t have to be long or elaborate or life-changing.  But I’d be very grateful for whatever insights you’d like to share.

I’d be happy to mention your name/your pet’s name in any stories that I do include in my book.  Or to protect your anonymity – the choice is yours.

Just scroll down to the ‘Leave a Reply’ section, write your story in the ‘Comment’ box and press ‘Post Comment.’  If you would rather not share your story, feel free to message me at:

With warm wishes and sincere thanks,




Where does consciousness come from?


It seems to me that, whoever we are and whatever our convictions, there is a single question we all need to answer.  The way we answer may well underpin how we live our life.  The question is seldom made explicit, but is often implicit in both scientific and religious beliefs.  For my own part, I wish that people were encouraged to give it much more attention, because it really is fundamental to our experience of reality. That question is: where does consciousness come from?

The Western view, for much of the past two hundred years, has been largely based on materialism – that is, the idea that matter is all that exists.  According to this model, consciousness is a product of the brain (See my previous blog: Are mind and brain the same? (

It should be stressed that this view is not a fact, but a hypothesis.  And it is a hypothesis that generally works until it is pushed to extremes.  What kind of extremes?  Well, if consciousness arises from the brain – in a way scientists cannot, so far, explain – then how is it that some very capable people with high IQs possess hardly any brain at all?

How is it possible that people whose brains have been badly affected by degenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s, and who have suffered from dementia for months or even years, can suddenly return to periods of complete lucidity in the minutes or hours before their death?

Why is it that people whose brains are, according to all the evidence, no longer functioning, can have some of the most lucid and vivid experience of consciousness of their lives (see my blog on near death experiences:

In the following video, Dr Bruce Greyson, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioural Sciences at the University of Virginia, asks the provocative question: Does Consciousness need a Brain?  It is a fascinating and thorough presentation and I highly recommend it!

To receive more blogs about the nature of consciousness, and related subjects, please click the ‘Follow’ button on the bottom right hand of your screen now!

And please ‘Share’ with anyone you feel may find this blog of interest.

The material in this blog is discussed in much more detail in my book, Why Mindfulness is better than Chocolate.

Australia, UK and Kindle edition:

Chocolate front cover 

USA and Canada:

US cover


(Thanks for the image to:

Can Buddhists celebrate Christmas?

Dalai Lama at St Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

Can Buddhists celebrate Christmas – especially those of us living in the West?

Of course we can!

What is un-Buddhist about peace and goodwill to all men?  About practising generosity and showing kindness to family, friends and strangers?  All of these are in perfect accord with Buddhism, and it is wonderful to have a culturally-agreed season during which special emphasis is placed on these activities.

For Christians, the birth of Jesus holds a particular religious significance, and even here Buddhists can offer our support.  In Buddhism we have many different lineages.  There are the major Zen, Theravadan, Chinese, and Nishiren Shoshu traditions, to name only a few, and then within Tibetan Buddhism each of the four branches – Gelugpa, Kagyu, Sakya and Nyingma – have many lineages, which we can regard as being like many different branches of family trees.  We may know very little about what goes on even within closely-related branches of our own family tree, let alone others.  We may engage in different practices and rituals.  But what unites us is far greater than what divides us.  When we meet a fellow practitioner, even from a different part of the tree, we feel a sense of kinship.

The same with Christianity.   When we read what Jesus actually said, according to the Bible, we find nothing that contradicts the teachings of Buddha.  The essence of his message – love and compassion, focus on inner development not material trappings, lift your sights beyond this life alone – are the same foundational teachings that we have in Buddhism.  In fact there are those who say that Jesus was a lama, and that the three wise men from the East who appeared at his birth, were Buddhists from India travelling to check up on where he had been reincarnated.  (Those interested in exploring this subject further may like to read Jesus lived in India by Holger Kersten – an intriguing book).

Of course we will always have fundamentalists among us who, for whatever reason, like to claim that there is only one, valid spiritual path – which happens to be the one they follow.  However much we may value our own tradition, spiritual chauvinism goes against the advice of all the great spiritual teachers who emphasise the importance of humility: we really don’t know, what we don’t know.  In matters of ultimate reality, which all traditions agree goes beyond concept, what matters is not the characteristics of the finger pointing at the moon, but the moon itself.

So, as Buddhists in the West, let’s celebrate Christmas in the proper way.  Not as an orgy of consumerism but, in the stillness of meditation, to encounter afresh the love and compassion which is our own deepest nature – and to share this reality with all the beings in our lives.

I’d like to express heartfelt thanks to all my blog and book readers, and all my Mindful Safari travellers, for your support and encouragement in 2015!  May you have a really wonderful festive season and here’s wishing each one of you, all good things for 2016!

To receive future blogs from me, please click the yellow Follow button on the bottom right hand of your screen now!