How meditation helps create ideas that resonate



painting cat

As every creative person knows, coming up with fresh ideas is often not the challenge.  The challenge is coming up with fresh ideas that resonate.  Whether you wish to be taken seriously by the literary elite, sell truckloads of paintings to hotel decorators, or have your sculpture find a permanent home on a municipal plinth, at some level your creativity has to appeal to an audience and its gatekeepers, typically in the form of gallery owners, agents, commissioning editors and the like.

I have always been amused by a quote from British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who once said: ‘As usual the Liberals offer a mixture of sound and original ideas.  Unfortunately none of the sound ideas is original and none of the original ideas is sound.’  Our challenge is: how to come up with an idea that’s both original and sound?

One clue should come from the fact that the most successful consumer companies of our era – the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple and others in the Silicon Valley set – choose to focus on mindfulness and meditation at their annual Wisdom 2.0 conference (see:  When companies that live or die according to their ability to innovate show this level of interest in meditation, you have to ask why?

Neuroscientists go some of the way to providing an answer.  When we meditate our brains demonstrably produce more gamma waves.  These are associated with ‘aha’ experiences.  Joining of dots.  Seeing the wood for the trees.  We may not be consciously searching for a particular insight but, whether on the meditation cushion or recently off it, we find we are struck by an insight that was staring us in the face all along but that we may not have otherwise noticed.  Often this insight is all we need to help us come up with that original and sound idea!

Over years of meditating I have had many such experiences.  And speaking to fellow meditators I know my experience is the norm.  Insight and creativity go with the landscape.  What’s more, you don’t even have to be a particularly accomplished meditator for the lights to go on.

One of the most striking examples of this happened to me only months after I began meditating.  By way of background, from the age of 18 I had set my heart on being a writer.  I wrote novel after novel, each of which was rejected by publishers in London, New York and South Africa, where I used to live.  By my early 30s, all I had to show for my efforts was 10 completed manuscripts and a thick file of rejection letters.  I created a montage out of the more entertaining of these, which I framed and hung on my wall. (“No, no, no, this simply will not do!” I remember one of them saying!)  For all the bravado, however, the phrase “frustrated writer” hardly began to describe me.

Then I took up meditating.  And it was a couple of months later that I was mulling over how the media was filled with stories of spin doctoring – particularly those who advised politicians.  Tony Blair and Bill Clinton seemed part of a new era where unseen, influential and unelected spin-meisters seemed to wield huge power over the media.  Journalists often portrayed this development in dark and sinister terms, which I found quite amusing given that I had worked in public relations my whole career and knew that the real story was somewhat, and intriguingly, different.  It seemed to me that most people had no idea who spin-doctors were or how they operated.  I wrote a short proposal suggesting I write a book explaining exactly that, sent it to half a dozen publishers, and weeks later it was accepted by a major publisher.  I had my first book deal.

After decades of tireless energy, nights and weekends at my bedroom desk, knocked-back social invitations, and having hopes raised and dashed numberless times, I can’t tell you how good that first publishing contract felt.  Nor, how ridiculously easy.  I hadn’t had to write a book.  I hadn’t spent weeks agonising over character development, story lines or narrative tone.  Bang!  It just happened.  Right place, right time, right idea with the right pitch.

There’s no way I can prove that it was meditation that helped me join the dots.  But I personally have no doubt.  Having spent the previous decade and a half trying all manner of genres, it seems a bit coincidental how things fell so beautifully into place just weeks after I started a meditation practice.  Other people have similar experiences.

For creative people, generating ideas that resonate with others is one of the benefits of meditation.  But it’s not the only one.  There are other ways in which meditation reshapes not only our effectiveness at what we do, but also, in a more profound and wonderful way, how and why we do it.

I look forward to sharing more on this subject in future blogs.  To receive them, click the ‘Follow’ button on the bottom right hand of your screen now.

If you live in Perth, Australia, I will be discussing this and other themes, as well as providing some practical meditation tools at my seminar on Mindfulness and the Creative Process on Sunday 26 July:

You’ll find much more about the benefits of meditation in my latest book, The Power of Meow!


Meow US cover




Meow - UK

And please ‘Share’ with your Cat-holic friends!  (  )~ prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr



Mindfulness and the Creative Process – Perth Seminar with David Michie!

sistene chapel image


Do you often start creative projects but can’t seem to follow them through?

Are you frustrated by the results of your creative efforts to date?

Do you know you could do more with your creativity but aren’t sure where to start?

Would you benefit from a creative kick-start?

David Michie is the internationally best-selling author of The Dalai Lama’s Cat series, Why Mindfulness is better than Chocolate, Buddhism for Busy People and other books.  He is also a mindfulness teacher and coach.  In this seminar, David shares the experiences of his own career and provides both the theory as well as practical tools to help you:

  • Get clear about your creative intentions;
  • Understand the importance of authenticity and integrating creativity with your inner values;
  • Create the optimal mental climate to germinate and nurture new ideas;
  • Cultivate objectivity when seeking to match ideas to markets;
  • Develop tools to use criticism positively and cultivate non-attachment to rejection;
  • Build the foundation for a more mindful, coherent and purposeful creative life.

This is an exclusive event with a maximum of 20 people to enable direct interaction with David.  Booking essential!

Where: The Bodhi Tree Bookstore Café, 416 Oxford Street, Mount Hawthorn, WA 6016

When: Sunday 26 July, 8 am – 11 am.  David will be available for a further hour of informal conversation afterwards.

Cost: $140 per person


(Painting cat image courtesy of:


Exciting news: The Dalai Lama’s Cat Movie

cats at movies

I am thrilled to let all my enthusiastic supporters around the world know that work has begun on The Dalai Lama’s Cat Movie!

It is especially wonderful that seasoned movie producer, Ileen Maisel, has optioned the book and is driving the project.  Ileen’s stellar line-up of films includes such hits as Dangerous Liaisons, Romeo and Juliet (screenplay by Downton Abbey’s Sir Julian Fellowes), The Golden Compass and Ripley’s Game.  Ileen’s team at Amber Entertainment have been hugely supportive ( And earlier this month I met with award-winning screenplay writer Jon Tilley who is already working on a movie outline.

Every movie needs its guardian angel and for more than a year US-based Sid Maestre has been constant, energetic and very focused on his quest to bring His Holiness’s Cat to a screen near you!

The Dalai Lama’s Cat movie will be an adaptation, rather than a direct translation of the first book in the series.  As I am involved in the production team, I will be a custodian of HHC and the valuable messages we want to bring to a whole new and wider audience.  We plan having a screenplay that everyone can get excited about by the end of the year.  Next step will be to appoint a director as positive about the movie as we all are.  Then we arrange the funding.

So, there’s hard work ahead of us, and we’re all on a journey.  But I thought you’d want to know about what’s happening and share the journey with us.  In future months, I’ll keep you posted as we keep making progress.

For my own part, it is exciting to be part of a broader team, with complementary talents, all of whom share the same wish to see HHC and the wisdom she learns, find a place in the hearts and minds of people around the world.

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.

May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all beings abide in peace and equanimity, free from attachment, aversion, and free from indifference.

Just for fun, tell me which actors you would like to see play your favourite characters in the film of the book?!  Use the Comment box below.

For updates about the movie and future blogs, please click the ‘Follow’ button on the bottom right hand of your screen now!

And please ‘Share’ this exciting news!

(Image of cats at the movies from:

What does The Power of Meow really mean?

Meow US cover

In recent weeks I have been asked by some readers to explain the meaning behind the title of my third book, The Power of Meow.  Just as the second title, The Art of Purring is a play on The Art of Happiness – a book closely associated with His Holiness – this third title is a similarly feline allusion to a little-known tome by Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now.

No doubt my own book is helping draw more public attention to Eckhart Tolle’s work.  While a thank you note from Mr Tolle has yet to find its way up the hill to my home in Dharamsala, I have no doubt that in time it will – accompanied, I very much hope, by a delivery of fresh catnip!

Being ‘in the now’ is a subject of growing interest among humans – as it should be!  Not a month seems to go by without the discovery of some new evidence attesting to the benefits of mindfulness.  In my book I explore the power of this holistic and transformational practice.  If, dear reader, you are among that discerning elite who prefers wisdom to be imparted in the uniquely quirky and adorable way of we cats, you need look no further.  You have found your Holy Grail and it is called The Power of Meow!  (Shameless self-promotion?  Me?!)

By way of a taster of the life-enhancing wisdom you will find in my book, I am happy to share the following titbits:

  • Focusing your attention on the present moment is powerful because now is the only time you can ever be happy. Neuroscientists call it ‘direct’ mode when we pay attention to what we are seeing, hearing and tasting, as opposed to ‘narrative’ mode when we pay attention to our inner thoughts.  Both clinical research and personal experience show that when we are in direct mode we are far more likely to be happy.
  • We can learn to practice mindfulness in relation to many different things. One of the most life-changing is mindfulness of thoughts.  Learning to observe our thoughts, rather than become automatically absorbed by them, gives us a tremendous power.  We come to see our thoughts merely as thoughts, not as facts or truths.  We get better at letting go of them.  We stop beating ourselves up about that mouse we once hunted, or believing that some incident that happened to us in kitten-hood must permanently blight our life.  We are able to be more self-accepting.  Instead of being victims of our thoughts, we become their observers.
  • Only by direct experience can we know the true nature of our own mind. Practising mindfulness, we discover that our thoughts are not the only manifestations of consciousness.  Like waves emerging from the surface of mind, when we abide in our oceanic nature we find it to be boundless, lucid, tranquil and benevolent.  We have come home.

If any of this arouses your curiosity, dear reader, or has your whiskers tingling, I suggest you read The Power of Meow to find out more!  Some helpful links:


Meow US cover




Meow - UK

To get future blogs, please click the Follow button on the bottom right hand of your screen now!

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Prague launch of ‘The Magician of Lhasa’

David with Ivana and Nela

Earlier this month, Robert Gajdos and the team at Synergie Publishing hosted the launch of my novel The Magician of Lhasa in Prague, Czech Republic.  Launch activities included a signing at Neoluxor Books – a very large bookshop in Wenceslas Square – and a separate media launch.  Two Czech TV and theatre stars, Ivana Jiresova and Nela Boudova, who enjoy the Dalai Lama Cat books, generously provided their support, ensuring a wonderful turn out of journalists at the media event.  I’m delighted to share a few photos of the happy events in this blog.

My heartfelt thanks to Ivana and Nela for your warm support of my work; to Robert for being such a generous host and astute publisher; to Zdenek for translating The Magician of Lhasa and for being such a helpful interpreter during the visit; to Stepan for your reading and ongoing support; to Petra for translating so many of my books into Czech; to Jana and Magdalena for being such savvy publicists; to Petr and his team for being such accommodating hosts at Neoluxor; to Hubert, our tea master, for hosting us at Dobra Cajnova in such style; and to Marketa who has been a staunch advocate of my work from the beginning.

It is wonderful to have discovered that the Dharma is flourishing in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and that so many readers are finding my books useful.  Prague has a very special place in my heart, and I hope it’s not long before I’m back again in your beautiful city.

Robert, David, Ivana and Nela about to launch Magician

wprague - david with ivana

david with Hubert, host at dobra cajnova

media scrum at Magician launch

David with Lucie from Prime TV

prague - david and robert outside neoluxor

Prague - david with zdenek and stepan

prague - stepan reading

prague - david meeting readers in prague

prague - book signing

Here are a few links to the resulting media coverage: – akce 5.6.

Read the Prologue and Chapter One of ‘The Power of Meow’

Meow US cover medium


I am ashamed to have to begin this book with a confession. A revelation so embarrassing I’d much rather not be making it. Living with the Dalai Lama, surrounded by monks at Namgyal Monastery, and constantly encountering the most revered meditation masters in Tibetan Buddhism, one would assume that among my many admirable qualities I am an accomplished meditator.

Alas, dear reader, I am not!

I may be gorgeous beyond words, with my mesmerizing blue eyes, charcoal face, and sumptuous cream coat. I may be a global celebrity whose well-being is a subject of frequent inquiry by luminaries as diverse as the occupants of the Oval Office, Buckingham Palace, and the more rarefied enclaves of the Hollywood Hills.

But a natural meditator? If only!

I have tried, on several occasions. But no sooner have I settled my mind on the sensation of my breath than I find myself thinking about Mrs. Trinci’s diced chicken liver. Or the discomfort in my hind legs. Or, somehow, both of those subjects mixed up at the same time.

There is a general belief that we cats are mindful creatures, who constantly “live in the moment.” While it’s true that we can focus our minds with great intensity, especially when our hunting instincts are aroused, it is equally true that we spend much of our time thinking. We give little outward show of this. But how many of your own thoughts are visible? And if they were, would you have any friends left, pray tell?!

If you ever doubted that your feline companion has her own inner life, just watch what happens when she falls asleep and loses conscious control of her physical being. Inevitably you will notice a twitching of limbs, a quivering of the jaw, sometimes perhaps a snuffling noise or a meow. What are these, if not the involuntary accompaniment to the imagined drama playing out in her mind? Cats may indeed be capable of great mindfulness. But we are thinking beings, too.

In my own case, unfortunately, a being who thinks rather too much.

For exactly this reason I had come around to believing that even though meditation is useful, transformational, a practice to which I should definitely apply myself, it wasn’t something I was going to do—at least not just yet. Maybe next year, when the Namgyal monks went on retreat. That would be a good time to make a concerted effort. Or perhaps during the dark winter months when most beings feel a natural inclination to withdraw from the world, to go inward. There seemed to be plenty of ideal occasions to restart my meditation practice.

Just none of them happened to be today.

The world is full of meditators who have lapsed, dabbled, or read a dozen books on the subject but don’t regularly meditate. I, dear reader, have until recently considered myself one of them. But something happened to change me. And I have come to discover that, for most meditators, the same is true. Some event, some trigger, propels you in a direction you may have been contemplating, but to which you were never fully committed.

Very few people are born meditators. Others learn to become great meditators. Most of us, however, have meditation thrust upon us. In sharing my story with you, I am doing so not because I think it’s very special—I am distinctly special, of course; that matter is beyond dispute. What I’m talking about here is the story of how I came to meditation. The reason I share it is because I feel it may be one you can relate to. One you understand. You may even see a teensy-weensy bit of yourself in me—how lovely for you!

So how is it that I came not only to comprehend but to experience what I call “the power of meow”?

Settle yourself in a favorite chair or sofa, dear reader. Ensure a ready supply of your favorite beverages and snacks. Turn off that irksome phone, or better yet, leave it in another room entirely. Beckon your own beloved feline to join you.

Are you ready? Quite comfortable?

Very good, then. Let’s begin.





Chapter One

It all began through casual curiosity. A stray dog had taken to sleeping part of the night on the doormat of our building. On my way out one morning, I paused to take in the pungent odor left in its wake, trying to place the breed. On my way back inside, I paused again.

A short while later I was resting on the windowsill of the Dalai Lama’s first-floor room. This was my all-time favorite spot, not least because it offered the ideal vantage point from which to achieve maximum surveillance with minimum effort. Simply being in the same room as His Holiness is the most wonderful sensation you can ever have. Whether you call it his presence, his energy, or his love, when you are near him, you can’t help being touched by a sense of profound and abiding well-being. The heartfelt reassurance that, whatever else is going on, beneath the surface, all is well.

That particular morning I had no sooner settled on the sill, eager to be absorbed into the field of benevolence surrounding the Dalai Lama, than I suddenly felt my skin crawl. In an instant I twisted my head around and began a frenzy of licking. But the itching only got worse! I scratched and gnawed, even biting the skin of my stomach and back. I had never felt anything like this. It was as though my whole body was under siege from an army of invisible assailants!

His Holiness looked up with concern from his desk.

Moments later, the itching stopped as abruptly as it had begun. Had it all been something in my imagination? Some perverse quirk of karma originating from who knew where?

Later that same day, following my return home from another outside visit, I came under attack again. The pain was so unexpected and intense that I leaped down from my perch on the filing cabinet in the executive assistants’ office, landing unsteadily on the floor. I twisted into another spasm of furious back-licking and biting. A hundred tiny attackers seemed suddenly upon me, crawling all over my skin, nipping me with red-hot fangs. Their assault was comprehensive—I could think of nothing except how to chase them off me, whatever they were.

Tenzin, the Dalai Lama’s right-hand man on all secular diplomatic matters, peered over the side of his desk. Midway through writing an e-mail to a prominent Scandinavian ’80s pop icon, he regarded me with surprise.

“HHC?’’ Ever punctilious, he referred to me using my official title, His Holiness’s Cat. “This isn’t like you!”

Indeed it was not. Nor were the further bouts of prickling, scouring, and writhing that continued for the rest of that day and all through the night. I felt like I was losing my mind.

His Holiness summoned his assistant first thing the following morning. “Tenzin, our little Snow Lion is in trouble.”

The Dalai Lama’s personal term of endearment for me usually filled my heart with gladness. Not on this occasion. As though on cue I doubled back, attacking the upper part of my tail in a tumult of savage gnawing.

“She was doing that yesterday, too,” observed Tenzin. The two of them stood, watching me for a few moments before they met each other’s eyes. They reached the same diagnosis in unison: “Fleas!”

Tenzin immediately sent out for a flea collar, which he clearly intended to attach to my neck. Not only would this get rid of the cause of my unhappiness, he assured me, it would also prevent fleas for the foreseeable future.

I was struggling, trying to come to terms with what had happened. Fleas? Me?! Was the Dalai Lama’s cat not immune to such a common and squalid vexation? And could there be any deeper humiliation than having been infected by a stray dog, of all things?

Initially I resisted Tenzin’s efforts, not wishing to parade my infested status in public, but with a firm grip and reassuring tone he fixed the collar around my neck. Next he quarantined me in the first-aid room while the Dalai Lama was out, supervising an important monastic exam. During his absence, Tenzin oversaw a top-to-bottom spring clean of His Holiness’s office and all the corridors I ever used.

Word of the stray dog came to light, and, when the doormat was studied, it was shown to be so heavily infested that it had to go. It was soon replaced with a handsome new coir mat with short bristles and a red-colored border. The security detail was put on notice to be alert for the stray dog and told that if it reappeared it was to be taken to the monastery until a permanent home could be found.

It seemed the whole flea incident had come to an end.


But life is more complicated than that. Even though I was soon thankfully rid of fleas, such had been their impact that, at odd times of the day and night and for no apparent reason, I’d imagine them upon me. I’d be sitting at the window, absorbed in tranquil contemplation, when suddenly my skin would crawl. Or I’d settle down to meditate and, from nowhere at all, the idea of them would burst into my mind. I’d find myself twitching and scratching at a half dozen imagined pests scrambling in different directions beneath my fur. Even if I managed to hold off reacting physically, my mind would become a tumult of distraction. In occasional moments of peace I’d try to reassure myself that my traumatic past was behind me, but I couldn’t ignore the truth of my own experience: I may no longer be infested, but I still suffered from fleas.

It was at this very same time that something else happened that sent shock waves through the whole community. I was there at the time, an inside observer. What I would never have guessed was the direct impact it was about to have on my life, or the way that I would be drawn inevitably into being a participant. In particular, it made me aware that cats are not alone in suffering from fleas.


The incident happened during one of the VIP meals occasionally hosted by the Dalai Lama. A high-powered delegation from the Vatican was visiting for lunch. Downstairs in the kitchen, Mrs. Trinci, the Dalai Lama’s VIP chef, had spared no efforts in making sure that His Holiness’s guests would be dazzled. For the past three days she had been hard at it, fussing and fretting over every last detail. Being Italian herself, it was as though she wanted to prove that whatever gastronomic heights might be scaled in the finest restaurants of Rome could be equaled, if not surpassed, here in the Himalayas.

After the pasta dishes had been cleared away, there followed a delightful interlude while His Holiness communicated with his guests—not only with words but also through his mere presence. I observe the effect that the Dalai Lama has on visitors every day of my life, and still I never tire of it. Today it was the Vatican visitors’ turn to enjoy basking in the sense of abiding well-being. As they did, I remained on the first-floor windowsill, waiting for my own lunchtime treat with mounting anticipation.

Of all the people at Namgyal Monastery, had I been asked who was my favorite—apart from His Holiness, of course—I would have had no trouble in naming Mrs. Trinci. Effusive, flamboyant, a commanding presence in the kitchen, from the very first time she’d caught sight of me, Mrs. Trinci declared that I was the Most Beautiful Creature That Ever Lived. I need only appear in the kitchen for her to swoop me up, place me like the most delicate piece of Ming porcelain on the countertop, and produce some succulent morsel for my delectation. As I devoured a saucer of diced chicken liver with noisy relish, she would watch me through her amber, mascara-lashed eyes, murmuring sweet nothings in my ear.

Even when I was out of sight, I was not out of mind. Mrs. Trinci could be preparing a most elaborate meal for visitors from as far afield as the White House, Prague Castle, or Palácio da Alvorada, but she would never fail to remember me. Along with the mouth-watering treasures of the dessert cart, she always made sure that a bowl of lactose-free milk, or perhaps—as a very rare treat—a tablespoon of clotted cream was provided for yours truly.

That particular day saw a procession of panna cotta, tiramisu, and tortes to the dining table. Accompanied, as usual, by smiles of appreciation from His Holiness’s guests. The waiters served each of the guests. After dessert, one by one they withdrew, leaving only the head waiter, Dawa. I looked over to the dessert cart, but my usual small, white ramekin was nowhere to be seen.

Surely I hadn’t been forgotten? Was such a thing even possible?

I wasn’t the only one who noticed. As I sat, bereft of my usual indulgence, His Holiness glanced up from an involved discussion about St. Francis of Assisi and looked directly from Dawa to me to the dessert cart. There was no need for him to say anything. Moments later Dawa was opening the door and whispering urgent instructions.

But my attention was quickly distracted by something else: the distant wailing of an ambulance. It seemed to be heading directly toward us.

Ears pointing forward, I tuned in to the approaching sound. There was no question—it was coming up the hill. As the white vehicle with flashing lights appeared at the entrance to Namgyal, I rose to my feet.

As did Tenzin. With conversation around the table becoming impossible on account of the siren, he excused himself and stepped over to the window. For a few moments, the two of us watched together. The ambulance entered the gates and drove slowly across the courtyard. Groups of monks and small bands of tourists scattered out of the way, staring at the clamorous apparition. The siren intensified even more as the vehicle drew closer, rising to an almost unbearable level. Then there was sudden quiet as the ambulance drove around to the front of the building and disappeared from view.

An eerie silence followed. Around the dining table there were raised eyebrows and expressions of concern. Several of the Vatican delegates crossed themselves while glancing upward. Tenzin returned to his seat, and conversation slowly resumed.

Watching the courtyard below fill with the usual mix of red-robed monks, umbrella-wielding tourist guides, and couriers in their high-visibility vests, for a short while I forgot about that lunchtime’s inexplicable omission—until Dawa arrived with my usual ramekin, which he placed on the sill with an elaborate bow.


A short time later the Vatican envoys were bidding His Holiness farewell. There was talk of future contact being made via Skype, and then they began making their way outside in a swirl of cassocks. For a few moments the Dalai Lama stood alone, his hands folded at his heart, murmuring mantras under his breath. It was something I’d observed him do on several occasions before. Intuition told me that something significant was afoot.

Only moments later, Tenzin returned quickly down the corridor.

“I’m sorry to tell Your Holiness, but Mrs. Trinci seems to have suffered a heart attack.”

I looked up—had I heard correctly?

Compassion filled not only His Holiness’s face but the whole room. It was as though his concern could not be contained; it seemed to flow outward, touching every living being in Namgyal and far beyond.

“The ambulance came quickly,” Tenzin continued. “She is being taken to the hospital. I’ll let you know as soon as I have more news.”

The Dalai Lama nodded. “Thank you,” he said softly. “May she make a full and speedy recovery.”

Tenzin, too, brought his palms to his heart before turning to go.


The days that followed were unusually somber. Word of Mrs. Trinci’s heart attack spread through Namgyal and beyond. Although she wasn’t a daily presence at Namgyal, she was one of its most colorful members of staff, as well known for her volcanic temperament as for her generous heart. There were few at Namgyal who hadn’t sampled her superlative cooking—even if it was only one of the delicious cookies she baked regularly for the monks.

The first official news from the hospital confirmed the diagnosis of a heart attack. Tests were under way to determine the extent of the damage. For a while there was no further information at all about what was happening at the hospital. Then, a few days later, Mrs. Trinci’s daughter, Serena, phoned to update His Holiness. He was in the middle of reciting mantras, so he put the phone on speaker as he continued to move mala beads between his fingers.

Serena had grown up in McLeod Ganj and had been a sous chef in the downstairs kitchen from the time she’d been able to slice a carrot. Because her mother had been widowed at an early age, His Holiness had occupied a fatherly position in her life, doting on her when she was a little girl and offering paternal love and reassurance as she grew up.

Even though she’d spent most of her adult life in Europe studying as a chef and working in several famous restaurants, Serena retained a special connection to the Dalai Lama. As she did to me. From the moment we met, Serena and I were the very closest of friends. She explained that her mother had been discharged from the hospital. The heart attack caused no major damage. There was no need for surgery, nor was Mrs. Trinci in any pain. But she was suffering from high blood pressure, and from now on, she needed to take medicine every day. In addition, the doctor had strongly advised her to find a complementary method to help manage her stress: meditation.

His Holiness immediately volunteered to be her teacher—an offer that delighted Serena. “Personal instruction by the Dalai Lama!” she exclaimed.

“And of course you are welcome to join her,” His Holiness added. When the Dalai Lama made such offers, they were never casually intended. “If we suffer from stress, if we lack peace of mind, meditation becomes more important. For all of us.”

On a nearby armchair, I was following the conversation with interest.

“Pain is inevitable,” the Dalai Lama continued. “Suffering is optional. We will all have to endure trauma and challenges. What matters is how we move forward afterward. Do we keep carrying the trauma and its causes in our mind? Or can we find a way to let go of them, to end our own suffering?”

The conversation was starting to have a personal

“This is where mindfulness can help us.”

As I turned to observe His Holiness, I discovered that he was looking directly at me.


I expected Mrs. Trinci and Serena to appear in His Holiness’s rooms within days. But a whole week went by, followed by another, and still there was no visit. There seemed to be some kind of obstacle. Surely Serena wouldn’t have forgotten? And what possible reason could Mrs. Trinci have for not seizing this opportunity? My own Post-Traumatic Flea Disorder was nowhere near as threatening as a heart attack, but it was still the cause of deep mental agitation, a gnawing concern that I was eager to hear the Dalai Lama explain.

As it happened, I had to wait more than a month before, late one afternoon, Mrs. Trinci and Serena appeared at the main gates to Namgyal. A short while later, the two of them were ushered into His Holiness’s chamber. Ordinarily, his visitors would be seated demurely on one of the chairs opposite him, but these were no ordinary visitors. They were family. Catching sight of me on the sill, Mrs. Trinci immediately came over to where I was sitting.

“Oh, little dolce mio!” she exclaimed.

I got up, stretching my front paws out ahead of me with a luxuriant quiver, then arching my back appreciatively as she stroked my neck.

“But what is this?”

“Flea collar,” said His Holiness.

Mamma mia, my poor little treasure!” she said as she bent down, nuzzling my head with her face. “How you have suffered! And how I have missed you!”

“She has missed you, too.” His Holiness was standing by his chair, observing this all with a smile. “And all the special treats from downstairs,” he added with a chuckle.

“Don’t worry, she gets plenty of those at the café,” came Serena’s droll voice from next to him. Serena was co-manager of the Himalaya Book Café, one of my favorite haunts, conveniently located less than ten minutes away.

Once the three of them settled into their chairs, I made my way toward them, eager not to miss out on anything.

“Tell me, my dear,” His Holiness said as he reached over and took Mrs. Trinci’s hand in his own, as was his custom no matter who was visiting. He gazed deeply into her eyes. “How are you?”

Finding herself in his compassionate presence suddenly became too much for Mrs. Trinci. Overwhelmed, she dissolved into tears and had to retrieve a handkerchief from her purse. Through sobs, she explained how much of a shock the heart attack had been. How desperately she had just wanted things to go back to normal. But her doctor told her there could be no such thing. There had to be a new normal. She needed to make changes to her life if she was to manage her high blood pressure and to avoid future heart problems.

From the carpet I studied Mrs. Trinci’s face closely. I don’t know whether it was that she wasn’t wearing her customary mascara or that she was bereft of her signature bracelets, which would clang emphatically whenever she moved her arms. But it seemed to me that something had changed. Something about her energy was less vital. That unquestioning invincibility about her presence had gone. For the first time that I could ever remember, Mrs. Trinci looked vulnerable. Walking over to her chair, I hopped up and settled beside her, offering reassurance in the form of a gentle purr.

“The doctor said I should take up meditation. I am very grateful to you for offering to show me how,” she said, reaching over to stroke me.

“Yes, I remember saying this to Serena,” replied His Holiness. “When was that?”

Mrs. Trinci turned to Serena. “Ten days ago?”

“A month.”

“One month,” confirmed the Dalai Lama in a thoughtful tone.

There was no need for him to say anything else. As twilight deepened, an unasked question became so loud, so self-evident, that Mrs. Trinci felt compelled to answer it. “I . . . I didn’t come to see you earlier because, well”—she was shaking her head sadly—“I’m not sure I can meditate.”

Perhaps she had expected His Holiness to chastise her. It was hard to tell from her tone if she was embarrassed or despairing. But the Dalai Lama glowed with amusement, as though what she said had to be a joke. In that moment, whatever tension had been present in the room seemed to shimmer away. First Mrs. Trinci and then Serena picked up on the Dalai Lama’s mirth, and they both got caught up in the hilarity of what Mrs. Trinci had just said.

“Tell me,” said His Holiness, eyes still twinkling with amusement, “why do you think you can’t meditate?”

“Because I have tried!” Mrs. Trinci’s voice rose. “Several times.”


“My mind.” She met his gaze. “It’s out of control.”

“Very good!” He brought his hands together, chuckling at her observation. “Had you ever noticed this before?”

“No.” It didn’t take her long to ponder the question. “Not really. I’d never tried to focus like that.”

“Then you have already made the first, most important discovery,” said the Dalai Lama. “It is only when we acknowledge we have a problem that we can do something about it. You now have first-hand understanding of how out of control the mind is. You see, my dear,” he said, regarding her closely, “when we are suffering from stress, it isn’t only because of our circumstances. Generally, we think everything is about what’s outside of us. The externals. We think that if I didn’t have this problem, if I wasn’t in this situation, then, no stress. But there are other people in even more challenging situations who are thriving. The stress isn’t coming from ‘out there.’ Mainly it is coming from our mind.”

The Dalai Lama leaned forward in his seat. He was including all of us in what he was saying—not only Mrs. Trinci. “When we practice meditation, we begin to monitor our mind. And when we pay much closer attention, we can start to manage it.”

“But is there really any hope for me?” Mrs. Trinci asked. “When my mind is so crazy?”

His Holiness regarded her solemnly. “When we begin trying to meditate, most of each session we are thinking about everything except the chosen object of meditation. This is the same for everyone. Normal.”

I had never heard the Dalai Lama speak so directly to a beginner before. But what he said came as a massive relief. I wasn’t the only one! It seemed that Mrs. Trinci and I had an important thing in common—apart from our love of gourmet cuisine. We both suffered from fleas. We might want to enjoy meditative calm, but no sooner would we begin a session than there’d be a scurrying, an agitation. Our contemplation would be abruptly overturned. Unwanted thoughts would intrude into our concentration, utterly destroying our peace of mind. Cats evidently weren’t alone in this. When it came to meditation, it seemed, humans were flea-infested, too.

“It is the same for all of us,” continued the Dalai Lama. “All of us have to start somewhere. Where you start is unimportant. What matters is where you finish.”

There was a pause as we contemplated this. Then Mrs. Trinci spoke, her voice softly apologetic. “So you are willing to teach me how to meditate, even though my mind is so bad?”

“Of course!” His Holiness’s face lit up. “This is why we are here.”

The Dalai Lama seemed to be referring not only to the fact that we were gathered in his room; he seemed also to be hinting at a greater purpose, an underlying connection.

“You have always been so generous, cooking wonderful food for our visitors,” the Dalai Lama said as he brought his palms to his heart and bowed to Mrs. Trinci. “Perhaps in some small way I can repay your kindness.” His expression turned suddenly serious. “But you must never say ‘my mind is so bad,’ because this is mistaken thinking. You may experience great agitation. Much distraction. But this is temporary. Thoughts arise, abide, and pass. They are not permanent. Like clouds, no matter how completely they fill the sky or how long they seem to stay there, they, too, will pass. And when they do, even in brief moments after the end of one thought and before the next one begins, you can catch a glimpse of your mind. You can see it for what it is. Your mind, my mind, all our minds have the same qualities—perfect clarity, lucidity, boundlessness, serenity . . .”

As he spoke, Mrs. Trinci began to well up. His Holiness was communicating, and not only with words. He also conveyed the meaning of what he said in such a way that the feeling of it became wonderfully palpable.

Looking over at her daughter, Mrs. Trinci noticed that Serena’s eyes also began to fill.

“As you abide with mind,” he continued, “more and more you will also come to discover that your own primordial nature is one of pure, great love and pure, great compassion. All begins with abiding in this moment, here and now.”

For a while we sat in silence. An early-evening breeze rippled through the open window—air that was fresh from the mountains and steeped in pine. It seemed to carry the promise of something new.

Then the Dalai Lama said, “I would like to give you all a challenge. I would like you to meditate for ten minutes every day, for a period of six weeks. At the end of the period, we can all review whether meditation holds some value. If so”—he nodded—“if there is some change, then we carry on.” He shrugged. “If not, we can say ‘I tried.’ Does this seem fair?”

“Only ten minutes?” Serena raised her eyebrows.

“To begin with, yes. You may be surprised how much change we can experience with only a short period of focused attention each day.”

Serena was nodding, accepting His Holiness’s challenge. She glanced over at her mother, who, after initial hesitation, began nodding, too.

On the chair, I felt the full gazes of the Dalai Lama, Serena, and Mrs. Trinci upon me.

Responding to the attention, I looked up. And meowed.

All three of them laughed.

“The power of meow?” suggested Serena as Mrs. Trinci stroked me.

“Exactly,” said His Holiness, chuckling. “It is the pathway to well-being and to discovering our own true nature.”


That night, the Dalai Lama attended a session in the temple. By the time he returned the moon had risen, casting the courtyard in ethereal silver.

I always love how the moon transforms a familiar scene into something quite magical. If daylight belongs to the dogs, then we cats are creatures of the night. We are the feline yin to the canine yang. Denizens of a time of mystery and wonder. For my own part, I enjoyed nothing more than sitting in nocturnal reverie beneath the brooding Himalayas, their icy peaks coolly gleaming in the starlight.

That particular evening, I noticed a curiously beguiling new scent carried on the breeze. It wasn’t a fragrance I had ever detected before, and there was something powerfully compelling about it. My nostrils flared. I had no doubt that its origin was a flower or plant of some kind. But where was it coming from exactly? And why had I never noticed it before? As I lifted my face to the wind, I knew it was a mystery that deserved further investigation.

But not just yet. Just then, His Holiness returned to the room. Seeing me sitting in the darkness, I think he, too, sensed something of the magic of that moment. Instead of turning on the light, he came over to where I sat looking out the open window to the brightly lit temple. He eased himself down next to me, and for a few moments the two of us became watchful observers.

Snatches of conversation rose from the courtyard as monks made their way from the temple back to their residence, where orange squares of light flickered to life. A cooling breeze stirred, bringing with it ribbons of night jasmine—along with that enchanting new scent. Over at the temple, the lights were being turned off one by one. First the roof and the auspicious symbols that decorated it suddenly fell into darkness. Then the steps leading up to the entrance and the intricately colored doorway became instantly monochrome.

For a moment, all that remained lit was a solitary gold lotus flower—the Buddhist symbol of transcendence, renunciation, and hope—on the front of the temple. It floated on the unseen surface of an ocean of shadow.

“A good reminder, my little Snow Lion,” murmured the Dalai Lama. “Lotus plants grow in poor conditions. Their roots are in the mud, sometimes dirty swamps. But they rise above that. Their flowers are very beautiful. Sometimes when we have problems we, too, can use our difficulties to create something we may not even have considered before. We can turn our suffering into the cause of extraordinary growth.”

Like so much else of what His Holiness said, his words could be understood in different ways. I knew he was making not only a general observation but offering a deeply personal message—one that referred not only to my own recent challenges but to Mrs. Trinci’s, too. And, more important, to the fresh direction in which they could propel us. Instead of believing my infestation to be a cause of nothing but biting misery, I was beginning to see that it seemed it could become fuel for personal growth.

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Suffer from mental fleas when you meditate? 5 points to encourage you from The Dalai Lama’s Cat.

scratching cat

In my new book, The Power of Meow, the Dalai Lama’s Cat begins with an embarrassing confession:

Living with the Dalai Lama, surrounded by monks at Namgyal Monastery, and constantly encountering the most revered meditation masters in Tibetan Buddhism, one would assume that among my many admirable qualities I am an accomplished meditator.

Alas, dear reader, I am not!

I may be gorgeous beyond words, with my mesmerizing blue eyes, charcoal face, and sumptuous cream coat. I may be a global celebrity whose well-being is a subject of frequent inquiry by luminaries as diverse as the occupants of the Oval Office, Buckingham Palace, and the more rarefied enclaves of the Hollywood Hills.

But a natural meditator? If only!”

His Holiness’s Cat (HHC) is fully aware of the many life-enhancing benefits of meditating.  She lives with one of its greatest living masters – indeed, she curls up right next to him each morning when he meditates.  But when she tries to meditate herself, she discovers that she suffers from mental fleas. No sooner has she focused her attention on her breath than she is beset by a dozen irksome, scurrying thoughts, nipping at her mind and distracting her attention.

Sound familiar?

The revelation that our minds are completely out of control, and that we all suffer from mental fleas, is one of the most sobering discoveries we make when we begin to meditate.  It’s also one of the main reasons so many people give up, believing that their hyper-active mind uniquely disqualifies them from the ability to meditate.  But it is exactly because we’re so agitated that we stand to get so much from the practice of meditation – if only we would persist.

So what words of comfort and encouragement might HHC share with fellow sufferers of mental fleas?  You’ll have to read the book for the full story, but here are five points to get you started:

  1. It is completely normal to have an agitated mind.  So normal, in fact, that the first two of the nine stages of meditative concentration, a yardstick established for over 2,500 years, describes this as the typical experience of all beings when we begin meditating.  What matters is not where you start, however, but where you end up.
  2. If you keep on meditating properly, your concentration must improve.  There is no other alternative.  In just the same way that training the body has observable, repeatable and measurable effects, so too the mind.
  3. Even though your concentration may be poor, simply showing up on the meditation cushion has profoundly positive effects on both body and mind.  The growing weight of clinical research shows how our hormonal output shifts, our brain waves alter, our stress levels fall away and psychological markers are improved even when it feels like our mind is going all over the place.  In fact, it’s not unusual to feel your concentration is deteriorating in the early days, not because it is, but because your awareness is becoming clearer.  If so – well done and keep on going!
  4. Meditation practice is a bit like running a well-diversified farm.  The trees in your orchard (meditative concentration) will take years to bear fruit.  But your seasonal vegetables will bring more obvious, short term results.  What are these metaphorical vegetables?  You may find the things that used to drive you crazy, drive you less crazy.  You may have some ‘aha’ experiences when insights about your personal or professional life suddenly bubble up in your consciousness.  You may find yourself deriving more pleasure from simple, everyday experiences.
  5. Even if most of the time, most of your sessions are flea-ridden, if you keep on at it, one fine day you’ll have a moment’s peace when your mind is focused, the sense of division between observer and observed dissolves away and you catch a glimpse of what is possible.  Congratulations, dear reader – you have just experienced The Power of Meow!


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Pets as partners on our spiritual journey – Buddhist wisdom

child and cat

Buddhism is well-known as a tradition of inner transformation.  But great practitioners down the ages have also emphasized that freeing ourselves from suffering depends on others.  Progress in our inner development goes hand and hand with our outward behaviour.  It is no coincidence that of the six perfections taught by Buddha, we practise the first three – generosity, ethics and patience – mainly in relation to others, and the latter three – joyous perseverance, concentration and wisdom – mainly in relation to ourselves.

Ensuring coherence between outer and inner behaviour is an important, challenging and ongoing part of our journey of transformation.  To illustrate with an extreme example, it is unlikely that a bad-tempered, tight-fisted, love-cheat would enjoy a state of boundless radiance and benevolence when sitting to meditate!  It is also true that a meditator familiar with such a state would be less likely to risk sabotaging it by behaving in a way inconsistent with what he has discovered to be his own true nature.

The avoidance of harmful behaviour is one part of ensuring coherence.  But so too is doing good.  In Buddhism, virtue is presented as having an energetic quality.  It is a means by which we propel inner growth, including the gradual development of meditative concentration.  If we wish to experience the most profound states of well-being ourselves, it helps to first give happiness to others.

Which others?  Lamas often emphasize the importance of starting with those closest to us.  The beings for whom we already feel some genuine affection.  For many of us, this includes our pets.

Just because a being is a dog, cat or parrot makes him or her no less valid a recipient of our love and compassion than a human.  This is how pets can be more than our cherished companions – we may see them as partners on a journey of transformation, because they provide us with countless opportunities on a daily basis to practice generosity, ethics and patience.

It is useful to recognise these opportunities for what they are.  Instead of automatically opening the can of dog food, it is helpful to think: ‘By this act of generosity, may I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings.’  Stroking our cat’s tummy, we may reflect: ‘By this act of love, may I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings.’  Such practices feel contrived to begin with, but they utilise skilful psychology: the more familiar we become with this motivation, the more it becomes a natural and spontaneous part of our thinking, beginning to transform more and more of our everyday behaviour into transcendental action.  There’s no need to make a song and a dance about it.  We should aim to be “undercover Buddhists” working on inner growth all the while appearing to be engaged in ordinary activities.

The Buddhist view of causation, or karma, suggests that the fact that a pet is part of your life is no coincidence.  Causes created in this or a previous lifetime have drawn you back together.  How wonderful that, as a human, you now have the power to help the being who is currently your pet – and not only by taking care of their worldly needs.  By exposing the mind of your pet to images of Buddhas, by enabling them to witness the regular practice of meditation, and by repeating mantras, which resonate with a profound and timeless power, you can help create the causes for very positive future effects in their mind-stream.  There are a number of case studies from Tibet of animals becoming reborn as people who went onto achieve great realisations as a result of hearing mantras recited in their presence.  My own Vajra Acharya, Geshe Thubten Loden often recited mantras outside, so that the birds could hear them.

Pets not only provide us with a wealth of opportunity to fuel our inner growth through the practices of generosity, ethics and patience.  We can also help them.  In this way, they can be our close and special partners on our spiritual journey.


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Win one of 25 FREE copies of ‘The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Power of Meow’!

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To celebrate the launch of third book in The Dalai Lama’s Cat series, I am delighted to announce a 25 book give-away of ‘The Power of Meow‘!

My publishers at Hay House are kindly offering 5 free books in each of the following territories:

  • USA and Canada
  • UK
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • India
  • South Africa

To enter the give-away, simply sign up to my blog, where I share regular articles and updates of interest to Dalai Lama’s Cat readers. You’ll find the link to do this below.  Winners will be announced on 15th June – publication day!

Good luck and sincere thanks for all your support for the previous two Dalai Lama’s Cat books!

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Clive James and how death is the greatest meditation

boat at sunset

I have always been a big fan of Clive James’s work ( and was saddened to hear some time ago that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  True to form, Clive has not allowed this diagnoses to stop his ongoing and amusing flow of insights, and in yesterday’s Sunday Times (UK) there was a major article about how his most recent book, a volume of poetry, was also turning out to be among his best received (

The reality of his impending death is the subject of many of the new poems, and Clive writes with typically self-deprecating humour about how ‘Perhaps the sole virtue of my book is that its constituent poems have the same attraction as a man playing a piano at the edge of a tall cliff.’

Of course, this isn’t true.  The poems have a tremendous power because they resonate so strongly about a subject that most of us don’t treat with the importance it is due: the reality of our own death.

Buddha used to teach that death was the greatest meditation.  When we truly face up to the fact that we will die, and perhaps a lot sooner than we would like, we not only appreciate every moment of our life more.  We also recognise what really matters and review our priorities accordingly.

One of Clive’s poems, published in the Sunday Times, reveals exactly this, and I’d like to share it here.


Leçons de Ténèbres by Clive James


But are they lessons, all these things I learn

Through being so far gone in my decline?

The wages of experience I earn

Would service well a younger life than mine,

I should have been more kind.  It is my fate

To find this out, but find it out too late.


The mirror holds the ruins of my face

Roughly together, thus reminding me

I should have played it straight in every case,

Not just when forced to.  Far too casually

I broke faith when it suited me, and here

I am alone, and now the end is near.


All of my life I put my labour first.

I made my mark, but left no time between

The things achieved, so, at my heedless worst,

With no life, there was nothing I could mean.

But now I have slowed down, I breathe the air

As if there were not much more of it there.


And write these poems, which are funeral songs

That have been taught to me by vanished time:

Not only to enumerate my wrongs

But to pay homage to the late sublime

That comes with seeing how the years have brought

A fitting end, if not the one I sought.


I find this both a deeply moving poem, and one which illuminates important insights in the most powerful way.  Clive says he only found out too late that he should have been kinder, behaved more ethically and been less fixated on work, lessons that would ‘service well a younger life than mine.’  These are in complete accord with Buddha’s teachings, and quite probably the teachings of other spiritual traditions – and how wonderfully expressed!

I just wanted to share this poem with you – I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

And thank you, Clive James, for your wisdom, your humour and your life.

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