Monday, June 3, 2019



If you live with a cat, you live with a teacher: one that watches your every move.

So, unless you’re at work or sitting in a coffee bar or doing any one of the thousand things one does in one’s busy, busy life, outside of home, that cat of yours is probably watching you, right now.

But don't look! Don’t move too quickly to see if you are, indeed, the subject of studied feline gaze. Cats abhor sudden movements.

And, anyway, by the time you do look up, your cat will have already gone back to doing what they do best: staring at nothing you can see; or pouncing on something other; or yawning, sleeping, stretching or knitting; or giving themselves a carefully choreographed wash and brush up.

Or blinking at you in that slow-motion Cat Morse Code that cats perfect from the time they’re kittens; signaling to you that the next mealtime is fast approaching, and a fresh bowl of water and clean litter box wouldn’t go amiss, while you’re at it.

For which you might even earn yourself a “purr” or slow blink.

But you already knew that about cats. You live in their world and your job is to remember your place in it. Which means you simply have to work out how best you may serve their needs. For as all cat owners know all too well, no one owns a cat; cats don't have owners, they have staff.

Or, as the wondrous Terry Pratchett, once, reframed it: “In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”

Which is no doubt why, when at one point I found myself pondering the mysteries of life, earnestly, trying to stay awake, aware, and alert; and to be in the ‘now’; I was as surprised, as anyone, when, courtesy of my very perceptive wife, a certain little, black pussycat came into my life.

I mean, I’d always liked cats; when a child, my family always had cats; and I have many cat stories and snapshots to prove it. But then I left home, went off to college, off to work; changed jobs; even changed countries, and, well, I didn’t have room or time for any cats in my life. And I didn’t really consider myself a cat person, anymore. I very definitely didn’t have need of a cat. I mean, whoever does?

How could I ever have known just how wrong I’d been?

But, then, as the Buddhist Proverb promises: “When the student is ready, the Teacher will appear.”

She was called Zuzu; her name, like her, seemingly, conjured, as if from out of the very air; was extraordinarily patient with me from the very start; never demanding, ever gracious, ever loving. Always, just waiting for me to slow down; smell the roses; smell the coffee: To just breathe.

“Purrfect! Now, you really can begin to live in the ‘now’.”

And so I began purposefully observing Zuzu in all her daily wanderings. Just slowing down enough, often enough, to take note, to see how she navigated her world; how she dealt with “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” and I found she led me to new pathways of thought, new insights, and an unexpected trove of wisdom:

‘Give love, to get love. Love is always a two-way street.’

‘Find out what it is you love doing, and do a lot of it.’

‘Love means understanding that sometimes the one you love simply wants to be alone.’

‘Never forget who and what you are, and that you alone are responsible for what it is you think about.’

‘Always remember; never lose your sense of humor. Life’s far too short.’

And so much more; much of which I’ve included in: The Timeless Teachings of Guru Zuzu. All in the simple hope other people may delight in them, too.

As Eckhart Tolle, acclaimed author of The Power of Now, once observed: “I have lived with several Zen masters…all of them cats.”

How very true.

“To be or not to be?” Your cat will always have the “purrfect” answer.

Tony Broadbent is the author of a series of mystery novels about a Cockney cat (yes, cat) burglar in post-war London: The Smoke, Spectres In The Smoke, Shadows In the Smoke; and two books on the early days of The Beatles: The One After 9:09 - A Mystery With A Backbeat and the non-fiction: The Beatles in Liverpool, Hamburg, London. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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