I am beyond excited to share an incredibly special interview with you today from not only my favourite author, David Michie, but also with the extremely popular main character of his must-read series about the Dalai Lama’s cat; HHC (His Holiness’s Cat).
But first, who is the Dalai Lama’s cat? Well, if you haven’t heard of her yet, she’s the enigmatic and charming fictional character created by David Michie.
I stumbled across David Michie’s work years ago and his book, Buddhism for Busy People, has been my go-to companion ever since. So, naturally, when I heard that he had written a fictional series based on the Dalai Lama’s cat, I was intrigued. Three books later and I’m officially hooked on HHC’s bite-sized morsels of ever-so-wise insights and life lessons.
I caught up with HHC to chat about the pressure of being in the spotlight, how she deals with haters and what advice she has for pet parents across the globe.
Interview with the Dalai Lama’s Cat
Cass: Thanks so much for joining me today, HHC! For those who haven’t yet heard of your story, HHC, can you share a little bit about yourself and how you came to be known as the Dalai Lama’s cat?
HHC: What a curious idea – ‘those who haven’t yet heard of your story’ – do your readers live on Mars, pray tell?! I was rescued as a tiny kitten by the Dalai Lama when his car got stuck in a traffic jam in New Delhi. If your followers read my first book – and I can think of no more pleasant way to pass the time – they will get the full story. Because the Dalai Lama is known in official circles as HHDL (His Holiness the Dalai Lama), I soon acquired the title of His Holiness’s cat, or HHC.
Cass: You now have penned three books and amassed a following of over 195,000 humans on social media. Tell me, how do you handle the pressure of being in the spotlight (and the expectations, ego-based thoughts and negativity that can come with it)?
HHC Believe me, dear Cass, there is nothing more grounding than living as the companion to a living Buddha to make you realise just how modest your own efforts are, whether in the quest for enlightenment, or in helping to enlighten others. Besides, one of the Dalai Lama’s constant refrains is that the more you think about yourself, the more miserable you will be. Whereas seeking the happiness of others is a true cause of happiness. It is wonderful not only to be reminded frequently of these life-enhancing ideas, but also to live in the presence of those who embody them, as we do in Dharamsala.
Cass: I hear congratulations are in order too! Can you tell us about your exciting news?
HHC: My first book has been optioned by a famous movie producer, Ileen Maisel (Dangerous Liaisons, Ripley’s Game, etc.) We enjoy a liaison that’s not so much dangerous as delightfully indulgent. She has treated me to breakfast several times, supposedly to discuss the intricacies of plot and characterization but, to be honest, I am much more interested in the smoked salmon.
Cass: You are on your own deeply transformative spiritual journey at the moment. What advice can you give for your non-furry (i.e. human) friends that are searching for enlightenment and inner peace?
HHC: It’s a paradox. Inner peace is already present … below the 50,000 thoughts we have every day. All sentient beings possess the same primordial nature of boundless, flowing radiance and tranquillity. It isn’t something we need to manufacture. The journey, if there is one, is to learn how to tap into our true nature. Meditation is the pathway.
Cass: Bad days. We all have ‘em. What is your advice for handling challenging situations?
HHC: Diced chicken liver is a good stand-by on any occasion. But of course it helps if you meditate regularly because your starting point is calm and benevolent before the challenging situation arises. It also helps to have some reframing devices. For example, if there is someone who is a regular irritant, you can rebadge that person your ‘Treasure’ who provides you with an opportunity to cultivate patience instead of anger– something your dearest friends don’t do.
Cass: In the same way, we all have people in our lives that get under our skin. We have also all experienced one or two ‘haters’ in our lifetimes. What do you do when a hater (somebody who doesn’t like your work) comments on your books or when HHD (His Holiness’s Dog) gets on your nerves?
HHC: One thing I have learned from His Holiness is that the world, as we see it, is a projection of our own minds. There is only a limited amount we can do about someone else’s projection of reality. Hateful things said about books reveals more about the mind of the person doing the saying than about the book.
Cass: In book two of your series, The Art of Purring, the Dalai Lama set you a challenge: find the true cause of happiness. Without revealing all that you learned, can you share with us one of your discoveries?
HHC: The Dalai Lama’s advice to people is always the same: when seeking happiness, be wisely selfish. What he means by this is that if we want happiness for ourselves, the best way to come by it is to give it to others. It’s one of life’s greatest paradoxes. Focusing too much energy and attention on oneself is a cause of dissatisfaction, but when we cultivate compassionate attention on the wellbeing of others, we ourselves are the first to benefit. A purring cat is no greater illustration of this principle. Ask not for who the cat purrs – she purrs for thee!
Cass: And finally, what advice would you have for pet owners looking to mindfully care for their pets?
HHC: At risk of being accused of being species-ist with the following metaphor: stop letting the tail wag your dog. I am referring, here, to mobile devices. They are supposed to be there for your convenience. But too many people are slaves to screens of all sizes – from the pocket size, to the laptop size to the big, plasma screens. Your pets’ worlds revolve around you. You are the source of food, exercise, fun and affection. How do you think we feel when you spend all your time fixated on an inanimate object instead of we living, breathing beings who want to engage with you? Our lives are short. Our opportunities to engage mindfully are few and precious. For your own happiness, and for the happiness of your pet, use them!
Want a sneak peek of The Dalai Lama’s Cat novels? Check out the series, and read the first chapter of each book, here.