In tribute to Zuzu, the beloved little Bombay pussycat he took as his teacher, author Tony Broadbent has collected some of Zuzu’s insights in his enchanting new book, The Timeless Teachings of Guru Zuzu. He has coupled them with illustrations that celebrate all cats, in the simple hope that you, too, may find in them some small measure of enlightenment for the way ahead. Enjoy!
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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 somewhere or doing any one of the thousand things one does in one’s busy life outside of home, that cat of yours is probably watching you right now.
Checking you out.
Wanting to know if all’s well in the world (read: “their” world).
But don’t look! Don’t move too quickly to see if you are indeed the subject of the studied feline gaze. For, as you well know, cats don’t at all like 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 or 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, reminding you that the next mealtime is fast approaching and that a fresh bowl of water and clean litter box might well be in order while you’re at it.
For which you might well earn yourself a purr or two.
But you already knew that. You live in their world, and your job is always simply to remember your place in it. That, and how you may best attend to their needs.
For, as every cat person also knows only 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.”
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 I was a child, my family always had cats, and I still have many cat stories and snapshots to prove it. But then I left home, went off to college and to work, changed jobs, even changed countries, and, well, I didn’t have room or time for any cats in my life.
I didn’t really consider myself a cat person anymore. And I definitely didn’t need a cat.
How could I have known just how wrong I’d been to live without a cat in my life?
But, then, as the Buddhist Proverb promises: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
She was called Zuzu. Her name, like her, was seemingly conjured from out of the very air. She 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, including:
- 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.
I’ve included these gems and so much more in The Timeless Teachings of Guru Zuzu. All in the simple hope that other people may delight in them too.
As acclaimed author Eckhart Tolle observed in The Power of Now: “I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.”
“To be or not to be?” Your cat will always have the “purrfect” answer.
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Tony Broadbent is an award-winning author, writer, designer, illustrator, speaker, and noted authority on The Beatles. Born in Windsor, England, he now lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Word is that cats have ever loomed large in his life.
Text based on, and images excerpted from, the book The Timeless Teachings of Guru Zuzu. Copyright © 2019 by Tony Broadbent.