POWER OF MEOW
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
with Dr. Bernard Gunther
1) The book is about your
cat Rumi and his wisdom. Tell me about Rumi.
Rumi is a medium sized soft, furry, white cat, with orange ears
and tail. He’s very graceful in every sense of the word. He
sleeps and meditates a lot. He is very present, yet he seems beyond
the world, enjoying it, but not attached to it. He’s very
handsome and playful when he wants to be. He likes to sit on my
lap or lie on my chest and purrs to his heart’s content. But
beyond that, cats are great spiritual teachers; they live and exemplify
their message. Existing totally in every moment, completely present
in everything they do. Every step, taste, touch, sound, smell is
a meditation. He lives relaxed, comfortable in his skin in every
activity or doing nothing.
2) What have you personally learned from this cat?
The biggest thing is acceptance and not hanging on to anything.
If he doesn’t get what he wants he is only upset for a moment
and then he lets go of it. Then he goes on to the next thing or
just sits quietly in utter ease. He has also taught me to relax
more, to be in my body without excessive tension. To be aware of
myself as I move through space.
3) Give me some practical examples of how I can
apply the teaching of this book in my everyday life.
By becoming more aware so that you can choose and respond rather
than automatically react. By being more alert to the present and
not getting caught in past problems or obsessing over imaginary
fears about the future. You’ll find you relate to yourself
and others with care and compassion. You can improve your health
and wellbeing by becoming sensitive to your body and your feelings.
When you get caught in excessive hurry and worry, pause. Take three
breaths and reassess the situation. Trust yourself. As Rumi says,
“If you make a mistake, make it a take, learn from it, don’t
dwell on it. Forgive yourself and move on.”
4) You’ve studied with a number of spiritual
teachers. How does your cat differ from them as a teacher?
Well with a cat, it’s a full time, alive relationship. Without
verbal conversation or any expectation. Rumi teaches by example,
by the way he lives. It’s up to you to observe and understand.
He’s not patient or impatient, he simply is.
5) What can the reader learn from your book The
Power of Meow?
To enjoy life and live it as an active meditation. To not sweat
the small stuff. To live in the present and be fully in what ever
you are doing. Take your time and be and not get caught in obsessive
activity. To recognize everything is impermanent, to give yourself
space because you ultimately are space. To love yourself, take care
of yourself and don’t take yourself or life too seriously.
6) You refer to cats as Zen masters—what’s
the relationship between cats and Zen?
Zen is a natural way to live, nothing special. It’s about
doing one thing at a time, experiencing directly with the senses
rather than the mind. It’s about moving out of obsessive thinking
and beginning to directly experience reality.
7) Is there a relationship between your book and
Eckhart Tolle’s best-selling book The Power of Now?
Eckhart talks about cats as Zen masters. His book is about living
in the moment and not getting bogged down with exaggerated feelings
and thoughts, to experience life directly without filters. The Power
of Meow reiterates this message in a very simple, playful way.
8) I’m a dog lover—what’s so
special about cats?
I have nothing against dogs, they’re great pets. Dogs are
very social creatures and can be trained. They insist on interacting
with us. Cats are independent; they do what they want, when they
want. They expect to be taken care of and it’s your privilege
to do that. They’re very unobtrusive, quiet, inward, self-contained.
They also bark and make lots of noise, cats meow.
9) You say in your book that you talk to your cat
and he listens. Tell me about that.
It’s not possible to control Rumi, but I can talk to him.
When I tell Rumi it’s getting dark and not go to far away,
he listens and stays on the porch. Another example is taking him
to the vet. I told him that he would have to stay in the cage for
a while and not to resist or do a lot of crying. He got into the
cage and was quiet all the way there and when we came back. He also
communicates non-verbally or with his power of meow to tell me when
he’s hungry, wants to go out or that he wants some attention
or wants to be left alone. You can really tune in and learn to become
sensitive to their expression. It can also have a positive carry
over into you human relationships.
10) You call your cat Rumi. Where did you get that
Rumi was a Sufi mystic and poet whose work has been rediscovered
and is very popular today. He was a whirling dervish who would go
into great states of ecstasy and spoke poetry spontaneously. He
had a very deep love and connection with universal essence.
11) Is Rumi a republication or a democrat? a conservative
or a liberal?
He’s emphatically independent.
12) How did you get those wonderful photographs
How long did it take? Rumi is a ham; he loves attention and getting
his picture taken when he feels like it. We had a talk beforehand
and he agreed to co-operate. We did the pictures in two short shoots.
The photographer fell in love with Rumi and the pictures turned
13) Are all cats the same? What’s so special
about your cat?
Like all parents you think your child is special. Rumi is very evolved.
Very little bothers him. He’s very Zen in that when he’s
hungry he eats, when he’s tired he sleeps. He doesn’t
try to be special. He’s very light. When you pick him up he
feels like a feather and he gives off an aura of serenity and endless
openness. There’s another Zen saying: When walking walk, when
sitting sit, above all don’t wobble. That’s Rumi.
14) How long did it take you to write this book?
It was one of the easiest books I’ve ever written. Once I
got the title The Power of Meow it just flowed out, the whole process
took less than a month. For me books are like having a baby. Some
are hard and require a lot of labor pains. This was an easy, benign
15) You call yourself a spiritual counselor. What
does that mean?
When I work with people we focus on who they are rather than the
problem. From this point of view you can see the situation more
objectively and find the answer. When you become aware that there
is both a relative and an absolute level of reality and that so-called
problems are really challenges and opportunities, then the circumstances
lose much of their impact and can be resolved or accepted. Basically
once you realize that you are not your problems, thoughts, feelings
or desires, then you can learn not to be at their mercy. I call
my work Aware/apy.
16) Do you think cats think?
Yes, in a way they do, but not the way we do. They have an intuitive
intelligence that guides them. They trust this knowingness as well
as their feelings and sensory observations. They understand directly
and spend no time in conflict or worry, unless they have picked
up these human maladies from the person they live with.
17) How can the philosophy in this book make me
a happier person?
Essentially it’s about finding your own natural balance, and
learning just to be, as well as to do. To return to a direct, childlike
experience. Children experience life directly, they don’t
get caught up in excessive mind chatter or old emotional patterns.
Give yourself time and space to breathe, rest, and smell the flowers.
Relate to yourself and the world with care and compassion. Wake
up to who you really are rather than who you imagine yourself to
18) You seemed to have a lot of fun writing this
book. What is the place of humor in a contented spiritual life?
Ultimately life is a joke, a trick you play on yourself. Consciousness
creates form and then takes itself to be that form. We create games
and forget that it’s just play. It’s all a circle that
goes round and round and ends up where it started. The Power of
Meow is fun, it’s play—an aware play. You can learn
a great deal about yourself from it.
19) You were associated with the Esalen Institute
for 13 years. Tell me about the Esalen Institute.
Esalen has been a “growth center” on the Big Sur coast
for almost 50 years. It’s where the whole consciousness movement
got started in California, and eventually spread across the country,
becoming the holistic movement known as the “New Age”,
offering alternative methods in psychology, education, and medicine.
Esalen attracted people from all over the world, including such
leaders as Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, Buckminster Fuller, BF Skinner,
Fritz Perls, Ida Rolf, and Jack Canfield.
20) What are some of the other books you have written?
My first book was Sense Relaxation. It was the first book to come
out of Esalen. It was about the importance of the body and the senses
to mind/body balance and health. Next came What to do Till the Messiah
Comes, more about meditation, massage and our relationship to the
world. Then came Love View, a book of poems. All in all I’ve
written 9 books, about various psychological and spiritual subjects.
Energy Ecstasy was about the chakras and energy body. There were
also a number of audio tapes and a full length movie called Come
to Your Senses. Sounds like I’ve been very busy, but the truth
is like my cat I goof off a lot.