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Cats inspire woman to write children’s book

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Kathleen Kastner’s life has encompassed several constants in the last couple of decades: husband Wade Mortenson, their cats and the philosophy of Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship Encinitas Temple.

Author Kathleen Kastner with Noah.
Author Kathleen Kastner with Noah.
(Photo by Wade Mortenson)

Those passions entwined when she created her recently released children’s book, “Karma Cats to the Rescue.”

Vividly illustrated by Vietnamese artist Coraline Tran, the 30-page volume tells the story of how an untamed cat named Noah is rescued from danger by two “karma cats.”

Noah even learns how to be a responsible citizen, volunteering at the local animal rescue shelter.

The “karma cats” are based on Kastner’s now deceased pets Julian and Oliver. Noah was a later addition to Kastner’s household.

“The first inspiration was to honor the memory of Julian and Oliver, and to help kids do kind acts for others, especially those who are not kind to them back,” Kastner said. “The second was, because I am a volunteer at Rancho Coastal Humane Society, to help shelter cats get adopted and to keep them in their forever homes. Sometimes people give up on their pets too soon.”

“Karma Cats to the Rescue” by Kathleen Kastner. Illustrations by Coraline Tran.
“Karma Cats to the Rescue” by Kathleen Kastner. Illustrations by Coraline Tran.
(Copyright of Kathleen Kastner)

Karma, service and kindness intrinsically tie in with Kastner’s and Mortenson’s commitment to Self-Realization Fellowship and their practice of Ashtanga yoga.

Kastner discovered Yogananda’s teachings in Kansas, where she grew up and attended the University of Kansas.

Yogananda had traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, in the early 1930s. There he found an eager disciple in James Lynn, a tycoon in the insurance industry.

Lynn, who took the spiritual name Rajarsi Janakananda, is credited with building the Encinitas property.

Yogananda chose Janakananda to succeed him as president of the organization, which Janakananda did in the early ‘50s.

Kastner and Mortenson also became followers of Tim Miller, director of the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Encinitas.

“My husband and I had a yoga studio in Kansas City and we decided to sell it and move here eight years ago to be closer to SRF and our yoga teacher.”

Having already lived in California twice before for brief durations, Kastner didn’t have to equivocate much on the idea of moving to Encinitas.

In 2006, she resided in Santa Monica, where she met her husband to be.

Before that, fresh out of college in 1993, Kastner lived in Encinitas while working at Sharp Healthcare as an exercise physiologist.

“That’s when yoga came into my life,” she said.

At Sharp, she met Dr. Deepak Chopra when he was head of the Institute of Human Potential and Mind/Body Medicine. Chopra would go on to become a world-renowned inspirational leader and author.

“We hit it off right away,” Kastner said. “I became his (and his wife’s) personal trainer for a few years. … He changed my life. I didn’t know what yoga was. … I had no idea about India or Eastern philosophy. The universe dropped him into my lap one morning at my job.”

When she and Mortenson moved to Encinitas, they brought their two cats, Julian and Oliver, who lived to be 17 and 20.

“They are the karma cats,” Kastner said. “Oliver passed almost two years ago now and that’s when I started writing the book. They were both litter mates and brothers. I’d had them since they were five weeks old.”

When Julian passed away a few years ago, she wanted to get another companion for Oliver. After a yoga session, she dropped by the Rancho Coastal shelter.

“There was Noah in a cage and I said I’ll take him.”

Before she brought him home, however, she took her husband to see if he liked the orange tabby.

When they asked how old Noah was, they were told he had turned five that day. It coincided with the birth date of the late Yogananda.

“So I felt like he was the one God chose for our family. … We call Noah the Yogananda kitty.”

Kastner already had authored two nonfiction books for adults: “The Cheerleader Speaks” and “Yoga’s Path to Weight Loss.”

She and her husband’s experiences with the “karma cats” and the “Yogananda kitty” seemed a natural parlay for a children’s story offering lessons on care and compassion.

As stated on the book’s back cover, the karma cats “search the neighborhood looking for animals in need of help and discover Noah, an abandoned cat. … (T)hey seek to help Noah find his forever home and place in the world.”

“Karma Cats to the Rescue” can be obtained through kathleenkastner.com or Amazon.


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