Monday, April 21, 2008

It's okay to love

We recently were faced with the tough decision many pet owners face in their lives: having a beloved pet put down. It was tougher than usual because she (Lotus) was still alert and at times energetic. But she just would not eat. She had been fasting off and on for a couple of weeks (probably close to a month) despite all of the various home cooked combinations and appetite stimulants we tried. Since she had become so thin and was eating just barely enough to stay alive we decided the time had come and that she was not going to make it much longer.

It was difficult on many levels, as many of you already know. But I learned something very valuable from it all. At one point, about a week before we actually had her put down, I was sitting with her on the couch petting her and crying as if it were her last night with us. It occurred to me as my tears fell on her that I was mourning a dog who had not died yet and that I was living in the future. It’s inevitable that we are all going to die and it could happen at any time. But we don’t spend our lives mourning about the death of a loved one, or our own death for that matter. This realization helped me come back to the present moment and just shower her with love, enjoying the fact that I was spending quality time with her Now.

After my first dog died as a young boy, I took it hard and a part of me closed up and became resistant to love for fear of the inevitable pain I might feel if the object of my love were taken away, by death or some other means. I didn’t really want to have dogs around because I knew I would likely out live them and have to go through the pain of losing them. But dogs have always been in my life, trying to teach me things I did not want to face. One of which was my fear of becoming too attached. This was a sort of protecting measure that kept me from loving as deeply as I could, and I think a part of that has stuck with me through out the years.

Around the time Lotus began her decline, a dear friend of mine entered my life and was reassuring me that it’s okay to love, reminding me that our true essence is love. But it was not solidified in me until the day we had Lotus put down. That day the lesson hit home: it’s okay to love. There may be grief when the physical form of the object of our love disappears, but their essence does not leave us. They remain a part of who we are. The grief we experience is yet another form of love, and though the grief passes, the love never does.

From my experience you can either allow the death of a loved one to harden your heart and make you bitter, or you can realize that death is inevitable. Life is short so don’t make your life miserable about something that hasn’t happened yet or happened in the past. Enjoy it while you have it. I take comfort in the idea that nothing real ever dies, it just changes forms.

The moving sidewalk of life

Here is the quote that I would say best describes what I have experienced lately.

"Keep your focus peripheral as you look out from this inner cave, from this sweetness. Let your eyes, instead of actively looking out at the world, simply receive the world. Instead of putting your public face on, let innocence be there, let openness be there, let the world come right inside to you without moving a muscle to try and manage it. Openness itself sitting in a chair, daring to not have a strategy about how to get through the next moment, just openly here and receiving."
Jeannie Zandi

We were recently staying at a hotel which had some elaborate decor. One day while riding the escalator up to the second floor, I decided to take a moment to be present, after all I was being propelled toward my destination without effort and could just take a moment to absorb what was around me. I looked into the huge chandelier that hung from the ceiling next to the escalator and allowed myself to look at it from the perspective of the observer that lives within my body, and yet has never seen anything before because all it knows is the present moment. A warm and tingly feeling came over me as my awareness shifted to that of a peripheral one in which I became aware of everything in my peripheral vision as well as what was right in front of me. In effect, my awareness grew to the point where it seemed almost like an out of body experience in that I was not attached to my body, I was the witness of it and all that was around it (hearing, seeing, and smelling it all).

I engaged in this exercise or shift in awareness quite often while at the hotel and it seems to take a simple shift in awareness, or point of view, from person to observer. Most of the time I did it when I was alone such as when I went to the bathroom or was walking alone or riding elevators, etc. I like the metaphor of the escalator because it seems to come close to an accurate description of our lives. To a certain extent we are at the mercy of where we are taken and what appears in our field of awareness.

It was during these moments when the teachings and techniques we have learned about (such as present moment awareness, being the witness or observer of our thoughts, we are consciousness or awareness, ego and thoughts hide it, etc.) all made sense. But I saw them for what they are: pointers that do not accurately describe the truth which can only be experienced.

I often ran into the ego during these brief moments. It was seen from a new perspective of clarity, though it's hard to put into words. But it was seen clearly that ego was an obstacle to this present moment experience and could easily hide it. I understood that it (the present moment) was always here right under the surface of our identification with thought. Thoughts had to be still to see it (or were stilled by allowing myself to see it) and breathing, inner body awareness, and relaxation were seen for their importance as this experience can cause some bodily tension and "stuff" to come up.

The basic experience was one of peace, realization, as well as some compassion for those who had not discovered what is always here but so rarely seen. I got the sense that there are different depths to the experience, but I never spent long diving deeper. It took making a conscious choice to see and I did not choose it for long periods. Instead I practiced connecting for brief moments and occasionally while I was in the presence of others, trying to give them my full awareness (a bit more difficult).

I have to say that it can be easy to connect with, but at the same time very difficult for me to maintain. However, sometimes it seems easier to become fully present than others, so I hope to continue this practice and deepen it when the opportunity allows.

Below is another inspiring quote I ran across that enabled me to connect fully with the present moment.

"Now is the time to have a direct introduction to this moment. This moment is free of time, of mind, of any notions...introduce yourself to this moment."
Papaji -