This week, my husband and I had to put our beloved dog Cleo to sleep. No amount of practice could have prepared me for the loss that I am feeling. There is a gaping hole in the middle of my life. Our days and our lives were oriented around her schedule. So much so, that I have been making too much food at every meal because she ALWAYS got the last bite. Everyone that ever met Cleo fell in love, she was so affectionate and cuddly. She never understood that humans wanted to talk to each other; she just assumed that if there was a human in the room, they must be there to see her. For us, she was so much more than a dog, she was our four-legged child. We will miss her more than words can express.
While my practice did not prepare me for the loss, I have found that it provided me with support and the strength to endure. All of my practice has allowed me to give myself space and time for my grief. Just like I might encourage myself to stay present with a sensation in a yoga posture, I have encouraged myself to feel my anguish, for as long as it takes. It has meant getting up early in the morning so that I can grieve.
My practice of meditation has taught me to stay present. This means that as I am in the midst of grief, I stay present to what I am feeling. It also means that when I am doing something else, like driving the car, I am just driving the car. I have noticed that my moments of greatest pain are when my mind slips into the future and thinks about all of the things that I will never do with Cleo again. These things are a part of my reality, but not my current reality.
In September, we almost lost Cleo to an abscess on her leg and then a terrible urinary tract infection. From that moment forward I greeted every morning with her as a gift. When she wanted me to play with her, I did. When she wanted a treat, she got it. When she fussed about her food and tried to tip her bowl over, I took deep breaths. As the yoga sutras say “heyam duhkam anagatam” – the only pain that can be avoided is future suffering. I put forth a lot of effort so that I would not regret any of my thoughts, feelings or actions regarding Cleo. Right now, I am left with sorrow over her physical body not being present and joy for the time that we spent together.
Finally, through my practice of Yoga Nidra, I know that there is no separation between me and Cleo. I feel in my heart that we have always and always will be together. There are times that I forget this, but my practice always brings me back to this knowledge.
Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation. – Rumi