It’s true that each of us deals with grief in different ways. It’s also true that grief has stages of shock, denial, bargaining, anger and acceptance. This article is written in support and encouragement for the unspoken question of wondering how to grieve without suffering.
Our empathetic and compassionate friends may offer well-meaning platitudes that feel okay on the surface but don’t reach the depth of our experience. “At least (pet’s name) is no longer suffering.” “He/she is in a better place.” “He/she was just an animal, y’know, they don’t feel like humans do.” “You can get another pet, that will make you feel better.” “He/she lived a good life, it was time.” We know that our pet is now beyond the physical, but we feel we’ve been “left behind”. The pain we feel now encircles us. We know our pet was an animal and not human but we’re flooded with intense human emotions which feel negative and heavy. The mysterious processing of loss is upon us.
The natural course of change during grieving is “missing” our pet’s physical presence. Every time we see their crate, cushion, food bowl or collar, it feels like a punch to the gut. Filling out our shopping list, we might wince to catch our auto-pilot mind as it writes down the pet supplies that we will no longer need. Our routine is disrupted for we no longer have to go for the walk, throw the toy, nor pat the seat cushion next to us. We might have flashbacks to the vet where we heard the shocking news or we might see our mental movie of the exact moment we witnessed our pet’s bodily death. Change doesn’t come easily, especially when it’s unwanted and unwelcome. Innocently, ego-mind recoils from emotional pain, fearing powerlessness.
We’re innocent, we want physical things to last forever. Why isn’t love enough to surpass the limitations of physical form? We don’t want our pets to leave our side. We want to hold on. We’d invested so much love and received so much joy, so much humor, so much playfulness, so much loyalty, so much companionship, so much acceptance and so much unconditional love.
The inner depth of us, our inner Being-ness which lies deeper than our thinking mind recognizes that pain is not the same as suffering. Humans cope and deal with pain every day. We make it through the physical pains of illness, surgery and accidents. We make it through the mental pain of frustration, irritation and annoyance. We stumble and wonder how we’ll make it through emotional pain, yet we manage. Why does pain surrounding death seem so impossibly difficult?
Unresolved pain can fester and become suffering, much like unattended tooth pain can develop into abscess. If we notice that the pain is not lessening, if it continues to throb with intensity, we can seek the help of our own inner guidance which comes from our Transcendental Nature. This is the assistance which is deep within, beyond the thinking mind.
The ego-mind, when unrecognized and misunderstood becomes a trouble-maker, a suffering-generator, a spinner of sharp yet sticky stories which cut and bleed through emotions which feel gut-wrenchingly negative. We feel heartbroken, yet the True Heart, our innermost Stillness, rests in Peace, always available, supporting and comforting, unconditionally loving and more powerful than the mind can possibly imagine.
Suffering, unrecognized, will build to its peak as thinking mind actively avoids, represses, denies, resists, projects and fights the arising pain of grief. This is to be expected for this is simply the limited design of the thinking mind. Our True Nature is not the thinking mind. We are That field of Stillness, the Awareness of the mind (its thoughts, its emotions) and all of the physical things the mind can define in the present moment in which they arise.
Diving into grief from the point of our Beingness is a gentle way to drain the emotional abscess of suffering.
The ego-mind will refuse and this is okay. The thinking mind is not needed for this process.
Sit in nature or find a comfortable quiet place. Release the thinking mind, allow it to spin. Focus all attention on feeling the inner aliveness of the physical body. Closing the eyes might deepen the concentration. Feel the heartbeat and the breath. Watch an arising thought and allow it to pass without engaging with the thought. Be like a detached witness watching "an emotion cloud" float through a calm, open "sky-of-mind". Listen to the Stillness with every cell of the body.
Emotion might arrive, witness and allow it pass without “falling” into the feeling nor attaching to the feeling. Notice the stomach and chest as each breath rises and falls. Listen, deeper still, as if every cell of the body is watching and waiting. Focusing within, find a part of the body that feels open and free. Concentrate on this part of the body to notice how expansive it feels.
Find a part of the body which feels contracted and tight. Bring the breath into this part of the body, as if you’re breathing into a crumpled rubber glove to expand its size like an inflated glove-balloon. Breathe into the contraction until it feels open and free.
Go through the body with attention and breathe into the contracted parts until all areas feel open and free. As the last area of the body expands, ask: “Am I okay in this one present moment?” Allow the thinking mind to resist; come back to the open freedom , notice the breath, listen to the heartbeat, feel the Spaciousness. “Am I okay, right now? Here, just in this present moment? Not later, just now. This one moment... is there a sense of calm? Could it be called peace? Comfort? Spaciousness? Okay-ness?”
Back and forth, the mind will arise as thought or feeling. Awareness will arise as a space around pain. This space is felt most keenly when thinking mind goes silent. This sense of calm or peace is always available, right here, right now, when thoughts are allowed to pass by. This Peace is present even while suffering arises. Suffering is just louder, fed by the energy of swirling, screaming, resistant thinking mind. Peace has no problem with grief. Peace allows and accepts all things which arise.
To feel Peace during grief is to able to withstand temporary pain. The Wholeness Which We Are “honors” pain’s presence as it moves. Honored pain does not stick, bind, sicken, nor wreak havoc, it releases its vibration and dissolves. When we ask, “how do I make it through this pain?”, we are spiritually Awakening.
We recognize pain, we become aware of suffering and we look for a better way to meet grief. The allowance of grief becomes part of the expansion of Who We Are as consciousness. Thinking mind will argue in its effort to prove its suffering. Allow the sound and fury, return Awareness to physical sensations within the physical body. Find the Spaciousness, the heartbeat and the breath.
Awakening might address the pain-body, the ego-mind’s collection of past pain which is made of beliefs tied to specific emotions that have yet to be investigated, resolved and released. If so, each thought which brings suffering can be teased out of the knotted thinking mind through compassionate inquiry. The spiritual teacher Byron Katie’s website: www.thework.com offers a brilliantly simple way to question the untruth of egoic thoughts.
Sitting in Stillness with a question is to enter contemplation from within. This practice uses the Intellect to comprehend revelations from our inner Wisdom. This is the use of mind in service to our Being-ness, as a tool for Awakening, rather than being pulled along by unconscious thinking mind. Certain beliefs will appear time and time, again, increasing our suffering with each appearance. These “emotional knots” are ready for final release.
We might ask deep questions which lead us to Truth previously hidden yet known through direct experience.
• Does my pet’s physical death in any way mirror the fear of my own physical death?
• Is thinking mind telling me I’m responsible and should have been able to keep my pet alive? Is the life span of
even that of my own physical body, really under my control? Is this a thought, a believed story?
• Is there a “self” which feels it did something wrong or didn’t do something right?
• Did I mistakenly believe that the love I felt with my pet, came from my pet? Is fearful thinking saying I’ll never
feel that love, again, since my pet’s physical body is absent?
• Has the mind believed that there’s non-existence or nothing after the physical body dies?
Bring each of these into the spacious Stillness in reverent contemplation. Awakening will unwind the innocent ignorance of ego-mind which comprehends only separation and fear. Our True Nature reveals Itself in Stillness, the place of union without fear, the presence of unconditional love and peace.
Thinking mind can only argue with That which it cannot understand. We can allow, Knowing we are not our conditioning, we are not just the human experience. We find the Transcendental essence beyond the physical where sweetness envelops bitterness.
Suffering cannot exist in the presence of our True Nature, pain simply passes through our Beingness. This moment is where we find this Presence, the consciousness We Are. Presence animates our pet's form and arises from the depths we call our Heart after our pet’s form dissolves. Presence has no end.
Consciousness survives the death of the matter on which it rides.
We can allow our hearts to be broken wide open, so we might see all beliefs of thinking mind which stand in the way of our recognition of That which cannot suffer, that which cannot be damaged, That which never changes and That which can never leave.
We can go through the stages of grief and experience temporary pain instead of suffering.
We can remember time shared with our pets and find celebration. We can adjust to change. We can mourn and setup a memorial. We can talk with friends and loved ones about our pet. We can sit in the Stillness of our Being and willingly open to our Awakening as That Which We Are, while we experience grief. This “dive” into the pain from the starting point of our Being-ness is tapping into the power of our Transcendental Nature.
With You as Awakening Unfolds