There is Light in Loss

This week I received an unexpected message from a family member saying ‘little BoyCat crossed the rainbow bridge today’. He was ‘little’ in height, but not in width; so cute and fat he looked like a furry potato! His funeral is scheduled tomorrow at sunset and will involve us planting this potato. This potato will sprout new life and every time we water it, it will remind us of the joy in transformation.

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When we heard the news of BoyCat’s physical ending, tears flowed freely and my husband and I found ourselves sobbing in bed. I observed our grieving process with curiosity and acceptance. At one point I needed to visit the bathroom but fell over because my eyes were so blurry with tears; I then found myself laughing and crying at the same time! I’ve noticed a combination of happiness and sadness often combining when death occurs. I can sense the deepest part of my being is celebrating the transformation of BoyCat; finally he’s returning home to be recycled back into the ecosystem. The Dalai Lama says death is when we simply ‘change our clothes’. Our conscious awareness, that is connected to the intelligence of nature, knows that there is nothing to be sad about.

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The word ‘DEATH’ is so harsh and sounds like ‘THE END’ however it is just another beginning. For this reason I prefer the word ‘transformation’ as it’s more truthful. When a form dissolves it always creates new life. Visualize a time-lapse showing the decomposition of a plant. The individual plant dissolves but in doing so gives life to new bacteria, mould and a multitude of other organisms; when one plant dies eventually a new plant emerges from the soil. There is no such thing as death, there is only endless new beginnings.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one
— Khalil Gibran

Even though we know the process and science behind transformation there’s still part of us that can feel uncomfortable with it. This is our ego; the ‘I’ or ‘me’ concept that doesn’t want to disappear. Meditation is a great tool to dissolve the ego, embrace impermanence and connect to the eternal realm. We also learn to die before we die. We begin to connect to a timeless place that is much deeper than thoughts or individual identity. Yes we get swept up in thoughts and concepts, however we also return to a place of no thoughts and no concepts. Ask yourself these questions: who are you when you have no thoughts? Do you die when you stop thinking? The gaps in between the thoughts...what is that place? When we meditate we can observe the process of our thoughts coming and going. This observational field is vast, conscious and eternal. Within this field we can also observe endless endings and new beginnings. Every day we think 60 to 80 thousand thoughts; in between those thoughts are gaps of nothingness, mini deaths.  

Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides
— Lao Tzu

Any ending in the physical world can cause suffering in the mind, but not in our awareness. Our awareness is connected to the whole and understands eternity and oneness. When a job, relationship or holiday ends the mind can create a feeling of sadness. When a person dies their physical form, story and personality disappearing can create immense fear and disorientation. The key is to surrender to the feelings that arise and move towards the discomfort rather than hiding. Accepting any feelings of helplessness, fear and sorrow carries us to greater understanding.

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When something transforms it offers us a great opportunity for spiritual growth. When a form dissolves it is a gateway into pure awareness, and possibly an experience of oneness. There is a possibility, if we don’t retract, that we can have a self realization and connect to the whole. When something we love transforms there is a massive gap left behind where they once were. The more time we spent with them; the more we loved them; and the more we identified with them...the greater the gap left behind. Inside that gap is the possibility to discover stillness and peace. There is no greater stillness to be found than in a space that is now empty that once used to be filled. When our loved one transforms they enter a field of pure awareness; this is the same field of pure awareness that resides in all of us; so if we connect to that place we are one with them.

People often report the dying looking translucent or having a glow, especially close to their transformation. They may begin to smile and look deeply peaceful as the weight of their psychological suffering is dissolving. This is the light of pure awareness literally shining through. 

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By Aruna Shields (CHP, MBCT)