Sorrow and Ecstasy

We sat together on the porch, Feeling the warm sun and cool breeze, Dappled sunlight playing in the yard, The Rapturous Ecstasy of Being…

And an Ocean of Unbearable Sorrow…
Both, impossibly, at once…

This is the Secret Heart of Liberation!

My puppy of 13 years, Shay, died a few years ago. A cancerous tumor that I'd been watching grow for about a year finally ruptured. My own observations and the declarations of the vet gave me some confidence that while certainly not comfortable, she was not yet in pain. But I always wonder, “Did I keep her too long, when I should have let her go?”

When I would sit at my desk, writing, she would always sit to my side, curled and resting. On that fateful day, when she suddenly sat up and began walking away, and I saw a trail of blood, I knew that the end had come. I arranged to have her put down that day, here at the house, her home, where she could be as relaxed and comfortable as possible. I know many will question the virtue of my not letting Shay go “naturally”. But for good or ill, I chose that path.

As fate would have it, the vet couldn't come for several hours. It was a blessing to have that additional time with her; even if it meant an unbearable immersion in ever-deepeneing sorrow. But – and this is the purpose of my writing – those moments together were not simply spent in sorrow; for even such mind-stopping, heart-rending sorrow arose, as all things do, in the Blissful Ocean of Unlocatable Aliveness.

When I was sitting on the porch with her for those hours, more aware than I'd ever been of the fleeting transience of form in this Dream of space and time, there were moments I could barely breathe. I couldn't think; couldn't put two words together in my head. Against the knowledge and wisdom that all things must pass – I'd lost both parents earlier in life – I felt, none the less, a desperate desire to be hyper-present in the ever dwindling time I had left with her. If only I could be alive enough, present enough… maybe I could fill my Heart with her, I would feel her there after she was gone, I could steal some part of her from the arms of time.

I was in shock, breathing, at times, like a frightened rabbit. I cried and cried and cried. I cried walking around. I cried pouring coffee. I cried watching her out the window as she rested in her little dug out place by the porch. I cried sitting on the porch. I cried sitting in the yard with her.

When I wasn't crying, I was in shock, in a desperately present condition of helplessness. For I had time left with her. She was alive. I could touch her. And in spite of the bleeding that came and went, she seemed very much her contented self, though clearly weary from the long illness. She was there… in front of me. I'd pet her head, touch her soft ears, and just… didn't… know… what… to… do. How could I hold onto that precious moment with her there, alive, visible, touchable, in front of me. My mind knew better, of course, but my Heart was having none of it. And so I sat with her… and said only happy things. There were biscuits galore.

Once she was back up on the porch, we just sat there together. And I eventually found that my breathing slowed, the frantic waters of the mind stilled somewhat, and just like Shay, I felt the warm sun and cool breeze, watched the dappled sunlight playing in the yard, and slipped into a dream of swaying branches, birdsong, and wind chimes. A hummingbird came by. Then I'd look at Shay… alive… in front of me in that moment, with time dwindling, and again I'd hyperventilate, and cry and cry. And then… once again, I'd slip into just sitting and falling into the impossibly peaceful dream of resting there together on the porch.

In those moments of Stillness and repose, the yard was a beautiful dance of movement and light, and everything in the field of vision would dissolve into a luminous, shimmering Light, like molten gold – edges blurring, until only a field of gold-white Radiance shimmered as Existence. This was the Light I'd come to know whenever, with eyes open, Attention rested back into the Ocean of Unlocatable Aliveness.

Turning dreamily from this Sorrow-filled Ecstasy – yes, Sorrow-Filled Ecstasy; what I long most to convey in this writing – I'd turn to see her perk up, listening to something or other. When she was attentive in that way, her ears flattened; a stance I had come to call “flat headed”; a vision in form that would soon be gone… forever. Forever.

I'd pet her and say, over and over, “God bless you Shay.” I don't know about God. But it's the only thing I knew to say that embodied all possible Blessings. And yes, of course I told her that I Loved her. And on… and on. Tears, short, quick breaths and breathless sobbing; fearful of succumbing to psychic shock and panic, helpless against time. Then, inexplicably, impossibly, the Serene, Dreamlike Peacefulness of puppy on porch, sun, breeze, swaying branches, birds singing, Bliss rolling like waves from the Heart, flooding this form, and… and… Unbearable Sorrow, all arising, all at once, in the Blissful Ocean of Unlocatable Aliveness.

Sorrow, my Beautiful Friends…
Was not a “dilemma”,
Was not a “problem”,
Indicated nothing “wrong”,
Did not obstruct or obscure,
The Ecstasy of Being.

This is so important.

Unbearable Sorrow,
Unbearable Poignancy,
The Rapturous Ecstasy of Being…
All… at… once.

Even the desperate grasping…
A most Beautiful,
Sweet aspect of…

Endless Enlightening.

Thank you, my little guru.