Energy of the Mind
On April 20, 2016, we had to say good bye to our sweet girl, Kaina, at the age of 13. Kai was our beautiful and beloved "mama" dog - a sweet English Springer Spaniel who blessed this earth and our family with 3 litters of pups. We kept a male and female from her first litter so our family of two springers became four. We had a full life with her, I'd like to think a life filled with every joyful activity a dog could ever think of. One of her most favorite places to be was the beach. She didn't just enjoy the water, she LOVED the water. She would tolerate retrieving tennis balls that were tossed in the water (it's all our other dogs ever wanted to do), but she far rather preferred to pull up pieces of kelp from the water and carry them around. And she loved to take off for long swims. Yes, you read that right. She would sometimes paddle around in the ocean for 15 minutes or more before swimming back in! She would just paddle and paddle, her heart smiling on her face; sometimes even play with harbor seals. Oh how she loved to swim.
As she grew older, if first began with her slowing down on daily walks, to then some days preferring to stay home and rest. She then began to fall while walking. Initially she could pull herself back up, but the days where she could no longer get herself back up soon came. And then came the days where she could no longer get up at all unless you helped her. Finally the days arrived where she began to not be able to walk. It was heart breaking to watch her go through this. Especially the last time we took her to the beach when she was still able to walk most of the time. We found that day that the looseness of the sand provided enough instability that she had to be carried down (and back to our truck) and once we were down by the water, it became clear that her swimming days were done. She no longer could use her back legs as she was used to and it was so hard to see her mind and spirit wanting to do what her body could no longer.
After some time of the days that she could no longer walk at all and we knew she was suffering (all of our attempts at easing her pain were no longer working), we decided to call the vet to our home to put her to sleep. It was a decision that was most difficult to make, one we didn't want to make, but knew it was best for her. To keep her for longer, would have only been for ourselves and our refusal to accept that her time had come. From the day we made the decision to the day our vet could come to our home gave us 5 days with her. The morning of the first of the five days, was beautiful, warm and sunny. I began to cry in knowing that she would be leaving us soon and my heart was aching. I began to think about all the things we had done with her, how much joy she had for life, and I couldn't stand the thought that she would never see the ocean again. It was in that moment that I decided to take her to the beach for one last time.
I laid her in the back seat of my truck with the windows rolled down. Even though she could not sit up to put her head up near the window, I could tell she could still smell the salty air and grove of eucalyptus trees as we drove along. I am certain she knew where we were going. I spoke to her the whole way, telling her how much I loved her and that we would go sit together at one of her favorite spots.
When we arrived she was SO excited. I could tell that if her legs did not fail her, she would have leapt out of the truck and into the ocean in just a few short strides. Her heart wanted to be in that water, I could feel it.
I picked her up and carried her near the waters edge and then set her down in the sand. I sat down right next to her, loving on her and watching her take in all that was around her. For awhile I just sat there and cried while petting her; I didn't want to say good bye. I wanted more days like these, I wanted to see her heart free and to watch her swim once again.
And then for awhile I just sat, silent with her. I felt the warm sun kissing my skin, the gentle breeze blowing through my hair. I heard the calls of the gulls and the lullaby of the waves rolling in and out. I suddenly felt peaceful. I suddenly felt surrounded by grace. And I realized that it was during those moments, that I was no longer sad. But I was no longer sad, because I had stopped thinking about being sad.
I had surrendered into being fully present, not thinking about the future or the past, but was rather completely open and present to the peace and beauty of the moment that was happening right in front of me. I know she felt it too.
It was an ah ha moment. Where I understood the power of our thinking mind and how it shapes and affects our reality. The more my mind thought sad thoughts, the more and more sad I became. But when my mind became quiet and did not interfere, I found peace. And while the reality of what would be happening in five days was still there, for a few moments, it did not spoil the perfectness of my experience of just being. And just being with her.
Even though it only lasted for a little while (the thinking mind reared its ugly head and I became sad again) - those few moments of time felt so vast and so spacious. While the time itself may have been short, it felt almost like eternity, where there was this unending flow of grace. I realized this was the vastness of consciousness and what we can experience when we open up to this.
I have had brief experiences like this before in meditation, but never that I can recall so clearly while going through something so emotionally heavy. This was another glimpse into understanding fully what it means to just be.
A short two months later, I came across an article written by Sally Kempton, Mind Energy Meditation. The article focused on the energetic charge of our thoughts and that if we could recognize our thoughts for what they are (mind energy), that they will no longer bother us. Reading this reminded me about the space that we can put between us and our thoughts, that we are not and do not have BE our thoughts.
My next example of this in practice came the very next day. I had come home from being away for a few hours and became very heated in discovering something my 7 year old had done and that his dad had not noticed he had done. Their lack of concern over the matter (from both of them) only fueled my anger and I will admit, I became very angry, very hot. So angry, that I knew if I stayed in the house I would only continue to yell and later feel badly about it, so I took myself on a walk to cool off.
Just short of one block into my walk, Sally's article came into my head. I noticed that I was still angry and my mind was vehemently telling MY story, as if I was trying to convince myself that I had the right to be angry. In noticing my running thoughts, I decided to pay attention to the feelings in my body and to pay attention to the energy of my thoughts. I noticed the tension I was holding, my hands clenched in fists, my breath short and ragged and my body felt hot. The instant I started to observe and focus my attention to the physical sensations and the energy I was experiencing, my mind no longer had room to tell its story. I was now observing the energy of the story and not the story itself. And with my mind no longer able to tell its story, the physical sensations - the hot, gripping energy began to dissolve. The anger itself, literally began to dissolve.
When I brought my attention to this, my mind wanted to rebel. Now it was angry that I was letting the physical sensations dissolve - my mind still wanted to tell its story - it didn't want to be done yet!
I played with this for a bit, shifting my focus back to my mind story and within moments I felt the anger and all of the sensations coming back, then I would shift back to observing just the energy of these thoughts. I had become a separate observer of myself, for I could witness what happened when I attached to my mind and its running thoughts and story, versus when I focused on the energy of my thoughts. Noticing and exploring the energy of the thoughts rather than the thoughts themselves was how I began to shift.
The scenario that had taken place in my home did not change, but my reactive energy to it did.
I know like everything else, this will take more practice. I do notice more and more when I am reactive to thoughts from myself or others. I appreciate stumbling along these brief moments of dissolving qualities of mind energy and experiencing the vastness of consciousness, for it fuels my journey on the path and deepens my understanding. These glimpses allow me a taste of the fruits of this practice and remind me that is all worth while.