“All things are in process, rising and returning. Plants come to blossom, but only to return to the root. Returning to the root is like seeking tranquility. Seeking tranquility is like moving toward destiny. To move toward destiny is like eternity. To know eternity is enlightenment, and not to recognize eternity brings disorder and evil. Knowing eternity makes one comprehensive; comprehension makes one broadminded; breadth of vision brings nobility; nobility is like heaven.” ~ Lao-tse
I had a cat named Oscar that recently died (named after one of my most favorite authors and poets, Mr. Oscar Wilde.) He was my first cat and I loved him. I arrived in Peru a week ago with the intention of returning to the states soon to see my pets and family. It had been so long since I had been home, so the idea of holding my super soft cat had often brought a smile to my face. However, my step-father contacted me a few days ago and informed me gently that Oscar had died in his sleep. Oscar was six years old. Maine Coon cats are ‘supposed’ to live to 20, so this was a shock to me. And so I cried. I spent a whole evening crying and looking through pictures and videos of him. I felt sadness that I would never hold him like a baby in my arms again or pet him in the morning as he woke me up with kisses.
After a period of time I took a deep breath, put the pictures aside, laid out my yoga mat and forced myself to practice surya namaskara. I was in downward dog, taking deep breaths, when my heart opened and a smile came to my face. I smiled because I had loved. I smiled because he had existed. I let go of the sadness and I embraced the love. I felt blessed… blessed that he had been in my life and that I had all those moments with him… and blessed that I experienced such sadness over the loss of him. I experienced true loving feelings. It’s amazing how yoga opens the energy channels of our body. How it can guide you to the answers to that you have long pondered. How it can bring you peace when you need it the most.
I have had the blessed experience of losing family/animals/jobs/friends/lovers in my life. I say ‘blessed’ because without these experiences I believe I would still be asleep. I would continue to take advantage of the time I have with people that I love, but instead I now feel more aware, awake and appreciative of the people and moments in my life. I have developed a living understanding of the temporariness of everything and everyone in my life. I have come to learn that every second is precious. Every moment is a treasure to be loved and cherished… and let go of. I’ve learned that when the person, animal, lover, thing departs (as all things will inevitably do), that it’s okay… that the love will live on.
“For that which is born, death is certain, and for that which is dead, birth is certain. You should not grieve over the unavoidable… The Supreme Self which dwells in all bodies can never be slain… Weapons cut it not; fire burns it not; water wets it not; the wind does not wither it. Eternal, universal, unchanging, immovable, the Self is the same forever… Dwelling in all bodies, the Self can never be slain. Therefore you should not grieve for any creature.” ~ Bhagavad Gita
We will all inevitably experience loss in our life. Pain. Misery. Sadness. Heartache. It’s these feelings and experiences that make us human. We have hearts and we tend to love so much! And we all struggle some. When I held my grandmother's hand as she left this world I felt like a part of me had died. I didn’t quite grasp the concept of the temporariness of everything though. So, when I lost my mom I struggled! I thought I had more time! I did! I floundered and felt so much loss. Overwhelming sadness. And it took me a long time and many yoga poses and moments of solitude and mistakes made and countries seen, to cope with the loss of them both… But now, looking back on it all, I would not change a thing. I am more alive because of these losses. I am more open-hearted. I love and I love hard. And now that Oscar is no longer here, I am still okay because I loved him fully. I loved him truly. And I have no regrets.
A long while ago, during the loss of my mother, I began reading Nietzsche… and it was Nietzsche that sort of did it for me. At a certain moment in Nietzsche’s life, the idea came to him of what he called “the love of your fate.” He teaches that whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but you should go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment – not discouragement – you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life.
Nietzsche also says that then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.
Recently I’ve been speaking with a very dear friend of mine about a friend of hers that is experiencing the inevitable death of her beloved father. To this friend and anyone else experiencing loss, I want you to know that it’s going to be okay. You will recover and the strength that you need will be there for you. Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” Keep loving! Keep smiling! Embrace the moments you have left with the ones you love… and let them go… because they are not really gone… they will live on in your heart and memories and smiles and tears. And when he/she finally does pass… It will at first feel so new and all you’ll see is the empty space, but that is not how it is in the landscape of the heart. There, there is no empty space and he still laughs and grapples with ideas and plans and nods wisely with each of us in turn. And you can continue to live proud that you knew him, loved him and cherished him until the very end.
I just want to say to her and anyone else experiencing loss or the feeling of overwhelming sadness that I hope that my experiences and studies help you to handle loss in your life a little better and to please know that you are not alone. In short, love the moment, the experience, the happiness and sadness… you will come out of this stronger than you ever thought possible.
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley
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