Our hamster wasn’t moving. We nudged him forward and his limp body slid pathetically along the floor of his plastic bubble toy-cage.
I was four, my bother was two, and we called Mom, who immediately became serious and compassionate. She looked at us with loving eyes, clearly about to explain one of life’s secrets. We listened as she told us about death— how animals, plants, and people all one day go to heaven, where their spirits will go on, but their bodies will not.
She told us our pet hamster had gone to heaven.
We looked at our hamster, still in the bubble. My mom asked us if we understood. We nodded our heads simultaneously, slowly, mirroring the gravity we saw in our mother’s face.
And then, behind my mother’s back, the plastic ball began to roll again, past us and on toward the bathroom.
“He’s alive again!” my brother and I cheered, “He’s back from heaven!”
From that day on, my perspective of death has been casual— we’re here, we go, we come back, no big deal.
Death is not the end, it’s transformation.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
Just this past week I have been dealing with the loss of another animal friend of mine. Govinda, our unfairly most-loved out of all our three littermate kitties, went missing five days ago. He was our best hunter, a vibrantly charismatic fellow who spoke his mind loudly with long drawn-out yowls and emphatic whole-body gestures, and to whom we were hopelessly attached.
We had heard the crazed yipping of a coyote pack in the field just beyond where our cats like to stalk mice along the stacked-rock wall. Still, we trusted they would be fine, as they were smart, young, and capable cats, even though the new mesa-top terrain we are all still getting used to in this first month having moved.
The next morning Govi was not inside with his brother and sister, and he did not return, all day, and all night. We searched, calling his name and whistling his personal call, and after the second day and night, my husband and I took to calling for him secretly, as though we were ashamed of our hopes that he was still alive.
By the third day we were beginning to accept his departure, and our hypotheses for how it came to be grounded themselves into full stories. Greta, our Great Pyr, had been barking to alert us of a large rattlesnake who had stuck its ground two times the day before, and with its third appearance, its rattler sizzling, it too became a part of Govi’s story.
When we released Govinda to the heavens, we let ourselves go, too. We released ourselves from our attachment to him, and in doing so, we opened the doors to Infinite Possibility. We took all of our discontent with our new home situation, and all of our fear of what it holds for us, and we held it out so we could really look at it. What we saw was liberating. We realized we could toss it all over a shoulder and do something completely different… If we really wanted to.
We began having exciting conversations about moving to a different state, buying land in the mountains, and traveling around the world. Our hearts lightened as we fantasized, opening to the possibility of finding good homes for the animals, and letting ourselves really be the people we are in our Hearts— those free, wild, go-with-the wind-ers.
We dreamed big and we let ourselves go there. It was nourishing to our souls and amidst the coming and going waves of grief we felt for our friend, we also surged atop the crests of our hearts’ desires.
When you lose what you’ve been loving a little too tightly, you gain the freedom to openly and fully love yourself.
Last week’s challenge was about cultivating Love Qi. This week is Love Qigong, Part Two.
We are now in Major Heat, according to the Chinese seasonal calendar. It is the hottest time of year, ruled by the element of Fire, and the season of the heart. In keeping with the heart’s energy, Love, this exercise is a perfect fit.
This one is so simple we don’t have any need for a guided meditation, or a video, or a demonstrative photo. All it requires it your focus, and a willingness to open yourself to the freedom to love yourself.
You can do this anywhere at any time— while driving, riding the bus, hiking your evening walk, making dinner, or brushing your teeth. To make a meditation out of it, sit down in a quiet space, and relax all the muscles and joints in your body.
If you are a tai chi and qigong practitioner, you may want to stand in Wuji stance, with feet parallel and relaxed against the floor, knees soft, hips level, tailbone drawn toward the earth, crown lifted to the sky, and the tip of your tongue resting against the roof of your mouth, just behind the teeth. Imagine you are sitting on top of a large energy ball, ready to catch you directly beneath your bottom, and this will straighten your spine, allowing it to follow the line of your central axis.
Arms can be relaxed at your sides, or you can lift them as in Standing Like a Tree, palms facing your heart center (Middle Dan Tian), shoulders dropped, and elbows rounded as if embracing the trunk of a large tree.
Whether you are standing or sitting, with eyes closed or open, let your body find relaxation by feeling into each body part, looking for sensation. Let your breath be natural, and allow it to slow down at its own pace. With each thought that passes through your mind, simply let it come, and then go. Be light with it.
Now, begin the mantra, either silently chanting it within your heart center, or vocally speaking it out.
The mantra is: “Love.”
State it firmly and softly, courageously, and gently: “Love. Love. Love. Love. Love…”
Continue repeating this powerful word, and, like the beat of a drum, begin to search within yourself for its vibration. All aspects of life have vibration— this is qi, the energy of Life— and within each word resonates a certain frequency, also. The frequency of the word love is highly charged and deeply attuned to Spirit. Simply stating this word, out loud or mentally, has profound impact on your own vibration. It opens you to a higher frequency and lifts you, in a very real way, into a higher field of being.
As you chant this mantra of “Love,” let go of any tendency to seek specific examples of times you have felt love, loved, in love, or out of love. The mind wants to identify, label, and categorize, but this dilutes the purity of the vibration. Just keep bringing it back to the feeling of love in the broad sense.
Simply state the word and listen to the way you feel. Search for sensations within you as you continue the mantra. Look for a lifting, a lightness, a fullness in your heart.
Do this for as long as you want, and when you’re ready to close the practice, simply release your focus. Take notice of how you feel in comparison to how you felt before you began the meditation.
Govinda, Photograph by Brea Fisher
Last night I went to bed feeling both sad and hopeful. I felt at peace with my discontent, and I embraced the uncertainty of the unfamiliar.
Hours later, I awoke to the sound of, “Govinda! It’s Govinda!” After five days lost in the wilderness, my friend had found his way home.
I had finally let go, and in doing so, I opened myself to the lessons I had previously been closed to due to resistance.
The path to relief is through release.
I spent the midnight hour welcoming Govi home, lavishing him with all the love I had been gathering inside my heart throughout all those mourning days.
He’s back from heaven.
I’m back, too, more me than ever before.