This morning I woke up in a dreamy way. Not in a dream-like way, just in way that feels intensely and immeasurably pleasurable. In a way that is always possible, but not always happening.
I woke up empty.
It’s hard to say what waking up empty feels or looks like, it’s really indescribable. There is only one word that could do it justice: Presence.
This often takes a high level of awareness (which can be challenging to maintain within the hectic pace most of us live in.) If I could attempt to describe it, I would say that it feels like a mix between openness and gratitude. Like you are empty (nothing on your mind, nothing on your heart) and are fully experiencing the present moment for all that it is, and more importantly — you feel how phenomenal it is and how wonderful it can be.
This morning I opened my eyes. I could feel that I was in a safe cozy space. I could feel the multi layers of soft plush blankets weighing me down, yet hugging me at the same time. I could also hear my dog breathing under the blankets. The sound of her breath was so life affirming and soothing. I spent a few moments completely still, listening to the sound. I also noticed the sun coming through the blinds, creating sharp geometric patterns across the floor. Life was simple, yet miraculous. I was present to the miracle of being alive in such a marvelous way. I was also grateful for my dog being the same, and for us being able to share that together. I felt like I was smiling in my heart and in all 35+ trillion cells in my body. Other than what was happening in the moment, nothing was being thought of, nothing was being said in my mind, no wishes were present in my heart — just this moment. Just this, simply this, in all of its glory.
I have no idea how much time passed (an hour? minutes?) before I exhumed myself from the blankets. I then began to officially begin the day. Collecting my patterned leggings and faux-down jacket, I suited myself up (and my dog too), getting ready to ward off the cold air outside.
After putting Pen’s winter vest on her, we travel to the backyard to conduct business as usual. Everything seemed normal, until I noticed Pen wasn’t acting like she usually does. Something seemed off. There were several reasons why, but an obvious one was, she seemed hesitant and kept looking to me for direction (as if there was a problem she couldn’t communicate.) Why would she be hesitant or troubled? This is her morning pee & poo routine. She knows this, and it happens like clockwork.
Pen walked slowly and had a hard time leaping through the doorway as we traveled back inside. I was taken aback as I noticed something that without question was very odd… she’s wasn’t wagging. She always wags before breakfast. To my surprise, she didn’t want to eat, she wouldn’t even walk towards her food bowl. I brought her to bed and felt her mildly shaking and flinching, breathing laboriously, as if she was in pain.
I could not believe this. Her health has been so spright lately, we just ran across a grass field smiling and laughing — just yesterday, before the sun went down. I thought we both woke up healthy and happy this morning. I felt my day and life was moving from one extreme to the next — all in a matter of a morning. At that point I stopped myself. I thought, “Aimee, you can do this with full presence too. You can be open, and empty and grateful — experiencing the phenomenon that is life, in all its wonder — just as it is.”
Then I had another thought, “But I can’t do that if Penny is not well!” A rebuttal thought immediately followed, “What if, what if when she was ill in December you would have been totally peaceful, at ease through the whole ordeal. What if you would have been completely grateful, open and present during that entire experience. How would it have been different for you, and more importantly, different for her?”
This immediately made sense to me. I know that when I am at ease and breathing fully, I am able to see and think more clearly. I experience situations differently; more acutely, effectively and efficiently. At that moment, I snuggled myself next to Pen and I kept her warm. She’s tiny, so I put my big hand over where I thought she might be hurting (like a massive hot water bottle) and I kept it there. I wanted to radiate heat and energy, calmness and healing — I wanted to radiate love. In that moment, I loved her with all my heart and presence. I did this until she stopped shaking/flinching and fell asleep. Her eyes were now closed, she was breathing normally and seemed to sleep soundly and still. At that point, I called the vet.
I noticed the difference between this situation (of Penny not feeling well) and the last one (back in December 2015.) I was calm and smartly supportive this time. I didn’t panic. I didn’t imagine worst case scenarios. I wasn’t waving a tight fist at the powers that be. I wasn’t wishing for a different life under a different set of circumstances. I was loving this one. With Penny. As she was. As we were. I was loving it and her with all of my heart — with no judgements, no regrets — without needing to know why life was the way it was, without desperately demanding anything be different. It felt better. I felt better. Much better. It felt worlds apart from the last experience of a very similar situation.
Death is inevitable. For all of us. Pain is inevitable. For all of us. But suffering is something entirely different. Suffering is a tricky one. Suffering is rooted in confused thinking. An example is: “Penny should be well right now, she has been well for weeks and was thriving and playing just yesterday!” and “We were happy and full of bliss, why have things suddenly turned gloomy and sour? We didn’t do anything to deserve this.” As you can see in those thoughts, there is suffering and very little room for surrender (a surrendering and openness that facilitates presence in the moment.) Very little humility and acceptance in those words — no unconditional love or compassion for life as it is.
Life can change like the turn of a dime. Nothing stays the same, it can flip before your eyes. That’s life! Of course we eat healthfully and we take care of ourselves and we don’t do anything too crazy. Yes, that’s logical. But we don’t beat our own hearts. We don’t birth ourselves. We don’t manually orbit the earth around the sun. We are very clear that it is not our job. We simply accept ‘the big things’ as life (and take it for granted.) But when shit hits the fan, we don’t carry the same clarity. We don’t say, ” Ah, life. Yes, life decides.” Instead we panic, we silently get angry and we say in our minds (and every cell of our bodies), “Why is this happening to me?! I demand to know. I demand for things to be different.” All of a sudden, life revolves around us. We are the ones in control. And because of this, we suffer.
It’s a fine line between effort and effortlessness, action and non-action. The best way to describe this is swimming. When you are in the water, if you panic, if you kick and scream and fight the water — you sink. You lose. You suffer and then you die. It’s a horrible way to go. (Trust me, I know. I almost drowned. I experienced near death and was rescued.)
If you relax, if you focus on your breath, if you work with the water — most importantly, if you surrender to it, in full humility and awe — you have a better chance of survival. Chances are you will float, and if the waves are not too rocky, you can tread. While floating or treading, you will see that the water is supporting you, and that you are the water (you are made of mostly water.) When the stress and the desperate need to control or fight leaves your body, you begin to see and think more clearly — you see you have options! You also see that life might have what are sometimes called miracles or unexplained events (that usually make more sense in hindsight.) You see that you have more than enough to work with, and live with. You begin to trust life. The pain might still be there. You might feel spent or have salt in your eyes — but you aren’t suffering. You aren’t resisting. You aren’t fighting or battling the moment. You aren’t in a war with life.
Hours have passed. Penny seems fine now. (The vet is still coming to check-on her, as planned.) But all is well. We are simply floating in the waters of life, loving each other beyond the body, beyond circumstances, beyond anything we know. We are enjoying each other and this miraculous moment we have together. We love life, and we love living it together. This is enough. This is more than enough. This is what life is. This is what it always was and will always be. Even when we aren’t aware of it and its amazing gifts.
When I let go, I can feel that life is holding me. Then I see beyond me. Life supports all life. Life is all life. (And life is not the opposite of death, death is part of life.)
One day I will see Penny in the stars, and in my own being. And when I am no longer walking the earth (or writing blog posts), I hope that others do the same for me. I hope they wake up empty. I hope they see the beauty of what being present (to what is) holds. I hope they can let go and feel carried, held and supported by life. I hope they can be one with all that is.
When letting go, the suffering fades — only presence remains. It may be presence with some fear or pain, but that’s okay. Not all aspects of life are easy. Just know that the clearer you are, the more life shines brightly and the better it feels, and the more it blows your mind.
Small side note: this is not the crazy blog post on cake I promised for today! Sorry to keep you waiting. I still haven’t finished writing that blog post. It will be ready soon. I just need a little more time. This week I had to roll with life as it arrived. When the right moment to write about a crazy cake metaphor arises, I’ll be happy to ride that wave. And of course, I’ll be super-excited to share it with you.