Staying in the present moment (even in grief)…

Who can believe that there is no soul behind those luminous eyesIn the last three days of his life, Gator (our beloved cat), taught me an unexpected life-lesson about being in the present moment.

The day I found out we would have to say goodbye in only a few short days, I was distraught. But during the roller-coaster of emotions, I became aware of something on a level I had never experienced before.

When my thoughts were focused on all that I would miss about him, I was overwhelmed with tears. Yet when I calmed my breath, snuggled with Gator and focused my energy on sending my love to him, the tears stopped. Back and forth it went: tears wildly flowing when I thought about losing him; a sense of calm when I focused on how his fur felt cuddled into my neck, the sound of his purr as it reverberated and echoed in my ear.

I was astounded at how much it felt like an on/off switch. Fully immersed in the present moment, there were no tears. Jumping ahead to the future, the flood gates opened. Then the obvious became clear: if I let my thoughts jump to the future, I would miss the moment I was having with Gator, right then and there. By grieving a loss that had not yet happened, I was missing out on the experience that was happening.

It was a humbling moment, realizing how often my thoughts jumped to the future and how little they stayed in the present. Yet, for a change, I did not judge myself for it. Instead, I found myself simply observing when it happened, then consciously shifting my focus from the future to the present. As I spent that day alone with Gator, I became more and more conscious of when I was in the present moment, the past, or the future. There was a clarity that I had never experienced before.

With this heightened awareness, I noticed how easy it was to shift. Using my feelings as a cue, I knew that a wave of sadness meant I had jumped ahead to the future. Using my breath to ground myself, the sadness shifted to joy, connection and love as my attention focused on the way Gator’s fur felt snuggled into the crook of my neck, the tickle of his whiskers, the warmth of his breath, the sound of his heartbeat, his smell, the rumbling of his purr amplified and echoing in my ear, the velvet of his paws.

This new clarity allowed me to be truly present in Gator’s final moments. I was able to center myself and share a peaceful, loving energy with him. And when the wave of grief hit as his spirit left, I was able to allow myself to be fully present to that too.

In the following hours, I felt a heightened awareness of each feeling as it passed through me. It helped me recognize when I became stuck in his final moment, with the emptiness of not having felt Gator’s spirit leave (as I had expected to experience).

Tapping in to this, I knew what I needed to give myself. When I went to sleep that first night without him, I brought myself back to the moment of his death. I remembered the weight of his body, the feel of his fur, the sun, as many details as I could until I was fully immersed in the memory – and then I gave myself the gift of what I needed.

I visualized a shimmering light leaving Gator’s body, hovering above him for a moment, before moving towards us. I saw the light pass through my heart then Rick’s, pick up speed then go around and around our weeping willow, climbing its way up. When it got to the top, it shot upwards, leaving a glistening trail of light in the sky. The next day, I noticed that when my grief took me back to that last moment, the haunting feeling of nothingness had transformed into a feeling of peace.

I continue to use this heightened sense of being present, to help me in the grieving process. I am becoming better able to settle into the moment and be with whatever feelings I am experiencing rather than go around the grief, rush it, or avoid it. The more I do that, the more I can listen to the cues my feelings are giving me about what I need.

Will this gift that Gator heightened in me stay? Will it evolve further? That will be up to me.

“Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.” – B.K.S Iyengar

3 Responses to “Staying in the present moment (even in grief)…”

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  1. says:

    Gator, in the photo, is a beautiful cat; and in your story a cherished companion and family member. Your experience with Gator in the present moment sounds like you are transforming your loss and grief to legacy and love. Thank you for sharing your intimate journey with Gator.

  2. Kim says:

    Very interesting! It seems this was truly a gift from Gator and it reinforces for me the belief I have that there is something to learn from every life experience whether it is viewed as “good” or “bad”. Lovin’ the school of life….Kim

  3. says:

    Diane, I’m so interested in the “on-off” switch of presence you noticed, and the way sadness was a signal that you’d jumped to the future. I’m sorry for your loss. The gift it bought sounds so important, and the ability to stay with Gator and experience those moments sounds profound. Thanks for writing about this. I hope you’ll say more about what happens as time passes and you experience your grief.

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