It is well over a year and a half since Shyla died, but if I reflect, I've had very little time to go deep with my grief until now. I recently sold our kayak, which brought a new wave of feelings of loss. I was surprised to see how much emotional grieving was still buried inside. For whatever reasons, mourning the loss of my life and spiritual companion was one of the major themes of the retreat. Here's an excerpt from my journal of a profound realization I experienced...
Today, I watched the clouds form and dissolve, making many fun, frightening and realistic characters in the sky. In a brief moment of sky-viewing, a bull, the head of a hawk, a swimmer, and a dog flying backwards revealed themselves in the clouds. I thought about Shyla and how our lives are that way, too. The realization that she was gone overtook me and tears began to flow, "Oh, Shyla, are you really gone? If you ARE here with me, give me a sign. Give me a definite sign."
The sky began to clear of all clouds and the tears flowed even more--seeing it as a sign that she isn't here. Uncontrollably they fell as I lowered my head and the other silent retreatants finished their lunch around me. Moments later, a sudden shuffling of the bushes out in front of our table caused me to open my eyes and look up.
Something had definitely gone into the bush, but what I had no idea and since we were in silence, the only talking taking place was by a construction crew beyond the bush. Spirit Rock is undergoing some major site developments and they have the temporary orange plastic fencing all around the graded area. I could hear one man comment how he sees a lot of deer at Spirit Rock, which caused me to smile inside, knowing how delicious it is to see relatively tame deer wander through here.
A young deer came out from behind the bush into our view and it noticed it was blocked in by the fencing, so it went to go around it and seemed frightened by it and backed away. It displayed the same skittish nature that Shyla did--curiosity juxtaposed with fear. After a bit of this dance, the deer finally kicked up its hind legs and frolicked up the hill, pausing to jump and play here and there.
Of course! Of course Shyla is gone in her old body, but is here with me! But as she wants to be--out free and frolicking and healthy! Why would she want to be encapsulated in my mind and heart? Why wouldn't she be out romping and yippity-skippity-ing on the golden grass-filled hillsides as a deer?! She loved that free existence and still does, apparently. She may be in thousands of deer--millions, the way atoms and consciousness work!
Something about this experience freed me from my suffering and from her. She's off living her next life romping around doing what she loved--it's time for me to get along with mine--whatever that may be."
The following day while taking a hike behind the sleeping dorms I thought I could feel Shyla--her presence is easier for me to notice when I'm alone in nature and still. The steep hillside was encapsulated with forest--it was deeply shaded and cool. I suddenly felt her and looked up the steep slope and noticed lots of little places that Shyla would normally take shelter in if we were out and taking a rest.
She always tucked herself in such a way that her back was protected and she could oversee me. There were lots of places like this in these woods and I knew she was there--in each and every one of them--overseeing me. I flashed on a picture Jim took while in Thailand when he and his daughter went off gallivanting alone for a few days. It was of a dog that looked exactly like Shyla and she was tucked in the crook of some massive rock slabs in one of the caves they were exploring.
We joked about how she was traveling with us and then saw a picture of someone that looked much like Walter in a magazine in a doctors office. It was a picture of a famous spiritual teacher in Thailand and I was incredulous at the resemblance.
All this to say, who knows how consciousness pervades things and what happens when this consciousness leaves the body. I felt much relieved to have made a connection with Shyla in the present--something that has been virtually lost since her passing, except brief moments few and far between.
Of course she is here. She can't not be! She is taking form again and again on a cycle of rebirth and death, as are the rest of us. A deer today, a dog in Thailand tomorrow. My guess is, anyway, that if she can be out and about frolicking in yippity-skippity fashion--her favorite thing to do--she will be.