The evening went by with a hundred mistaken sightings. I kept seeing her out of the corner of my eye, where I would expect to see her. But it was never her. I went to bed early, hoping to wake up to her return. But no.
The next morning there was still no sign of her. I approached morning meditation as an opportunity to explore the feelings of sadness, loneliness, and loss. I sank into them, willing to see and feel what might be at the center. It was no surprise though. After a short period of stillness and peace, my heart filled with compassion for my own suffering, and the suffering of everyone of us, at the hands of the illusions -- that things have permanence, that there is solid ground we can stand on, that we are separate beings, separated from the things that love us and that we love.
Form and emptiness. Emptiness and form. Kitty Girl and I are not separate. Except in the relative world. And relative world, the here and now, is the only place where it is possible to access ultimate mind, where there is no separation.
I practiced gratitude meditation, grateful for the lessons, the joy and happiness that having and loving a pet provide; and compassion meditation, accepting myself as I am with this suffering, knowing that I am strong enough to hold it in my heart, and accepting my life as it is, with what comes to me and what departs.
I doubt I would have seen any of this in the experience of losing my kitty without the guidance of the teachers I've been privileged to learn from over the last 2 1/2 years of my studies with Naropa's contemplative education program. The teachers, the teachings and the sangha they created for me and my classmates has given me such gifts of understanding as I could never have imagined. I am so grateful.
That next morning I remembered Ajahn Chah's teaching of the broken tea cup, as Kornfield recounts in The Wise Heart: "To me this cup is already broken. Because I know its fate, I can enjoy it fully here and now. And when it's gone, it's gone." Nothing is certain except this moment. (Ah, I just thought I saw her again, in peripheral vision, on the deck.) But instead of leaving us in despair, this fact can bring us great capacity to appreciate what we have, enjoy it fully. Fully. And then let it go when it's gone.