"Yoga is the stilling of the modifications of the mind."

-From the Yoga Sutras of Patanjani 1.2 and 1.3

Tranquility Yoga

235 Littleton Road, Unit 1
Westford, MA 01886

978-729-4731

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It’s been a tough week for me. If you’ve read my previous two blogs, you know that our Golden Retriever, Comet, was diagnosed with cancer four months ago, and we were told at the time that we probably had about four to six months with him. Well, it’s been just over four months, and last week, we had to say our final good-byes to him. It was a clear decision to make – he was fine until the last day, and then he went downhill very quickly.

I miss him so much, and yet I know that life is impermanent. This morning I read this article in Yoga Journal by Judith Lasater in which she said that she once saw some Tibetan monks making a very intricately designed sand mandala (a geometric design representing the entire universe). The monks spent months working on this project, arranging the sand grain by grain, and then when it was complete, they destroyed it. In fact, they celebrated destroying it, as they were celebrating impermanence in life.

As I sat in Meditation this morning, I thought of Comet, and I realized that I am grateful to be alive, even without him. I miss him so much, yet I can still enjoy my life. He enhanced it with his presence and my enjoyment doesn’t have to stop without him.

During the last four months, when I would spend time with him, I kept wishing that I could bottle that feeling of joy so that I could keep it and have it long after he was gone. Now that he is gone, I realize that I didn’t need to bottle it, because that joy didn’t come from him. That joy was (is) within me – my Self – so I can still tap into it, even without Comet to trigger it. He opened a door to access it, and that door can remain open. I am forever grateful to him for that.

Yoga teaches us that joy doesn’t come from the outside. It is always there inside, waiting to be pulled out. When we attach our joy to another person or circumstance, we limit ourselves, and create a huge potential for suffering. When we recognize that the joy arises from inside, then the outside circumstances lose their power over us.

While I still miss Comet immensely, I know that he went peacefully to a place where he is not suffering in a sick body anymore. I am left here without him to cuddle with, and yet I can still bring forth that joy that he unlocked. Thank you, Comet, for being such a wonderful presence in our lives for the last nine years.

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If you read my last blog, then you know that my family is currently dealing with cancer in our 8-year old Golden Retriever, Comet. Two months ago, Comet underwent emergency surgery for internal bleeding, and it turned out he had a highly malignant tumor on his spleen. At that time, we were told that dogs with this disease had an average lifespan post-surgery of 30 days without chemotherapy, and with chemotherapy it would be 4 – 6 months. We opted for chemotherapy, and are now 2 months into this journey.
 
And quite a journey it has been. When we first got the news, we were devastated. Comet has been part of our family for 8 years, and the thought of losing him seemed unbelievable and unbearable. With time, though, I have begun to process this and have had some amazing realizations around it. For one thing, we could have 4 – 6 months with him left and not even know it. None of us knows what the future will hold, yet we all go along thinking that our lives will always be the way they are today – living in the illusion that life is infinite, even while we know intellectually that it is finite. Why does knowing there is an end in sight change things? I thought deeply about this in the days following his diagnoses. What would I do if I suddenly knew I had just 4 – 6 months to live? What would be on my bucket list?
 
We don’t have a choice about Comet’s condition. We don’t get a say in how long he will live. But we do have a choice as to how we react to the news. We can go around bemoaning  our fate and being depressed and sad about it. Or we can embrace the time we have left and be grateful for it. Since Comet’s diagnosis, I have been cultivating my ability to live in the present at a much deeper level. Every day with him is a gift right now, and I am grateful for this time. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted – and that has actually translated into my whole life. None of us knows what’s in store, and the more we can be present with and grateful for what we have today, the less regrets we will have tomorrow.
 
Today, Comet went in for his third chemotherapy treatment and I had an interesting conversation with the Vet. He told me that the goal for cancer treatment in dogs is different than for humans. For people, doctors try to eradicate the cancer completely, even if it means that the person is miserable from the treatments. Sometimes that works, and if the person is cancer-free for 5 years they are declared “cured” or a “cancer survivor”, and sometimes it doesn’t. For dogs, however, the goal (at least for this type of cancer) is to find a balance that will give them a prolonged life with good quality.The dosages of the cancer-fighting drugs are lower with the hope that the cancer can be suppressed for a while to enable the dog to have a decent quality of life for whatever amount of time they have left. 
 
That seems to be working for Comet for now. He is content and doesn’t seem to be in any pain. He has had a mild reaction to the chemotherapy drugs, but nothing like what people usually experience. We continue to take life a day at a time with him, and make each day count. I know we will miss him tremendously when he is no longer with us, but nothing can take away the love that he has given us and continues to give us each day he is still here. 
 
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As we get older, none of us are strangers to loss and death. It is an inevitable part of life. And it is never the right time, nor does it get any easier as we get older. Part of living is learning to accept this cycle and recognize that nothing in life is permanent, no matter how tightly we try to hold on. This is the one of the unavoidable truths of life.

My family is facing this now, as we just recently said goodbye to my husband’s stepmother, Barbara, and now we also look at a future without our 8 year old Golden Retriever, Comet. Comet has been a member of our family since he was 4 weeks old, and frankly, I cannot even imagine life without him.

Last week, we attended a memorial service for Barbara, and then several days later, Comet had emergency surgery because of a bleeding tumor in his abdomen. The surgery saved his life, but now he has been diagnosed with a very nasty and virulent type of cancer, and even with treatment, probably the best we can expect to get is 4 – 6 months more time with him. I am stunned by this news, yet also grateful that we will have a little time to process it all and to say good-bye. We almost lost him last week, but since the surgery, he is doing much better and we now have time to face this with him, rather than without him.

Three years ago, we lost our first Golden Retriever, Clyde, at age 13. I was devastated at the time, but had Comet there to help me through. Ironically, two days ago, when I got the call from the surgeon telling me the diagnosis and how grim the statistics were, there was Comet again, right by my side. I was in tears, and he was there to comfort me, completely unaware that I was crying for the eventual loss of him.

That is Comet in a nutshell. He has been trained as a Therapy Dog, and he knows how to make others feel better. His presence is so serene and so profound. I can’t explain how he does it, but people feel better around him. As Barbara was declining with Dementia in recent years, Comet would go with us frequently to visit with her, and she always seemed to come to life when he was there. This was one of the reasons that I thought he would make a wonderful Therapy Dog.

A few weeks ago, on one of our visits to an Assisted Living facility, one of the women there looked me in the eye and said “You just ENJOY him while you have him! They don’t last forever, you know.” I didn’t think much of it at the time, though little did I know how portentous that was…

Shortly after Clyde died, I wrote the following in a blog:

“Through my work as a Yoga teacher I have been exposed to many facets of yogic philosophy, and one of the things that Yoga teaches is that the biggest fear we have is the fear of death. As I watched Clyde at the end, though, I could see how peaceful he was and how he just wanted to be free of the constraints and pains of his body. There was no fear for him. It was much worse for those of us left behind with a gaping hole that will never quite fill in all the way. Even though I knew that Clyde was not going to be around forever, and even though I thought I was "prepared" to lose him, I still miss his wagging tail that never stopped. Wherever you go, Clyde, I wish for you that your tail wags forever...”

Well, that big gaping hole is about to get much larger. All we can do is ENJOY the next few months with Comet while he is feeling good and able to enjoy his life. We will do our best to help him live his life to the fullest.

And when he starts to suffer, we will take solace in the fact that he has given us way more than we could have ever imagined. He has taught us about unconditional love, and he has helped me be a better listener and a better person.

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Click here to read this blog, written by one of our teachers, Carol Waite. Carol is now teaching Monday mornings at Tranquility Yoga! 

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