When I first learned that Kristi was going to reach the spiritual retreat exactly two weeks after me, I cried like a baby for the first half hour of my retreat. She and I met at this same retreat exactly a year ago and it was an instant love story. We had fallen in love with each other the moment we had seen each other. For the rest of the retreat she was my beautiful Alaskan retreat mother and I was her retreat daughter. We had shared some beautiful bonding moments, which will always be close to my heart.
I was mentally kicking myself for not texting her and letting her know about my October retreat plans but my plan was very last minute. I kept wondering why she never told me about her plans either. (Maybe she will after she reads this blog. :)) I wiped my tears and just convinced myself that this is how it was meant to happen. Even if we knew each other’s plans, we probably wouldn’t be able to coordinate our stay together. I told myself that this is not what spiritual retreats are meant to be. They are not preplanned get-togethers…at least not planned by us anyway. I just felt thankful that I had an opportunity to meet her when I did and went back into the cottage to face the new retreat participants from this year.
Last day of my spiritual retreat
Our phones, which were taken away from us before the beginning of the retreat, were handed back to us before it was time to leave the retreat. We still had two hours with each other. I told her that I was going to add her on Facebook. And I did. My first reaction when I saw her on FB was, “What? Is this really her? Is this how she looks when she doesn’t look like how she looks now?” And I believe this is exactly what Irina would think about me at the very moment she would accept my friend request.
That moment was when the reality struck me hard. It was time to go back to the world where we would again look like our FB profile pictures. At the retreat we were around each other in our simplest avatars. Nobody felt the need to have their make-up on, straighten their hair, wear accessories, or be who they are not…the things that the outside world forces us to do to fit in. We walked around each other in regular t-shirts, pajamas, shawls and other simple clothes.
Hidden in the beautiful Texan hill country, we found ourselves in a beautiful cottage that was going to be our spiritual home for the next week or two. We were requested to keep communication to the minimum and maintain silence. This was supposed to be our retreat into the Self through silence. We only talked to each other if it was necessary. We were going to be one spiritual family for the rest of our stay.
We belonged to different states, countries and age groups but it didn’t matter. We all had the same goal in our hearts. Although we spent the entire day in silence, there were few minutes in a day when we allowed ourselves to share a few words, laughs and also our food. Whenever we talked, we only found ourselves sharing our enthusiasm and love for spirituality, meditation and Heartfulness. That was our life. We couldn’t think of anything else. It was our oxygen!
We had learned to do things for each other very quickly even without the other person asking for it. The comfort and well being of the other person came first. We had truly become a spiritual family. We were all away from our own families, pets, friends etc.… living on a remote ranch in the middle of nowhere in the hill country.
Neither of us talked or even merely hinted about missing the outside world. While that feeling was real, what we were given at the present moment was even more important. Our time at the retreat was limited and each one of us hoped to achieve a lot during our stay. There was so much work to do on ourselves. Each one of us was going through a spiritual process in our own way. It was intense, powerful and beautiful at the same time. We all shared the same joy of the process. So how could we not bond? How can one not forever bond with the people who equally share a life-changing experience with them? After all, none of us was going to be the same person that had walked into retreat. We would all go back with more spiritual awareness, more courage, more realization, and most of all – more Love in our hearts.
The first time I met Irina, she gave me the sweetest smile and I smiled back. I was the third participant out of four to arrive at the retreat that week. I found myself sharing my food with her the same night that I had arrived. I also found myself enjoying her tasty Russian recipes everyday. (I actually found myself trying everybody’s cooking at the retreat and my loving sisters happily pampered me.) One afternoon, Irina and I walked towards the swing in the yard and sat there and talked. Yes, we were not supposed to talk but something deep down said that it was necessary to speak to her. There is something valuable she has for me. She is here for a reason and we met for a purpose.
We talked, we shared, we laughed and we also cried. With every word she spoke, she was healing me little by little. She knew exactly what I needed to hear and she guided me through it. Sometimes she stopped in between and said that her English was not perfect… exactly when I was thinking how beautiful she makes English sound with her Russian accent. Language wasn’t the thing that was really connecting us at that moment. It was the Love that made us understand each other. By the time she finished, I felt my heart blooming inside me. She had taken away a huge unknown burden simply by talking to me. She was radiating beautiful motherly Love. We hugged and walked back to the cottage together with a deep knowingness in our eyes. We knew that we would be bonded forever, here and beyond.
I finally knew why Kristi and I hadn’t met… because Nature had sent another retreat mother for me this time. I was richer by one more spiritual mother. Maybe there will be another daughter waiting for Kristi when she comes to the retreat in two weeks.
Each one of us knew that it was time to go back to our homes. We would meet again sooner or later. Until then we would stay in each other’s lives through technology. We may probably be looking at each other’s illusionary FB pictures for a long time till we actually meet in person again. But it did not matter anymore. It did not matter if we saw each other in funny Halloween costumes or with eyes full of make-up… for we had seen deeply into each other’s eyes and found the same source of Love residing in them.
I have been practicing the Heartfulness meditation since 2008. In last 7-8 years of practicing Heartfulness, I have understood one thing about myself; and it is the fact that I am constantly living life on the edge. I have learned that like everything else, spirituality also pushes us out of our comfort zone more than we realize it.
I used to believe that doing and learning different things and activities added new experiences to my life and helped build confidence by dragging me out of my comfort zone. While it is all true, I did not think the same about spirituality or my meditation practice until recently.
In July, I posted the story of my dog Maahi and her courageous journey through paralysis. Maahi took us through a very different and unexpected journey of our own. She showed me some very beautiful shades of life, not often seen or felt unless one becomes a part of the picture. She was not only healing from her own sickness but she was also healing me in many ways. Right from the very beginning of her paralysis, I looked at the entire situation as a spiritual experience.
While looking at the ordeal as a spiritual blessing, I also realized that my understanding about life and the people in my life was growing at a fast pace. I went through a gamut of emotions and feelings like hurt, pain, misunderstandings, love, sympathy, empathy, care and support. The most beautiful thing about all these feelings was that I had learned to accept people around me for who they were. I learned to accept their limits. People are not necessarily good or bad because they may or may not be able to empathize with you and your problems. Not being able to dive into your pain and feeling it the way you feel does not make our friends and family lesser human beings. After all, these were not their experiences. This was my life-lesson. It was mine to face and come out stronger on the other side of the situation.
Empathy plays a very significant role in my life. Being deeply empathetic towards everyone and everything is a quality I have been blessed with from the very beginning. And the practice of Heartfulness had helped me to grow this quality even more. Meditation had pushed me out of my comfort zone and had expanded my heart even more. When our heart is expanding spiritually, it is learning to accommodate something new within itself. With every new and powerful life-experience, I find love overflowing from my heart. I see in myself a renewed eagerness to embrace life with this newfound love. In the past, every single time when I overcame a difficult situation with spiritual support, I could actually feel the ongoing process of my spiritual evolution within me. It felt really good to grow, expand, and embrace Love like never before. And the process never stops! Every time, I feel like “this is it; this is the maximum love my heart can give and receive”, I surprise myself by being able to love even more greatly and deeply than before. Love has no limits!
That’s when I realized that we all tend to have a spiritual comfort zone within us and as we proceed in our journey within ourselves, we constantly find ourselves in new arenas where we are challenged, tested, and pushed further out of our comfort zones only to realize that beyond our comfort zone lies another beautiful zone waiting to be conquered and embraced. Love waits for us at every step, just like we wait for Love.
Some people thought that we were fools to hold on to a paralyzed dog for so long. I was advised to put her down because they said she was drastically bringing down the quality of my life. Some asked me if I was going to bring a new dog home because “this one stopped walking.” Some also told me that this is exactly why they hated pets. And there were some people whom I considered very close to me who did not even respond back when I told them about her paralysis. I was met by cold silence. She did not matter to them; I did not matter.
Simultaneously, there existed another group of people in my life who checked on me and her every single day while we went through this ordeal. These extremely passionate people stood by my side hand in hand and shared my burden. Hugs, encouragement, prayers, toys, texts, and success stories were showered on us by these friends. Some friends drove all the way from other cities to meet her while some even volunteered to be with her if needed, while we were not at home. And some of these were complete strangers who got to know about her through my friends.
April 9th 2015 was the last day I saw my 6 year old dog Maahi walk. Maahi had been limping slightly for a day before that. We thought it was just her usual limp from too much playing in the yard and it would get better with some rest. On the morning of April 10th I was overcome with fatigue and I decided not to go to work. I wanted to sleep all day. I sent an email to my supervisor and told him that I would not show up that day. I planned to rest all day and do nothing. My final semester of MBA and the new internship had been more demanding than I had imagined.
As I got ready to go back to bed, I heard Maahi’s blood curdling howl from the living room. I rushed towards her and saw her howling in pain. I had never heard a dog scream like that before. What made things even worse was not understanding what was bothering her. I thought it was her toe but she seemed fine when I touched it. It was something else. Maahi would not stop howling. My eyes welled up with tears because I did not know how to comfort my baby. She was too big for me to carry to my car and drive to the vet. I desperately called my husband at work and asked him to come home right away.
He came home and we carried her to the car and started driving to the vet’s office. Maahi was on my lap in the car but still howling in great pain. I held on to her to comfort her but it probably hurt her. She snapped at me and bit me on my left shoulder only to realize that she had hurt the person that she loved the most. But that was the only way she could tell me I was hurting her. I still couldn’t tell which part of her body was in pain.
Everything happened within a few seconds but I noticed a very deep emotion in her eyes. As soon as she bit me and released her hold on my shoulder, I saw a different kind of pain in her eyes. The pain of biting her mom. The guilt of hurting her favorite human. I am never going to forget that face as long as I live. It was a testimony of the highest canine emotion…probably even higher than any human emotion.
Maahi’s vets did not waste any time in telling us that she had rapidly progressed to the final stage of paralysis in the hind legs. They sent us straight to the surgeon’s office. Maahi was diagnosed with a herniated disc between her 5th and 6th vertebrae. She went through a major spinal cord surgery for IVDD on the same night. The surgery was successful but Maahi was still paralyzed in her hind legs.
I did not know what to make of the whole situation. Everything was happening so fast that I couldn’t think straight. Her vets said that she had progressed to the final stage of paralysis and needed surgery. I kept asking them, “But when did the initial stage of paralysis begin? How does a dog go directly to a final stage of paralysis with a minor limp? How did she have a herniated disc without a going through a severe trauma?” Some questions did not have an answer.
We repeatedly asked Maahi’s surgeon if she would walk again. The surgeon said she couldn’t tell us anything right then or make false promises to us. She prescribed some exercises and asked to pray for patience and not to give up on our pup. Maahi would have to stay in the ICU for next five days and then go home with us. We were asked to visit her on all five days and learn how to express her urinary bladder manually because she had lost all the motor control to the hind side of her body.
Next five days were challenging for us. On the first day both my husband and I failed miserably to express her bladder. We just couldn’t master it. I thought I was a bad mom who couldn’t even help her own pup to pee. On the second day we made slight progress. We kept getting better each day. I was more worried because the vet technicians told us that Maahi will not be discharged until one of us mastered how to express her bladder. If we did not express it properly, she would end up with an urinary tract infection (UTI) which was extremely common in paralyzed dogs.
Finally, we had both mastered it but my hands and shoulders had started hurting only within two weeks of expressing her bladder 3-4 times per day.
For almost three months we went through an experience that is difficult to explain in mere human words. I used to wake up every morning and see my child paralyzed. She had also lost her bladder control so she used to be soaked in her own urine and feces every morning. Maahi had an UTI as soon as she came home from the ICU after her surgery. Having an UTI meant she would pee every 10 minutes in her bed. It only meant more work for us till the UTI got treated. We had to constantly change her beddings and get them cleaned. We washed her quilts, blankets, and harnesses so often in three months that I feared breaking my washing machine and dryer. We found ourselves disinfecting our home all the time because on some days it smelled like a public restroom.
It was also the week of finals for my last semester of MBA. I studied in the ICU and went to school directly from the ICU and answered my exams and again went back to see Maahi. Maahi’s hospital, my home, school, and work were at four different corners of the city. My manager was unhappy with my performance because my job needed immense creativity which had completely left me during this crisis. Simultaneously serious visa issues crept into the scene and lowered my morale even more.
Moving my body from point A to point B had become difficult. Motivation had left me. I lost my appetite for 2 long months; I lost 15 lbs and it didn’t even matter. I had not slept in ages. My other dog Neo had grown into a mature man all of a sudden. When his sister came home from the hospital he knew she was not the same. She did not play with him anymore. They did not chase squirrels in the backyard together. He saw that my husband and I were expressing Maahi’s urinary bladder with our hands to make her pee. His confusion soon changed into maturity and he became a responsible younger brother. We knew he was being slightly neglected but I did my best to distribute my time and energy to everyone and everything that needed my attention.
The worst part of having a paralyzed dog is actually accepting the fact that your furkid is really paralyzed; and seeing her drag herself around on her butt. When her surgeon and physiotherapists referred to her as a paraplegic dog, I used to look around to see if there was a paraplegic dog nearby and then suddenly it used to hit me that we were all discussing my baby who I had raised since she was only two months old. How dare they call her a paraplegic dog?? In my eyes she was a perfect golden chow-lab mix mini-lion.
It has now been a little over 3 months and we are still working with her and doing everything we can to make her walk again. Maahi now goes to a rehabilitation center twice a week to get her aquapaws therapy. At the rehabilitation center, Maahi is placed on an underwater treadmill. I was told that water helps build resistance in the muscles. Dropping her off to a rehab that was located very far from home and then going straight to work had become a tiring routine but I wasn’t willing to give up on her. On some days I carried extra pair of clothes and shoes in case she lost her bladder control.
People often asked me how I was holding up and what kept me going. My only answer to them was Love. Nothing but Love for my Lover kept me going. Maahi means Lover in an Indian language. 🙂
I agree that we had been through an experience that is beyond explanation. We were put through a test that needed extreme endurance. I shed silent tears in my car on many mornings when I left home. I did not want Maahi or Neo to see me crying because they always knew when I was sad. I did not want my sadness to come in the way of her healing process in any way. I was scared for her and I was scared for us having to go through with this situation forever if she never walked at all. But I never showed my weaker side to my loved ones. I learned to share only my strength.
We stumbled upon numerous obstacles in our way but we stumbled upon our strength more than anything else. The strength that we did not know we had in the first place but had only hoped to have in us. We came out as better human beings on the other side of this situation – ones with never-ending love and empathy. Maahi has endured the most and there is not one day that passes without me looking at her proudly. With time my fears began to change. I told myself that I would take care of Maahi even if she was paralyzed as long as she lives. I had found my new normal. The situation had stopped looking like a problem anymore. I had made peace with it. I had surrendered to the Universe in true sense.
And that is when things started changing. By the end of the third month, Maahi stood up for the first time on her own. She was able to hold her own weight on her hind legs. A week later she decided that dragging her butt on the ground was not cool anymore so she tried to walk. Her little brother Neo motivated her. He encouraged her. He threw toys at her and called her to play. He often did their “squirrel-chase dance” to get her to chase squirrels in the backyard with him. And finally one day Maahi walked!! She got up and walked straight to her rope toy; picked it and went to her usual corner to chew on it. Her left leg is still weak but she manages to walk for a minute or two at a stretch. She is a like a child that has discovered walking again. She cannot wait to explore every corner of the house. I know deep in my heart that she will make it and we will only encourage her and ourselves to fight this battle.
Maahi did not endure in vain. She taught me the biggest lesson of my life. She made me actually live my biggest belief. I always say that “there is always hope” and today I have my own miracle story to back it up. I also realized that the Universe began working for me the minute I learned to respect its plans for me. When I trusted Nature, Nature trusted me. Surrendering to it calmly was the most beautiful feeling I have ever experienced. I will always be thankful to Maahi for taking me through this journey of love, hope, empathy, and patience. I also made peace in my heart about the people who completely refused to understand our situation and showed us absolutely no empathy. After one goes through such a huge life-changing journey other issues start looking very small and insignificant. I pray for Love to grow in their hearts.
I write this blog in honor of Maahi and her fighting spirit. I write this blog in honor of the Love that each one of us carries in our hearts. Finally, I write this blog for the pets and their parents who have gone through similar journeys and never given up. We would have never been able to make it so far without watching videos and reading articles of your success stories. If you are another dog parent going through a similar situation, I want to tell you one thing – giving up is not even an option for you. The day you bring your pup home, you make a promise to it for lifetime. If you decide to fight for hope, then doors Will open and help Will arrive! All you need to do is have faith and patience!
P.S.:-I will be posting Maahi’s updates and latest pics in months to come. 🙂
Maahi’s update – 1/25/2016
Maahi slowly continues to improve. Her right leg is completely functional now. We are still working on the left one. She manages to walk around the house and the yard slowly along with her brother Neo. They have begun exploring the backyard again as a team. There are times when she tries to run but her vet has advised her not to go crazy yet. She gets mad at me when only Neo goes out for long walks and she is stuck in the backyard. I try telling her that its for her own good and soon we will all go out on long walks together. And just to prove me wrong, few weeks ago she climbed the stairs and showed me how strong she had become. I was shocked and happy at the same time to see her climb the stairs again but we try to limit her activity for her own safety. Here are some of her latest pics.
During the last few weeks I have been noticing a dramatic change in the people around me. Some of my close friends and family members suddenly started exhibiting the most undesirable qualities that one can portray. Most of these people were either screaming, shouting, using offensive language, trying to tell me how wrongly I was behaving and how I was at fault for whatever situation we were facing. I could not understand what was happening to the people around me. Why had I suddenly become the bad guy in every person’s story?
If this wasn’t enough, I was also becoming sensitive to some television programs. I have never watched a lot of television in my life but whenever I do, I am unable to stand violence, blood, ghosts and zombies. Offensive language in the television programs and movies has become extremely unbearable. In fact offensive language from anyone has been troubling me these days. Even simple things said by friends have started sounding all wrong to me. When they say things like, “I have done so much for this project and I think I Deserve to be rewarded for it” or when they ask casual questions like “So what else is giving you Pleasure in life?”, I feel nauseated.
With all this happening around me, I really started thinking if I was the one to be blamed for what was going on with people around me? Why had I become so sensitive to everything? Why did simple things that people said and asked sound so wrong to me? I kept pondering over this for many hours but I couldn’t get any answers. Finally, when no answer came from within, I was ready to accept the blame and conclude that maybe it really was me who was triggering these unpalatable situations. Maybe I was doing something wrong. Maybe I was making people scream and shout for reasons I am still unaware of.
I felt sad about what I had discovered and thought to myself, “Why was all this happening to me? In spite of following a sincere spiritual life and meditating regularly for so many years, why is everyone upset with me?” Something did not feel right. I was unable to connect the dots and so I asked myself loudly, “Is it really me? What have I done to change my loved ones?”
And then finally, the answer came! Something inside me said, “Yes. It is you! You are the one who is to be blamed here. The people around you haven’t changed. They are the same. You have changed. Do you not realize that you used to be one of them; doing exactly the same things that they do? Do you not remember your days of loud arguments, impatience, and anger? Do you not remember the days when you ate meat and consumed alcohol? Do you not remember looking in the mirror and admiring yourself for hours?”
I was surprised at the answer that came from within me. While all these facts were true, they are a distant past and I do not remember or embrace these habits anymore. Anger has left me ages ago. I have given up on meat and alcohol; not forcefully but very naturally and happily. I stopped looking at my face in the mirror and admiring my own reflection because many times what stared back at me was a sad reality of my inner self. Through meditation, I had been able to see my soul engulfed in layers of ego and I couldn’t wait anymore to get rid of those layers. So none of these things mattered anymore. I finally realized that with every single meditation sitting, I was becoming lighter. And the lighter I became, heavier the people around me became.
I was able to feel the solidity and grossness that other people carried within themselves. The inappropriate language that people used in their day to day life had begun shocking me. People’s unreasonable expectations, hopes, wishes, deeds, and words were simply being flung into the universe without a minute’s pause. I had started worrying about Nature and how we are affecting it by our actions only because we can. I had become spiritually sensitive to everything around me.
I questioned myself if this was a good development or a bad one. I decided it was neither. It was just a phase in my spiritual evolution. My spiritual Master has often said that when we change from inside, the outside world also changes. I had only heard this sentence being quoted often but I never had a chance to experience it. I used to believe that when I become loving, kind, and caring deep inside, my outside world will also start reflecting the same changes. While this is true, I have realized that this change will not happen overnight. First I have to be the change myself, set an example by being and doing, give others a chance to observe and absorb the change that I have become, and then wait patiently for them to change.
I still have a long way to go. And while I am on my beautiful spiritual journey, I am going to wait patiently for my loved ones till they are ready to embark on their own journey. Being disappointed, annoyed or shocked at their actions or words is not even an option. I was one of them years ago; maybe worse. It only means they can change too and I know in my heart that they will.
Now that I know what is going on around me and within me, I do not feel disturbed anymore when people do what they do. I smile and I remind myself that I am waiting for them and I will wait as long as I am needed to wait. When Nature has waited so patiently for me for so many years; probably for lifetimes, how can I not wait?
Coming from a family of notable authors, my home had always been full of books. Sometimes, I even convince myself that when I first opened my eyes in this world, the first thing I laid my eyes on must have been a book. Books and reading have always been a strong passion for me. Everybody in my family, be it the elders or the kids has always loved reading and they still do. Reading has always been encouraged in my family.
At a very young age, I started reading psychology, metaphysics, philosophy, religions, civilizations, and of course my favorite J.R.R. Tolkien. I couldn’t get enough of it. I always knew too much about the deeper aspects of life compared to my age group. I took pride in being so well-read for my age. I knew I was a unique youngster who had her own land of books to go back to when I was done dealing with the illusions of life for the day.
As time flew by, I became a voracious reader and a thinker. I began creating a massive library of my own. In that library were some masterpieces of which I was very proud. Every book made me wonder more and more. I was filled with awe about the books and the stories that were actually in motion on the pages of these books. I respected my books immensely. I couldn’t even make myself share my books with my friends because I knew they wouldn’t respect my books like I did and would not return them in the same pristine condition. They wouldn’t understand that each and every book was breathing a story.
With all that reading, I began asking some serious questions about life and creation. I began challenging the theories that existed for many generations. My mother used to worry about my deep thinking process. None of the people in my life were able to completely answer my questions. Even some older people from the respective fields had disappointed me. I continued reading. I believed books were my only solace and sooner or later they would help me discover the answers to my questions.
Then one day in 2008, I found myself meditating with a group of people at my school. I was a graduate student and I was looking for a cheap source of spiritual training because I couldn’t afford to pay for another class in addition to my tuition. A Heartfulness meditation trainer on campus introduced me and my friends to the practice of meditation free of charge. It has been more than eight years since I first started meditating.
Few years after that, I began working on a beautiful island. I learned that there was an old age home on that island that was in the process of creating a library for its occupants. They were looking for book donations. That evening I came home with the intention of donating some unwanted books from my personal library to the library on the island. I began choosing and picking my donation books very carefully and started putting them in boxes. I was done with the process within an hour. Once my books were packed, I turned and looked at the empty space on my shelf and I suddenly realized that I had packed my entire collection for the old people’s home.
That moment was one of the most powerful life-changing moments of my life. While I stared at that empty book shelf; the book shelf stared back at the “empty me.” I stood there in silence finally accepting my reality. Ever since I began meditating, the void inside me was being filled by something much bigger than the so-called knowledge and wisdom that I used to derive from my books. The answers to questions that I used to seek from my books and learned scholars were being answered during meditation. The pride that I used to feel for being so well-read had left me long ago; especially when I realized that whatever I knew had never been able to answer my own questions. My ego of being a young owner of an exotic library was lying at my feet in the form of packed boxes of books.
Both, my books and I knew that it was time to move on. That moment had arrived where we would go on to find our new paths. They had played the necessary role in my life forming a strong base for spirituality to enter my life. I will always be thankful to them for that. But it was now time for them to enter somebody else’s life and create a base for that individual to learn, understand, and appreciate the knowledge and wisdom that was waiting to happen to them through these books.
As for me, I knew I had become completely empty just like my book shelf. I was a clean slate now… waiting for Nature to write its story on me. In fact, today I am on such a beautiful spiritual journey that I have myself become the story. Through meditation, Nature has bestowed upon me its Grace where I can write, read, and be my own story. I am no longer left agitated when my questions are not answered because for the very first time in my life, I have realized that I am my own question and I am my own answer. I am.