When I was in my mid-twenties, I had a beautiful dog. I’m sure some of you have had pets that you deeply loved. I had this wonderful dog, and he was a constant companion. He went with me everywhere. Any room I went to in the house, he followed me. Anywhere I went in the car, he was my companion. We were together almost all the time.
And then he developed a form of epilepsy, at which time I took him to the vet. They tried to give him medication to treat it, but the question of how much medication to take or not take is sort of an art. We were just starting to treat him, and after a few weeks, I came home, and he was in the midst of an epileptic fit. And the fit didn’t stop. It went on and on and on, and there was no way to save him. Eventually, he ended up having to be put down.
This was one of the saddest moments in my life. Prior to that moment, I’d experienced some amount of grief in my life. I’ve had grandparents die and friends die, and sometimes people very close to me die, but I was never affected like I was when I lost this great companion. I found myself in deep sorrow — a sorrow that I couldn’t really understand, because I’d never experienced it before.
One afternoon, some friends, family and I went out in the back yard for a final goodbye. I had my dog’s collar and a few other things that had belonged to him, and we put them in a box. I had written out what I wanted to say, and as I began to read his eulogy, I began to weep — tears just started pouring out of my eyes. At some point, the grief was so immense that I decided to just completely give in to it. I completely let go into this great well of sorrow and grief.
I was crying and crying, while still trying to continue with the eulogy. And then something very mysterious happened, something that I didn’t expect at all: right in the middle of this immense grief and sadness, right at the point of the heart in my chest, there was this very small pinprick of light. And right in the midst of this pinprick of light, there was a smile. I could literally almost see a smile in my mind in this pinprick of light.
When it started, it was just a small point within this vast expanse of grief and sorrow. But as I kept crying, as I kept speaking the eulogy, this point of happiness began to expand. After a few minutes, this point of happiness had vastly grown and become absolutely immense, and there was this very strange, paradoxical experience. On one hand, I was enmeshed in this deep state of grief and sadness. But at the very same moment, there was a greater happiness and a greater sense of well-being than I’d ever experienced in my life.
It was one of the most profound experiences I’d ever had. What it revealed to me was that even in the deepest states of darkness, even in the most intense states of loss, grief, or depression, we can find some measure of happiness and well-being when we really open to the difficult feelings, when we really let go of our resistance, when we completely let go of trying to contain those painful experiences, when we finally just allow them to be there, to be as overwhelming as they may want to be. The peace and happiness can arise when we profoundly let go, when we really decide to stop struggling.
I’ve told this story many times, and I’ve received many letters and cards from people who’ve shared similar experiences. I received a letter from one person who had been lost in a deep depression for decades, until one day she decided to stop — to stop struggling, to stop trying to push it away, but also to stop indulging in it, to stop feeding it — just to simply stop.
In the moment of stopping, something completely unexpected was born: the opposite showed up. As deep as her depression was, there arose this sense of well-being when it was met fully. It’s not like the depression just went away and disappeared forever, but it began to exist simultaneously within a field of absolute well-being. When the depression exists within a state of well-being, one is not overwhelmed anymore. As time went on, at least for this person, the depression began to wane. It’s as if the depression had something to give itself up to; it could let go into well-being.
This phenomenon of finding well-being amidst the difficult isn’t something that most people have experienced, because they haven’t really ever stopped trying to grasp at or push away a certain quality of thinking and feeling. If you just completely surrender to the emotions or thoughts, you will see the invitation there, the invitation to wake up from your idea of yourself and the whole emotional environment with which you identify. There is a way that you can really stop.
The truth is that a whole new state of consciousness already exists, that every part of your experience that’s unfolding right now is already enclosed within absolute stillness, absolute ease. And so there really isn’t anywhere to go or anything for which to search.
Struggle only gets us deeper into the very thing we’re trying to escape. This is a very important thing to know about egoic consciousness: The harder we try to get out, the deeper we dig ourselves in.