During the 49-Day Hridaya Silent Meditation Retreat, the penetrating question “What does it mean to be human?” was ever present in my heart. Ironically, a deep answer to this question came through the story of my cat Lilus.
Antoaneta, my teacher and neighbor, found Lilus on a Mazunte street. When she went to Europe, she left me this most charming kitty with huge eyes that seemed to contain the mysteries of the universe.
When Lilus came into my life I was going through a deep pain of separation. I spent whole days in a hammock watching the ocean. I stayed in a cabaña on a small hill and I often felt so weak that the only motivation to go down to the village was to get food for Lilus. He didn’t really need it. He was an excellent hunter, but he liked to be served. At the beginning, he was so impatient that he used to bite my feet when I put tuna fish, yogurt, and cat biscuits on his plates. But after a few months of meditation, he became the most loving cat in San Agustinillo.
We used to meditate together in the morning. He would lie down by my side and was so incredibly beautiful that I couldn’t close my eyes. Touching him felt like submerging my fingers in an ocean of softness, and his purring was the voice of God: the most tender medicine for my broken heart.
I invented a game for us that I called “a slave of love.” I took Lilus to the hammock and there he tried to escape from my hug. I surrounded him with my arms and legs and he sought his way out, purring with delight. When he wanted to end the game, he communicated it with his voice. He never lost his temper, he never used his claws, he was always extremely careful with me.
Lilus was the happiest and freest creature I had ever met. He didn’t know what fear was. He lived in the Garden of Eden and he took me there with him. By his side, I could feel the taste of a world untouched by suffering.
When the Hridaya Teacher Training Course started, Lilus would wait for me at the bottom of our hill and then we would go up to the cabaña together. Sometimes I saw him from a distance running towards me. He knew my steps, he knew my voice, and he knew that I always came back.
He didn’t know that the time of our separation was coming. I was going to do the 49-Day Retreat and then return to Europe. My future was unknown, and I didn’t have a home to share with him. In fact, I couldn’t even imagine putting him in a cage and taking him away from his paradise. He was never limited by anything.
Antoaneta was back, she was my neighbor again, and I left Lilus with her when the high season started. I visited him almost every day. But he changed. He would run towards me, but at the last moment he would stop and turn to the side. He sat down with his back turned. When I walked away he followed me, but when I tried to take him into my arms he escaped. Love and pain were doing their work in his heart. He was confused… trapped between the longing for my presence and the wound of abandonment.
Some nights I sat down on the stairs of our hill for a long time, waiting for Lilus. Sometimes I could see him observing me from a distance. My heart was aching because I knew that I broke his. And I knew that there was no way I could save him from this suffering. He fell in love with a human and he lost his innocence. He ate from a tree forbidden for cats. He tasted the pain of love. His wounded heart couldn’t find the way back to the Garden of Eden.
Lilus experienced the pain of every human being. His story revealed the answer to my question. I understood that to be a human means to be born with a broken heart.
We come into this world with the wound of love and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. This is our human condition. We can fight with this pain, rage, or cry, but we cannot save ourselves from it. Most of us will feel this pain all our lives. What can we do about it? Accept it. There is no other way. No matter how much we want to escape from it, there is no exit. The human realm contains light and darkness.
Is it a tragic destiny? It depends how we perceive this wound. Meditation shows us that both light and darkness can be full of Beauty. Pain can expand our hearts and take us beyond the ego. Vulnerability guides us towards the mystery of existence. Sadness can open us to compassion. Weakness brings us closer to others. The wound of love can become the path of love. While walking deeper into the Self we can discover “joy in the heart when sorrow appears.” By embracing the wound of love, we surrender. We lose control. By accepting the pain we accept life itself.
Sahajananda says that the finite human drama appears as an injury of life, a wound of eternity. In meditation we can feel this wound directly. There comes a moment when the pain deep within does not seem to be related to any specific event. It is formless, raw ache. There is something that hurts deep inside our hearts, something that makes us so soft and vulnerable. It is mysterious, melancholic, and beautiful… like the trembling of the leaves on a stormy day. When we get in touch with this pain, we feel so delicate… we become the sirens pulled out of the ocean. The longing for home breaks us into little pieces, and then a moment comes when we don’t know who we are anymore. There is only this overwhelming longing, like a little baby is crying inside. The most transparent tears give birth to pure innocence and compassion, taking us beyond our limits and carrying us toward Infinity.
During the first ten days of the 49-Day Retreat, I stayed in a small cabaña across the street from the Hridaya Center. One night I woke up with the feeling that someone was in my house. I reached my arm out and he was there! Lilus was sleeping on my bed, next to my chest! He had crossed the street, come up the hill, and somehow opened the balcony door—a door that no other cat could open. I submerged my fingers in his fur and divine music came out of his throat. We were in the Garden of Eden again!
P.S. Lilus fell in love with Beauty and is now the father of 3 beautiful kittens.