Lion, Friend, Father, Me, and Death

Who would you be without your story about death?

Several weeks ago, a dear inquirer wrote to ask me to talk about the poaching incident of Cecil the Lion.

If you haven’t heard of this before, a beloved lion was killed in Zimbabwe last June.

Animal cruelty is a huge topic of stress and pain for people.

I’ve heard people do The Work often on the suffering of animals.

It’s odd, but for me personally I’ve wondered why I don’t have any worksheets on animals getting hurt or killed.

Somehow, the death and life and death and life cycle with animals, even when cruel, feels like the way of it for me.

It’s not like I haven’t cared for an animal ever. I had an animal I loved very much when I was growing up. Our family dog Albert.

We also had mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, cats and rabbits at various times, and I remember many dying.

But whatever your thoughts, when they are stressful and you feel pain, you can take them to inquiry.

I honor and understand anyone’s experience when they see animals and their suffering, and feel suffering themselves.

So what are your beliefs?

  • It shouldn’t have happened
  • The person who killed Cecil was horrible, wrong, a murderer
  • Cecil should have lived
  • Cecil should have been protected
  • This is a tragedy
  • The killing must stop

These thoughts are the same as in war, or about human life, about violent or sudden death and dying, about your own pet and companion dying.

And you can take anything, absolutely anything, through the four questions.

Let’s find out where it takes us.

This tragedy shouldn’t have happened. It was wrong. The killer is a horrible person. Cecil should have been protected.

Is it true?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Can I absolutely know that it’s true?


It’s OK to answer yes when something seems profoundly wrong. This is not about you making a mind-flip or changing what you feel entirely, or being in denial.

When it comes to violence, and shock, there is often a deep and tormented “no” and a great cry of grief.

I say, for me, let it be there.

In this situation, perhaps your answer to the question “is it true?” is Yes.

Keep going.

How do you react when you believe these thoughts, that the way this magnificent lion died was wrong?

Enraged. Helpless. Hopeless. Furious. Wanting justice.

What happens in your body? How do you feel about being a human being? What pictures move through your mind?

What I notice is….these are truly just pictures.

You were not there, at the death. You don’t really know what happened.

You can simply notice this. For me, it puts a crack in the answer that this is true. Perhaps I’m not so sure.

So who would you be without the beliefs that this was a terrible, cruel mistake and never should have happened?

For me, my mind simply goes a little blank.

It’s hard to capture who I would be without the belief that a death was cruel, and violent, when it appears that’s exactly what it was.

And yet, I can also notice the room I am in here on this continent. Very, very far away from Africa.

It’s not a denial of life and death happening out there everywhere, just a noticing that in my head there is a picture of a murdered animal, but I am not in the physical presence of a murdered animal.

Without the thought, I am in my own surroundings.

I am in my own alive body, aware of the temporariness of life, but right here, still living.

I am full of love for living creatures and all the mixed up ideas humans get about life and death.

Without the belief that it’s a tragedy, or unforgivable, or 100% wrong, or absolutely unacceptable….

….I take a deep breath.

What if it was OK to come and go?

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine died.

She had breast cancer, and the last time I saw her she was in terrible physical pain and I realized how very sick she had become. A huge mass bulged near her right arm and collar bone, her body was shutting down and not working.

It brought me to tears. I held her hand and looked into her eyes.

Without the belief that this was completely unacceptable and entirely wrong and without being against cancer and dying and pain….

….who would I be?

I would be with my friend even with my heart breaking, loving her and knowing she will be in my heart even without a body on this earth.

I would feel the fierceness of grace, the gift of moving on out of this body, the surrender to whatever is running everything around here, falling back into All This.

I will go too, one day.

If it is the same age as my friend, I would only have 6 years left in this life. The same age as my when my father died.

Whenever it is, it will happen.

There will be a birth date, a dash, and a death date one day for me, for you, for all of us.

And for the animals.

It appears that some of us go suddenly, with an arrow or a gun like Cecil.

It appears that some of us get hit by cars, or fall off cliffs, or drown in water, or shoot ourselves with a gun, or have diseases that begin to take over the rest of the functions of the physical body.

Some of us die in our sleep at age 98.

Who would we be without the belief that death shouldn’t ever come, or shouldn’t come violently, or shouldn’t come with pain, or shouldn’t happen?

For me, all I can see is that without these beliefs about death, I’m not arguing with reality.

If I even move past this awareness, and into the possibility of turning these thoughts around to their opposites….

….I feel a strange and deep sob that contains a flame of light somehow. An unknowing.

Something feels radical, radical, radical.

Like I’m seeing ideas that are wild, crazy, revolutionary…..and yet….

….possible, and maybe even liberating.

  • It should have happened
  • Any killing that happens is done out of innocence, out of believing thoughts, out of life living itself
  • Cecil should have died
  • I should have been protected
  • This is something that can be overcome
  • The thinking must stop

How could any of these turnarounds be true?

It’s not to become cruel yourself, or find happiness in death.

Only to see the way of it and bow to what is greater than ourselves with a question mark, a willingness to not know and not believe all our thoughts.

I see now that death should happen, because it does happen.

I’m not sure why.

When I first did The Work on the death of my father, which happened many years ago, I was able to find that there were benefits.

It’s almost outrageous and frightening to see them, or confess them.

But because my father died, I had to stand on my own two feet. I had to find my own answers to questions I previously asked him. I had to earn my own living once and for all. I cracked open with grief and sobbed and sobbed, which is something I hadn’t been able to previously do in my young life back then, even during therapy. I got closer to my sisters.

There are probably more reasons why it was not just OK, but even of some importance for my own life, that my father died.

Today, I can’t quite see yet how it could be OK that Cecil died.

I can’t see yet how it is OK that my dear friend died yesterday.

But what I can say is that I know the light exists under death and bursts up through grief and change.

I have felt it, I have experienced it.

Can I see a reason to keep the thoughts that death and ways people die are awful?

I really can’t find a good reason to keep my thoughts about death and dying.

I see reasons appear and ticker-tape across my mind.

I see fear and worry parked to the side, and I can say I hope I don’t suffer, and I don’t think I want it to hurt too much when I go, and I wish others didn’t have to suffer either….

….but I really cannot find a good, solid reason to argue with reality.

Reality appears to contain death, in infinite ways.

“Whenever I argue with reality, I lose. Reality is something I can trust. It rules. It is what it is, and once it is, there’s nothing I can do to change it for the moment. Nothing….I mean, we’re breathing, then we’re not, the sun rises, it shines, it sets, I love the clear air, I even love the smog. I spend a lot of my life in airports, and I breathe in a lot of jet fuel. How else can I die on time? There’s a perfect order running. I’m a lover of what is. Who would I be without my story? Without my story, in this very moment, is where God and I are one.” ~ Byron Katie

Much Love,



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