Category Archives: Life beyond death

The Death of Riley

Today, the day after the first anniversary of Dexter’s death, we lost Riley.  It was sudden and unexpected.  When I look back I can see that she seemed a little tired and that she wanted to lay outside on the earth, but I had no idea she was ready to go.  She got up easily this morning as she always did – she always seemed to want to go out for the morning walk so that she could get her breakfast after.  She loved her food.  This morning she ran and played, rough and tumbled with Izzy and Tulku as usual.  She deflected Tulku from bundling Izzy, as she always does and then they heard something and all three took off through the woods.

Tulku lost Izzy and Riley and came back to us and then went running off to find them.  About 10 minutes later Izzy and Riley came back and we sat in the woods for a bit and then headed back to the cabin.  Riley sat in front of the door on the verandah and felt a bit shaky. I asked her if she was OK and she said yes, as she always did and I went inside.  But she wasn’t alright.  Jon saw her keel over and called me out.  I held her as she tried to sit up again and soothed her and she died in my arms.  I tried to give her mouth to mouth for a few minutes as I felt her last gasps, but I knew it was her moment to go.

Riley was the most loyal dog we ever had; the most dedicated to reflecting our beauty back, as the Aeon Sophia told me in the woods yesterday.  She nuzzled me in that moment and left, looking back over her shoulder so poignantly, after I received that message.  It was as though her work was done.

She had also trained Tulku thoroughly; taught him how to play without having to win and how to be a bit gentle with Izzy.  Riley saw that we now have a pack, with Jon and Dorota, that we are safe and loved.  I think she wanted to join Dexter, who was the love of her life.

The timing of her passing is uncanny.  This is the signature of the love story that held these two beautiful creatures together.  Riley grieved for at least five weeks after Dexter died.  I think she would have gone there and then if we hadn’t got Tulku, although she wasn’t keen on him at first and we called her Grumpy Grandma.  He learned very quickly that it was easy to rile her up, but that she would never hurt him.  (More of that in Tulku’s Story.)   There was enough of Dexter’s thread in Tulku for her to keep a hold on her life at that time and her sense of responsibility kicked in; he needed to be trained to be Dexter’s successor and nobody could do it but her.  Ultimately, it was not enough to keep her here.  Her sense of longing for her mate grew stronger and she gently let go of the threads that kept her here.  I felt Dexter’s name on my lips with her last breath.

NB: I also got stung by wasps a couple of weeks ago, just like I did a couple of weeks before Dexter died.  So much still to learn.


The Tulku Test

The Tulku tradition comes from Tibetan Buddhism.  The Tulku, most often a young child, is considered to be the reincarnation of a previously self-actualised and revered person – a ‘holy man’ within the Buddhist tradition. The logic behind the system is that an accomplished being reincarnates as a Tulku to continue the dissemination of knowledge from his previous lives.  As an accomplished being he is able to access experiences from previous lives, which are retained in his ‘mindstream’

We ordinary mortals are considered to be unable to access information from past lives because we are stuck in the cycle of rebirth according to the karma of our unenlightened lives.  Hindus get multiple rides the wheel of birth, death and rebirth too. But if you are a Christian, Jew or Muslim you only get one go, before getting ‘judged’ and summarily dispatched to eternal heaven or hell.  All religions have nicely constructed control mechanisms to make us follow a set of rules with the promise of reward or retribution after death. If there was no ‘after life’ of any kind they would have had to invent it, because there is no evidence of a consistent reward system for good behaviour or punishment for the horrors that many humans inflict on each other and other living creatures every day.

However, the tulku test provides some evidence of reincarnation. This is one description of how a tulku is identified:

“The identification of a tulku was portrayed in the film Kundun, where monks disguised as peasants arrived at the future Dalai Lama’s home when he was a child of three years old. The monks were following clues provided by the thirteenth Dalai Lama — dreams, or information provided by oracles to find candidate children. Once children are identified they are examined for special marks or signs and their parents interviewed in regards to their moral character. Finally, a test is provided where the young child must identify items that belonged to his predecessor, picking them out from similar items. If he can do this correctly, he will be designated a tulku.”

The Quest for the Dalai Lama by Arnie Kozak, Ph.D.

For hundreds of years tulkus were always Tibetan, but since the 1970s they have been showing up on the west. According to Andrew Rawlinson, a former lecturer in Buddhist Studies at Lancaster University in the UK, writing in Global Buddhism  there are now about a dozen fully recognised western tulkus. One result of this expansion is that what goes on in the monastery no longer remains in the monastery and credible accounts of sexual abuse and corruption are emerging from Buddhist citadels, just as they are from other religions. See Kalu Rinpoche’s story here:

What if there are many tulkus in the world, but we just haven’t known to look for them or recognise the signs? I don’t think the Buddhists have any monopoly on tulkus or reincarnation. We are all animals on this planet after all. Our puppy Tulku, also passed the tulku test. His predecessor Dexter, an enlightened master for sure, guided us to him when he was less than three weeks old and even gave us his name. Dexter didn’t have any possessions, being a dog, but on the first day after we brought him home, when he was 6 ½ weeks old, Tulku ran straight over to Dexter’s grave, grabbed a pebble and brought it to me and dropped it at my feet. A couple of weeks ago, Izzy lost her collar playing out in the food forest. I went went out there with Izzy, Riley and Tulku to look for it and I said to Riley, “Go find Izzy’s collar.” Riley started looking around, but she didn’t know what she was looking for and barely was the though formed in my head, “If Dexter was here……..” because Dexter was the finder. He would find lost balls on the common, lost keys, even lost souls it turned out.  And then Tulku ran up with the collar in his mouth.

But I was still grappling with the issue of how could Tulku here now be Dexter reincarnated, while I am still talking to the Dexter who was here? I asked Dexter to answer this question for me and he came up with the answer, “We all have doubles.”  I’ll be exploring that issue in a later post.


Message from the Other Side

One early morning in late October, Dean was out on the common with Kiss and I was enjoying a lie-in with Dexter, when I felt some one take my hand and lift me out of my body. I don’t know whether I was asleep or awake, or somewhere in between, but it didn’t feel strange or frightening at the time. This being, and I knew he was a man, took me high enough to see the curvature of the Earth and there we hovered. As he held my hand I felt everything he was feeling; warm sun and rain on my face, laughter, orgasm and I thought, “Wow, is this was it is to be dead?” And for a moment I wanted to stay there, before I realised what that meant and came crashing back to me bed.

I had the frantic urge to scribble something on a scrap of paper to hand, before my eyes could even focus. Then I woke up. Oh my God. I had just wished myself dead! Why had I done that? I knew something had happened. Something had changed forever and I didn’t know what it was.

Dean came home to find me in floods of tears.  That’s not like me.

“What happened?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I just wished myself dead. Some one visited me.”

“Who visited you?”

“I don’t know. I think it was a dream, but it wasn’t.”

Dean understood ‘bad dreams’. I’d had terrible nightmares that woke me up screaming when we first met. He held me in his arms and I calmed down. Then I remembered the piece of paper.

“I wrote something down.”

I went to get the paper and scrutinized my illegible scribble – not great at the best of times. I explained to Dean what had happened and began to decipher the paper. It was clearly a poem, but it meant nothing to me.

As we sat there bemused, the phone rang, and instantly I knew what had happened. All the pieces came together like a holographic jigsaw puzzle and my mind was clear and silent. I had no doubts about what had happened and strangely, I had never felt more certain of anything in my life. It was our close friend Mandy on the phone and we had what must have been the strangest conversation of her life.

“Yolanda, something terrible’s happened. There’s been an accident and we can’t come to    your party.”

(We were having a birthday party for Dean in a couple of days.

“Mile’s best friend Greg died in a car accident in Cape Town last night.”

“Yes, I know.”

Silence. An audible intake of breath on the line.

“What do you mean you know? How do you know?”

“He visited me.”

“Who visited you? Greg? How could he have visited you? What do you mean?”

Her voice was getting squeaky and she was on the verge of getting angry and I had to spit it out.

“I can’t explain it Mandy. I have no explanation, but I have never been more certain of anything in my life; Greg visited me early this morning and he gave me a poem for Miles.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Said Mandy. “If it was anyone else apart from you I would tell them that they were full of shit and hang up. But why you? Why did he come to you?”

The only answer I had to that question was that I was the closest person to Miles who was open-minded enough to be able to receive the message.

We agreed that I would post the poem through their door later that morning and they could decide what they wanted to do. Mandy didn’t want Miles to get more upset than he already was and I assured her that I didn’t think the poem would do that. It was a message of comfort.

Miles and Mandy came to our party and Miles flew out the following morning to Cape Town for the funeral. He read the poem at the funeral and Greg’s mother came up to him after and asked him where the poem came from. Miles reluctantly told her. “Oh,” she said. “The same thing happened to me.”

This event threw me into turmoil; I had to abandon everything I thought I knew and start again.  A person who was dead had spoken to me very clearly. I had no doubt about that, no matter what my rational mind said. That feeling of knowing something with absolute clarity, that no one had told me and that I hadn’t perceived with my normal senses became my navigator. Within a couple of months I had left my job and begun my journey of exploration.

It was years before I realised that this event took place just a day or so after Dexter came to live with us. Did he open the door to the Other Side? More importantly, where exactly is this door?

Greg’s Poem

So here we are again my friend

Once more on distant shores

Beyond the reach of wire and web

My wandering is now done


I am here

My toes sink in the sand as

My gaze melts the snow on distant mountains

My fingers brush through the trees in winter

And you feel me in your shiver


And I know you are there

My light will burn forever in the rising of the sun and

The glow of exertion on your skin

You’ll hear my voice in the siren’s wail and

Feel my love in the smell of autumn


And share my song

Because I am everything and everywhere

At home in Heart’s desire