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“Just sitting means just that. That ‘just’ endlessly goes against the grain of our need to fix, transform, and improve ourselves. The paradox of our practice is that the most effective way of transformation is to leave ourselves alone. The more we let everything be just what it is, the more we relax into an open, attentive awareness of one moment after another.”
~~ Barry Magid, Leave Yourself Alone
I remember listening to an audiobook… I can’t remember if it was Pema Chodron or not as it was years ago, but I remember it was a female dharma teacher. Anyway, I remember her saying that all this self-help that we do, the exercise programs, the 10 ways to be a better…, etc it all has at its root the seeds of aggression.
What??? you might ask. What are you talking about? Isn’t it self-love or lovingkindness that I want to better my life? Don’t I get credit for wanting to fix things?
That inherent aggression comes from us wanting to take apart what is, in us, in our lives. . . our plans at self-help keep us from seeing that what is here, now, and softening to it with our presence.
And I believe it is when we soften to who we are in the moment, what our life circumstances are here and now, that we really do the best thing we can for ourselves.
I think this is one reason why so much grief theory frustrates me. Go through these stages (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross). Perform these tasks (Bill Worden, Teresa Rando). Reconcile these needs (Alan Wolfelt). Buy my recovery workbook. . . this one I can’t even remember because I really dislike the idea that anyone would even frame grief as something we have to recover from.
And this is also why the work of people like Stephen and Ondrea Levine, Ram Dass, and Joan Halifax has been so appealing. They start with the basic premise that we will have pain in our lives and that isn’t wrong or bad. We aren’t incomplete or needing fixing when our hearts are broken open with grief and mourning.
If you know someone who is grieving, the kindness thing you can do for them is to be present to them. . . listen. . . be with them. . . allow them to be exactly how they are. . .
And that might be angry, uptight, frightened, relieved, numb, sad. . . we do them the greatest gift when we can just allow what is going on and baring witness to their experience.
Maybe you can’t be the one to do that. That’s okay. It’s good to know that about yourself. So help them find someone who can.
Maybe you can help run some errands for them so they can find a support group or a meditation group.
Maybe you could find a podcast on mindfulness for them and tape it.
Or you could share a resource with them like Grieving Mindfully by Sameet Kumar or The Grief Process by Stephen and Ondrea Levine.
Let them know that you don’t want to change them and that you do want to support them.
Remember that grief is an outward expression of love for the person who has died.
Why on earth would we want to take that from them?
Why on earth would we want them to recover from that? Model love for them by accepting them just where they are, here and now.
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