To acknowledge that you are dying is to recognize that you are alive.
- What Makes You Come Alive? (underthelotustree.com)
- Truths, Noble and Ignoble (tibetanaltar.blogspot.com)
- What Makes You Come Alive? (bobbieslife.wordpress.com)
“People tell me they’re saddened by the ugly, uncivil polarization they see in public life, and the isolation and loneliness they feel in private. They hunger for cooperation, connection, and community. Meditation, which teaches kindness, compassion, and patience, is a clear, straightforward method for improving relationships with family, friends, and everyone else we meet.”
Sharon Salzberg, Happiness
I don’t know if we are ever so polarized as during an election year.
Human beings label things, pick sides, need to be right, and have fear.
Meditation teaches us how to label without judgment, to follow the middle path, and to let go of fear for a more compassionate relationship with the world.
I am really excited that I have the opportunity to teach at a local community college and mindfulness is one of my first agenda items. It’s a skill that we should teach in first grade but if they can be inspired, as I was in my sophomore year, than maybe we have a chance for real change and happiness.
Thanks to Sharon Salzberg for an amazing book and profound and simple wisdom.
The person who wrote shared the story of having a friend that they loved very much who died very quickly after a cancer diagnosis. Priscilla, the writer, wants to know if it is normal that she still misses her friend and has periods of actively grieving. She wonders what might be wrong since other friends don’t seem like they are still hurting. And she wanted to know if there was something that she could do…
Thanks for leaving me a question. It sounds like your loss was really unexpected and you had little time to come to terms with your friend’s diagnosis and death.
I used to hear the debate in my grief groups, as I would be walking into the group room from locking the front door… which is worse, a sudden death and the loss that accompanies it or the slow declining death of someone and that loss?
Honestly, loss is loss and it hurts to the very depth of our soul. We will react to different losses in different ways but being bereft, although the second thing that we all have in common, is still one of our most painful and life altering experiences.
A lot of people in our society think that there is some set amount of time that a person has to grieve. Apparently businesses think three days away from work is plenty of time to get funeral arrangements made, cope with the loss, and come back to work with a stiff upper lip.
Many in the field of grief will tell you that 6-12 months and you should be spending more time in the “living” process than in the world of grief.
What I can tell you is what I have experienced and what I have been honored to witness in clients, friends, and family. . .
Grief takes as long as it does. Depending on your relationship, that whole in your heart my be painful until the day you die.
Grief takes on different characteristics over time, sometimes feeling like a stabbing pain, sometimes like a dull headache, sometimes like the darkest hours before dawn, and sometimes the murky twilight when nothing seems real.
And it’s okay that you are still grieving for your friend two years later. For some of us, friends are the family that we’ve gotten to choose.. we’ve brought them into our lives and our hearts and they have a special meaning that no one can replace.
Have some compassion for yourself for having loved someone so deeply. Isn’t that what loss is? Our learning to live without someone being here to hug, call, laugh with, sit and be silly with?
For me, the first year after my brother’s death was painful. Six months after he died, I went away to graduate school, still stunned and in a fog from two years of caregiving with my parents.
But it was in the second year, when we were sitting in my little basement apartment, away from our family and friends at the holidays that I felt like my heart was ripped out.
We were together, my parents and I… but I was longing to think .. is this going to be his last holiday? What’s life going to be like without him.. as I had thought for several years…
I longed to feel that kind of pain though I would not have wanted him back in the agony that his life was.
When I went to work for hospice, 7 years after his death, I struggled. I finally had a community around me, people that I trusted with my grief and pain, and it was a tough anniversary to go through… it was also a few months after my friend and mentor died as well and there was no way that those two losses were not interconnected in a variety of ways in my heart.
The point is that we change, evolve, and grow with time. Our grief changes during that time too.
With every year that passes, there is more and more certainty that it’s not a dream and we can’t just wish things to be different.
As we find healing in one area, we find that we have the ability to take on a new painful part of the grief and work on healing that. This new pain may have been there since the loss but we have a way of prioritizing what we can and cannot handle, mostly on an unconscious level.
So, not that you asked for advice per se, but what I would like to offer is:
Take time to touch that gentle tender point in the center of your chest that might be aching for your friend.
Acknowledge the pain as it comes up
Love that he/she meant that much that you still hurt
Find comfort in your memories
Allow what is to be and don’t push away the pain.
And don’t let anyone tell you that you’ve been grieving too long.
If you are able to get out of bed, take care of your kids, go to work, make sure that you are eating, etc than just be gentle with yourself.
If you are finding that you are having a really difficult time dealing with day-to-day things, then see if your local hospice has a support group or counselor.
If you feel like harming yourself, get in to see a doctor.
Most of us will not have the last two experiences, but if you are, know that there is help.
Shame and guilt only make our grief worse so if possible, make a point to acknowledge that grief hurts and you are okay for hurting.
Love takes a time to build. And loss takes a lifetime to heal from. Know that you are forever changed by the experience of having had this friend in your life and having lost them.
Be gentle with yourself Priscilla, allow yourself to grieve as the thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with the grief arise.
Posted in Personal Thoughts..., Relationship Dharma, tagged breathing, Buddhism, compassion, healing, health, inspiration, meditation, mental health, mindfulness, relationships, Thich Nhat Hanh on August 9, 2012 | 1 Comment »
“Every human being wants to love and be loved. This is very natural. But often love, desire, need, and fear get wrapped up all together. There are so many songs with the words, “I love you; I need you.” Such lyrics imply that loving and craving are the same thing, and that the other person is just there to fulfill our needs. We might feel we can’t survive without the other person. When we say, “Darling, I can’t live without you. I need you,” we think we’re speaking the language of love. We even feel it’s a compliment to the other person. But that need is actually a continuation of the original fear and desire that have been with us since we were small children.”
I was sick last week and did not get to post this. . . Aug 2nd was my parents’ 52 wedding anniversary. I wish that everyone could experience the ups and downs that they have and the bond that has kept them together.
Much love and deep bows of gratitude to Bob & Judy Stevens. Thank you for all the love, sacrifice, and compassion they have fostered in our family!
~~John E. Welshons, Awakening from Grief: Finding the Way Back to Joy
One of the harder things for the bereft to deal with is things that didn’t get said. Sometimes, an even tougher thing to reconcile with is the things that did get said.
I like John’s suggestion that if both partners (romantic, familial, etc) are willing to pledge to work on never parting in anger, a relationship can be stronger and the grief less complicated.
People may talk about kids having magical thinking… “I got made at my sister and told her I wished she was dead” and then at some point the sister dies and the child believes that they are the cause for the disease, accident, etc.
But adults do something similar… they may have had a relationship with someone for decades, a loving relationship where the two people really cared for and about each other, and there are harsh words or a rift of some sort and one of the people becomes very sick or dies. We tend to focus on that rift rather than all of the thousands of ways we showed that we cared.
Think about the adult child who has to put their aging parent in a nursing home because of ill-health, dementia, etc. The adult child might have promised that parent that day would never come and now it’s here. Or the parent went to live at the home and died…
In our grief, we will not think about all the doctor’s appointments we took that person on.
Or the trips to the store to get their favorite ice cream at 10 pm.
Or the holidays where we always made sure they had their favorite dish.
The flowers that they bought for no reason except that they loved the person.
But all that gets over looked because that one day when you had three hours of sleep you said to yourself, “When will this end.”
Or you fought about something minor and didn’t get the chance to make things right with each other.
Grief gives us the opportunity, more than many other experiences to do two things: to learn compassion and to learn forgiveness…. both of these in regards to ourselves and in regards to others.
If you need to walk away and cool off, do it… but don’t let a lot of time go by without at least saying, I’m angry and I love you.
Posted in Mindfulness & Buddhism, tagged breathing, Buddhism, Caregiver, compassion, coping, healing, health, inspiration, mental health, Religion & Spirituality, Religion and Spirituality, spirituality on August 3, 2012 | 2 Comments »
“If we examine our motives honestly, we will usually find that there is some sort of fear inspiring our prayers. We are afraid of something. And we are asking to be protected from whatever we are afraid of.
The fear that inspires us to pray actually gives us the most significant clue in our efforts to understand an unanswered prayer. When our prayers aren’t answered the way we want them to be, we often have to expereience the things of which we were afraid. We are forced to confront our fear.”
~~John Welshons, When Prayers Aren’t Answered
“As we train in the bodhichitta practices, we gradually feel more joy, the joy that comes from a growign appreciation of our basic goodness. We still experience strong conflicting emotions, we still experience the illusion of separateness, but there’s a fundamental openness that we begin to trust. This trust in our fresh, unbiased nature brings us unlimited you — a happiness that’s completely devoid of clinging and craving. This is the joy of happiness without a hangover.
How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand? We train in staying present. In sitting meditation, we train in mindfulness and maitri: in being steadfast with our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts. We stay with our own little plot of earth and trust that it can be cultivated, that cultivation will bring it to its full potential. Even though it’s full of rocks and the soil is dry, we begin to plow this plot of patience. We let the process evolve naturally. . .
A traditional aspiration for awakening appreciation and joy is “May I and others never be separated from the great happiness that is devoid of suffering.” This refers to always abiding in the wide-open, unbiased nature of our minds — to connecting with the inner strength and basic goodness. To do this, however, we start with conditioned examples of good fortune such as health, basic intelligence, a supportive environment — the fortunate conditions that constitute a precious human birth. For the awakening warrior, the greatest advantage is to find ourselves in a time when it is possible to hear and practice the bodhichitta teachings. We are doubly blessed if we have a spiritual friend — a more accomplished warrior — to guide us. . .
Whenever we get caught, it’s helpful to remember the teachings — to recall that suffering is the result of an aggressive mind. Even slight irritation causes us pain when we indulge in it. This is the time to ask, “Why am I doing this to myself again?” Contemplating the causes of suffering right on the spot empowers us. We begin to recognize that we have what it takes to cut through our habit of eating poison. Even if it takes the rest of our lives, nevertheless, we can do it.”
I am grateful to Pema Chodron and her teachings. There have been times in my life where I feel like I survived by listening to her voice, playing audiobooks again and again, finding comfort and wise words that helped me to hold my seat despite what was going on in my interior and exterior worlds.
My practices and my life have been informed by Pema Chodron’s teachings and our world is truly better for having had her wisdom and her devotion to teaching the Dharma and for continuing Chogyam Trungpa’s teachings for so long.
May Ani Pema be blessed with long life, health, great compassion, and love. And may she be here for a long time to help guide us through that what scares us and remind us that are shenpa is showing!
With great devotion and gratitude, Jennifer
http://www.veoh.com/watch/v471374rScnEhqA – Bill Moyer and Pema Chodron
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DafQYGo3Zkc&feature=relmfu – Pema Chodron on Bodhichitta
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFuotEZxPCA&feature=relmfu — Pema Chodron on Bodhichitta Intention
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGrPz9fQWI8&feature=relmfu – Pema Chodron on Working with “Shenpa”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID5GSnmCNOA&feature=related – Pema Chodron on Gempo Abbey
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buTrsK_ZkvA&feature=related – Pema Chodron on “This Lousy World”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7kFvETUT3s&feature=relmfu – Pema Chodron on “Dunzie”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3sPGxurY-w&feature=relmfu – Common Tacits of Aggression
Posted in Chanting & Meditations, Mindfulness & Buddhism, tagged Alternative, health, meditation, Practices, Religion & Spirituality, Stress management, Yoga, Yoga Nidra on July 13, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Here is a visualization from http://www.mindbodygreen.com.
I don’t use a lot of visualizations other than Yoga Nidra but for some, using more senses in their meditation and stress reduction can help one go deeper into their practices.
Check it out and leave us a post so we know if it is helpful.
“I work on myself so I can be of service to others; my service work with others is also for me. This reciprocal arrangement helped us to avoid some of the pitfalls of what I call “helpers’s disease”.
~~Frank Ostaseski, from Journey East by Victoria Jean Dimidjian
One . . . we feel a sense of learned helplessness for the politics and bureaucracy that keeps us from being able to help others. We become complacent and accept what it going on around us, sometimes licking our wounds and not wanting to be an agent of change.
And two. . . we start to see those we are there to help as “the other” or even worse, as not being human any more.
We can stay healthy when we remember that we have as much to learn as those we help. We have as much potential for growth as those around us. No matter how many strikes are against us or how many unfair policies there are, we can make a difference. But we can only do that when we maintain a peaceful heart and nonjudgmental attitude.