After a seriously intense week of recording videos for my upcoming Opening to Joy retreat, sea-planing over to Vancouver to speak on a panel for UBC education students about ‘jobs outside academia’ and graduating my second class of heartrepreneurs, I chose to spend the weekend lounging on the couch in my pyjamas. I really needed it. It was the perfect balance to the week’s frenetic pace. What helped me gracefully get through it was knowing that the intensity would pass and there would be respite in its wake.
One of the wonderful gifts of the practice of Loving Inquiry is its grounding in the wisdom of the Gates. Through my explorations into the Gate of Impermanence, I have developed a deeply felt understanding of the reality that everything changes. One of the sources of this understanding is my experience with meditation. Watching the breath and its movement moment after moment is very revealing. I learn that nothing stays the same. Each breath starts, continues and ends, only to be followed by another one. Likewise with thoughts, body sensations, sounds, smells, tastes and other sensory stimuli. Everything is in constant motion.
Similarly with emotions. When I am fully able to allow and be with an emotion, it too changes. I have experienced this most profoundly with sadness or grief.
Having accepted my choice to not be a parent hasn’t made me immune to the feelings that arise when I come into the presence of small children and their mothers. Grief arises often. I have learned to let it surface and to savour the tears, allowing them their full-bodied expression. I feel the tingle in my nose first, then the pulse behind my eyes. Next there are the sobs from deep in the heart and sometimes the belly. It may last a minute or three. As long as I don’t put a story to it, it leaves.
When I am open to the grief, without having to make it mean something or attach personal significance to it, it arises, expresses and departs. I actually rather enjoy the catharsis. Sometimes I choose to feel it not as “my” grief, but “the” grief. I imagine it as the grief that is a part of being alive or as the grief of the world. I reflect on how many others are presently grieving for the inevitable losses in their lives, whether accidental or deliberate, natural or caused by others’ harm. I feel a part of others’ lives as a result, an active participant in the familiar act of grieving,
I remember when I first moved to BC and was living in Vancouver, I participated in a Take Back the Nightmarch at the Vancouver Art Gallery. With the reading of all the names of women who had been murdered by their spouses, partners or other men, known or unknown, I experienced a tremendous upwelling of grief. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I sat on the stairs and wept. and wept. and wept.
Another time this happened to me was a few years later on Bowen Island. I was attending a weekend workshop in Continuum movement, a practice created by a woman named Emilie Conrad with whom I’d had the pleasure of studying some years before. In the middle of a group dance, I began to get in touch with the most incredible sadness in my body. As I moved from standing to crouching to lying down, I felt as if I was shedding the tears of all those who had perished in the holocaust. It was as if their deaths had been a part of the journey of my soul, that their grief was being “downloaded” through me in that moment. All I could do was weep and keep moving through it.
Most recently I have discovered another source of grief that arise when I bear witness to others’ sadness in the moment. These tears surface when I am in the presence of others who are crying, whether I am sitting across from them in a cafe or in a heartrepreneurs group session in my studio. With them comes a feeling of compassionate connection. Once again there is nothing for me to “do” except to allow them their safe passage. They come and they go. Like everything else.
When I first sat down to write this post, there were dozens of robins digging in the leaves and soil around the assortment of apple, pear and lilac trees outside my studio. Their songs sweet and resonant. I felt I was bearing witness to a joyous spring ritual like the growth of new buds on branches and the mating of many species this time of year. I didn’t know what I was going to write after that. The narratives of grief emerged in the writing.
When I allow myself the intimacy of my hands on the keyboard, their tap-tap-tapping lead me to uncover memories, feelings and experiences I may not expect.
What spring rituals are you a witness to in the places where you live? Which emotions are arising, either in your own heart, or in the hearts of those around you? What narratives are being birthed through the creative intimacy of your own two hands?