Wandering with the sleek dog of grief

Posted on October 20, 2011



tl;dr Grief blows but not always.

Mindfulness in a lesson hard won for me, especially mindfulness of the self. Historically I am ridiculously bad at sitting with intense experiences and allowing space for them to simply be. I try to fix or mold the experience so that I or those going through the process with me don’t  bear witness to anything negative…or vice versa, I become so tossed by waves of grief that I lose who I am for a while and sit, paralyzed because the act of moving beneath such weight feels impossible.

  Grief and loss.

If I laid out my life like a red thread, winding over and through the past thirty years… my experience with grief and loss would look like fraying knots star bursting along that line. I am really no good at pain …but is anyone really? I tangle up in the face of it and my tarantella of avoidance has the same twisting steps as my dance of acceptance. Each embraces the same wild-eyed emotion. Each takes me through a series of snarled places in the self… and usually each dance ends up with me weary and introspective about the process. When there is someone in my life reflecting the emotions back to me…well… have you ever watched yourself flail? Usually it is amazingly unattractive and nonsensical.

Recently I have found that there are a moments in life where one makes a choice: to act upon or to live with pain.

One would think that the acting upon is the better of these two options, but for me notsomuch.  For me, being present with and allowing for ingrained emotional intelligence to lead the dance is the most honest and  grounded place of operation. Not that it’s easy, in fact opening to grace and asking my active self to chill out is fucking hard.  Like most children of the first world, the idea of experiencing the piercing pain that comes with these emotions scares me. Grief and loss are all consuming, they feed negative emotion cycles and they have no fix…and yet the active part of the self wants so badly to fix what’s broken. To make what is wrong right again in a tangible way.

A wise and wonderful man told me recently that we choose to allow anger and pain and grief to use our bodies as a house.  When we make the decision to let go of harboring these emotions we immediately fall into the grace of healing. What a simple yet difficult lesson: to let go and trust that the universe will provide space to breathe and be with what stirs and aches within us. That seated at the confluence of moment meeting moment and allowing the pain to pass through is the most effective way of knowing what is true and honest and what is simply the silt of negative response passing through the body.

Life is suffering. I heard this philosophical gem when I was in high school and snorted derisively because… why? Why would all of life spin around this central philosophical axis? What purpose would it serve? So. I’ve grown up and I get it. Life can be suffering if we allow and sometimes when we don’t consent and it creeps pervasively through the cracks anyway. Claiming humanity is also claiming that at the macrocosmic level we create pain and suffering. That as we live there are flurries of rape and murder, war and abuse falling around and through our field of existence.   We ignore and absorb the larger ills of the universe until those times when we experience these things directly and our heart cracks open and we fall to the ground and goddamn it we grieve because all of the avoiding and non-service that we do in our daily lives makes us (me) weak in the face of such pain. But what is weakness right? According to the 8 limbs…this is samskara…

One cold night, with the summer slipping to fall by degrees, the Grand Chu told me that devastating loss…it marks those closest to it because life after that moment is experienced as a “without”. Before the loss and after loss. A timeline carved out by an instant of understanding on that red thread and then BAM a life defined by one knot. One tangled knot of livingness.

What comes after.

I have heard stories of people bowing to the experience of grief in child’s pose. Honoring it as part of the process. I have been told that emotions are a sacred well of experience and no responses are broken responses, simply unhealed aspects of the self. I have been reminded time and time again that out of the mindful exploration of pain comes growth. And this: there are times, when I am most fully knotted up where none of this matters. I want to break shit. I want to curl up in a ball and cry. I want to run and run and run until my lungs cease to fill with air and my legs collapse from beneath me.

In my experience, the most real parts of the self, exist when I meditate and when I practice pranayama.  My connection back to the experience of living is breath. Pranayama allows me space where I can sit in the midst of pain and watch…just watch. Watch where reaction and response intertwine.  Watch how mindfulness allows for space and space allows for surrender and integration. Watch how I am when I’m not actively trying to “fix” grief or loss. This watching is a beautiful thing, because with it comes the ability to work in the present moment – to feel in the present moment and honestly to be ok with painful emotions without reacting with guilt or fear or anger… That’s it. All I have in this present moment.

“When the heart grieves over what it has lost, the spirit rejoices over

what it has found.” – Rumi

 Love and light –


Posted in: Lessons, meditation