Loss. Grief. It arises from different forms. Within the last several days, I had two different forms arrive. Last Friday I found out that my brother in North Carolina passed due to a bout in the hospital with COVID. We were not close as we had been disconnected for some time. Still there is grief and pain. I also made the decision to close my Madison office location. Again, loss, grief, and pain.
I have had to accept that I will not be able to connect with my brother again, other than spiritually. That stings deeply even though I know at the time it was necessary to create safe and healthy boundaries. I have also had to accept that my beloved office will be no more after four years. I know it is not a failure yet another business that has succumbed to COVID. It is heartbreaking knowing that I put my whole heart and soul into creating an atmosphere that brought safety and comfort to those who entered through the doorway.
When we are dealing with these gut-wrenching experiences such as I am in the midst of at this moment, the key is to be kind and gentle with oneself. Yes, I share that phrase repeatedly in classes and in posts. There is a truth to the phrase, honestly, there is.
Heather Stang in her book Mindfulness and Grief writes “Mindfulness lets you expand your view by placing you in the middle ground between denying your pain and overindulging in your suffering. From that vantage point you can observe the whole experience with a sense of openness to whatever arises. You stay in contact with the entire scope of your existence, and you experience grief without becoming grief itself.”
There is no single “right way” to grieve. We each experience grief in our own way. Grief can be caused in a myriad of ways — by death of a loved one, a loss of a job or income, a divorce, a friendship that has come to an end, or a project that did not come to fruition.
By being present to what is in our body and mind we can develop awareness. When we are aware, we create space for acceptance. When we accept what is, it doesn’t mean that we like it or agree with it. When we are in a place of acceptance it will help us to find peace, happiness, and love.
You hear me frequently refer to the RAIN practice.
The practice of RAIN consists of four segments:
• Recognize What is Happening
• Allow Life to Be Just as It is
• Investigate with a Gentle, Curious Attention
• Nurture with a Loving Presence
Acceptance would be in that “Allow” stage. When we apply RAIN, we can have the ability to be present to with ourselves and nourish the awakening heart. I know the more I lean into mindfulness and this practice of RAIN, the more I can be with my emotions instead of denying them. This includes my current grief and sense of loss.
With this practice, I can sit with these emotions and nurture myself as I feel guided to do. My consistent practice over the years that I can be relatively calm in dealing with these recent circumstances.
Sometimes when we deny these emotions, we turn to what is external to soothe our pain, I know there were times I did too. The external items, whatever they may be, will only help the symptom for a brief time until the emotion arises again and in force. Being gentle and kind to ourselves with our emotions will help us to respect ourselves and the emotion itself.
When we Investigate in RAIN, we are checking in with the body and where we feel the emotion. We are also checking in with the mind and what thoughts are in the forefront. Maybe there are questions we ask ourselves. Maybe we notice where our vulnerability is within.
As we do this, we ask this vulnerable place within what it needs. This is the nurturing aspect of RAIN. Maybe there are compassionate words we say to ourselves or maybe we place a hand on our heart. After the RAIN, we spent some moments resting in the heart space presence, observing how we feel.
Paul Denniston and his Grief Yoga Training has five areas that we can move through to assist our healing process. Awareness is the first. Expression follows in the sense that at times it may be hard to express exactly the emotions we are experiencing. But if we don’t release it, it will stay in the body. He uses movement and breath as part of the process. Here we can affirm “I am speaking my truth to share with others what I want and need.”
What follows is Connection as we embrace ourselves with love. Surrender helps us with releasing the pain and embrace love to explore a path to peace. Finally, Evolution helps to tap into strength, courage, and resilience.
I know the Grief Movement Training and its exercises with Paul Denniston plus other materials and practices are helping me through this current situation. The gifts of mindfulness and silence, mindful movement with yoga, and even playing loud on singing bowls and gongs, all help me to be a witness to my grief.
Transformation will arrive in its own time. As Jack Kornfield has written in The Wise Heart, “When identification with the small sense of self drops away, what remains is the spacious heart that is connected to all things.“
I am in communion with all that is and all beings. My heart may be heavy, but it is open wide to allow what needs entry to its chamber. It takes courage to do so to be with grief with caring awareness. That is mindfulness. Thank yourself, as I do, for this journey in life.