Notes from Growing Through Loss Series: What Do We Know About Grief and Bereavement?

Notes from Growing Through Loss Series: What Do We Know About Grief and Bereavement?

Last night was the first night of the “Growing Through Loss” support group series in Roseville, MN. The speaker, Ted Bowman, gave an overview of common misconceptions about grief:

a- That there is a right way to do it.
b- That there are predictable stages.
c- That there is closure.
d- That some people don’t grieve.

We all grieve. We all have some form of suffering in our lives, whether it is the loss of a physical capacity, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job. Life is not easy; we are all in some form of acceptance for working with our feelings and our lives.

We need to acknowledge our grief. While painful memories are difficult at times, they can help us come to terms with loss when we honor our grief process.

In my work with those in recovery, there is grief in letting go of addictive behavior and opening to life in a new way. Fear, sadness, anger and grief are feelings that we need to know. To find support for this process is a gift for our emotional health.

The group breaks out into a variety of specific small groups depending on death of a spouse, child, sibling or other issues. In this way, folks connect with those in similar circumstances and know they are not alone.

I’m grateful to be a part of the series and presenting on October 2nd, 2017. My talk will focus on being aware of the breath and the body, and how to find some openings in one’s grief process with breath awareness and body wisdom.

Reading With Insight

Reading With Insight

Recently, I have been reflecting on the process I go through when picking up a book, reading it, and deciding if I will finish it. When I pick up a book, I want it to be helpful. After all, we have only a limited amount of time in this human life. So, when my hand reaches for a book, and I begin turning the first pages, reading the table of contents perhaps, or perusing the first few pages, I will ask myself: Why did I pick this book? What am I looking for?

Then, as I read a bit further, I will ask myself: What was it about this particular book that drew me to into it? What do I like about this author’s style of writing? What is happening with me as I read this book? I often pause and reflect after a page or two. I reflect on these questions throughout the reading experience, which probably makes me a slow reader, but I savor the experience.

I get most of my books from the library. Often, after having finished a book, as I am flipping through it before preparing to return it to the library, it comes to me. I will remember, Oh! That’s why I needed that book! I needed to be reminded of that! The insight arises, and I want to kiss the book and thank it for it beautiful existence because I am reminded of something very inclusive about being in the world.

For example, I recently picked up Daily Rituals by Mason Curry. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it or not, but saw that it was a small book; contained very short stories about different artist’s habits. That being the case, it felt convenient to pick it up and read a few pages about Twain or Beethoven or Dickinson, etc. I felt irritated that the majority of the artists in the book were male, but then, I sighed, took a deep breath and kept reading it for a few weeks from time to time.

I also wondered: Could reading this be a way to avoid my writing process? But, I decided that reading was also part of writing. After I digested the book, I pressed the book into my hands, felt the cover, and flipped the pages back and forth. I asked myself again: Why did I pick this book? What was it about this book that drew me into it? What was I looking for? What did I like about this author’s style of writing? What happened within me as I read this book? Why did I spend valuable time reading these stories? Then, this insight suddenly arose:

Everybody is channeling.

Every sentient being is constantly channeling energy with their energetic field while additional fields of energy affect them along with much that cannot be named or seen. Writers and artists are not anything special. It appears that the only difference is that they consciously work to channel their energy into a certain form. And, from what I read, many suffered in that process, just like all of us. We suffer. We learn. And when we learn, we find release. And, it is a process of allowing consciousness into the process of learning, unlearning and meeting our suffering.

I am constantly attentive to being aware of how energy is channeled within my body. To bring energy into a written form can seem very hard to me. Why? Because there was a belief that “writers” have some special skill.

Yet, here I am writing these words. Whatever is needed is already happening as I write this piece. Channeling is happening all the time anyway. I can steer the channel toward writing more often and let it become part of my stream of consciousness. My process may be painful at times, even though I do not want to cause harm. At other times, it may feel pleasurable or neutral. It is unpredictable because it is about being open.

Gratefully, there is learning, reflecting, and release.

Staying Present with Grief

Staying Present with Grief

One of the core practices of my work is simply sitting and noticing. The idea behind this is to pay attention to the changing qualities within the mind and body, to see that they are ever flowing through us. In this practice, I pay special attention to the thoughts and desires that want to control this natural process. The example I want to write about today concerns the feelings of grief related to a loss that can arise throughout our life. I have been blessed to work with many people around this issue, as I have worked with it myself for many years.

Recently I was going through some books from my early studies on working with grief, and I began reflecting on the persisting cultural beliefs about loss and the grieving process. Many of us are taught that grief follows a specific path before vanishing from our life like smoke. When we lose someone, we might be given space for a time, but eventually we may be guided towards a sense of closure. In fact, we might even have a desire to be over it ourselves, which might then lead to the arising of guilt and shame. I was deeply touched by the story Patrick O’Malley told in his 2015 Op-Ed for the New York Times, in which he described a client named Mary. Having spent six months of despairing the loss of her child to infant death syndrome, as Patrick writes, “she had diagnosed her condition as being ‘stuck’ in grief, believing that a stubborn depression was preventing her from achieving acceptance and closure.” But Patrick offers a different perspective, as he writes, “I suggested to Mary that there was nothing wrong with her… She was just very sad, consumed by sorrow, but not because she was grieving incorrectly. The depth of her sadness was simply a measure of the love she had for her daughter.” By believing that she needed “closure,” she was attempting to control the natural process within herself that was calling out with sorrow.

There is another way. It is important to remember that we each have our own style and way of working with loss. Some of us are more intellectual, some have a more emotional center, and some are more kinesthetic and action or movement oriented. I find that we need to balance our way of working with the head, the heart and the entire body for inner peace while touching our inner pain.  If we are grieving, the feelings of anger, sadness, shock, overwhelm, or despair can come in different degrees and in different order. We may discover new ways of working with old grief that can provide insight and new forms of release.

Ultimately, this idea of closure is at odds with my teaching and practice because of the way it constricts the mind to only one way of being. My practice focuses just on what is present. I have worked with many people, including myself who have felt a shift come after some time. Sometimes you feel lighter after working through some grief and that can go on for any length of time, but we never know when the memory of that person meant so much to us or the loss can come back and hit us in a new way. So it’s important to work with just whatever is coming up without judgement.

I have found that grief is a natural part of life. When I know about how many species are becoming extinct each day, and see many people dying from various causes, learn about wars being waged, my heart aches for all sentient beings. When I acknowledge my sorrow and meet it with compassion, just pause and sit still for a bit, I feel this glimmering light that grows into love. I see how much love is available, a love so large that I cannot even hold it. It holds us all. And, in this process, with each breath, and each step, there is just this, whatever needs to be faced right now, with love.

Council of Being

Council of Being

Here is an expression called “Council of Being”, about knowing within and without and neither within nor without in a dynamic and moving way. The light in the center of the void has a pull and curious illumination. The black and white coloring represents the dualistic universe of expression we often live with. The monochromatic nature of this picture made the piece especially meditative because there was little color selection, making the process continuous as I worked my way around a spiral.

The beads appear alive with the movement of entering each bead on the in-breath, and on the out-breath pulling the thread out the other end. I enjoy this process, it is one of the most pleasant processes and my favorite art form. Since each bead is tiny, about one millimeter, concentration needs to be steady in picking up each one and sewing it down one or two at a time. Each bead is a void, and not a void, and neither a void or not a void. I reflected on this piece during the recent eclipse and thought I would share it with you. I also made a maple frame for the piece as the maple seemed right for its plain expression.

Some Things Seem Like Nothing

Some Things Seem Like Nothing

The other day I opened a book from the neighborhood library, which I frequent, and it said:

“The atomic proposal that the most energy arises from the smallest bit of substance was a logical offense, but quantum physics held even bigger offenses in store. Truly big energy, the evidence from quantum mechanics suggested, comes not from matter at all, but from empty spaces between the particles of matter. Break up an atom, our littlest item, and we get our biggest bang (to date). But within the spaces of an atom, or in spaces without atoms, quantum physicists said, lie far larger fields of energy. The most comes not from the least, but from nothing at all.” *

There certainly seems to be a lot of nothing, and it is helpful to see how much nothing there is and how freeing it is and how few people see this, actually see it, and then it seems that is also nothing too, so the something’s are such flashes and in between the spaces of some things there is more no things than what we can comprehend, it has to be a total bodily Knowing of all-ness in no thing, sort of.

I suddenly remembered a little drawing I did years ago, pictured here. It came along as I was looking at thoughts, and in between thoughts.

I felt delighted to be kind of understood for a moment, how simple this is, how quantum physicists are looking into this. I already know this, and liked reading it again. Hmm, he implies there is nothing there. The Buddha also knew that that wasn’t the end; that he had to go further. He was even offered a position as a teacher from the teacher he was working with but he knew nothingness was not going to satisfy. I closed the book and put it back gently.

The absolute truth is the only satisfaction as it arises moment by moment.

And, it ain’t nothing, and it ain’t some thing, and it ain’t really something and nothing, so that makes it hard to write about. It ain’t even it.

*from, Magical Child Matures, Joseph Chilton Pearce, page 94

Strumming

by Constance Casey 12-23-2009

Left side of the neck and throat area plays some intense rhythm,

strumming down the ear, in and around the tonsils

then deep base strings in the heart area,
clenching with grief,
sublime openness,
and tension releasing through vibrating sensations of pulling,

stretching.

inner re-organization…of dreams — what sings this?

whatever – willing – being with

“selfing” brings along undoing, being with unknowing

each day brings less and less of any “me”

look inside and see scattered bones,
some cleaned out archaeological dig site long ago trampled and forgotten.

The trauma of selfing,
of building some-such-thing

is remembered deeply.

Unwinding this pattern tunes attention at every key moment,
singing chords of spine and vertebrae and marrow,
seeing the sun rise to melt any frozen limbs of innuendo.

Listen up! It’s open season on ideas.

Right in the center.

It has its own agenda,

“do not seek answers” is what Rilke said.

A tentacle arm softly unfolds,

seeing,
curious,

It can’t help Its wise molecular muscles made for touch
and all along, feels and knows, and understands and sees through and through,

again and again,

with all the more clarity and gratitude

and no direction, friend.