Making Space for Grief

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We have seen in study after study that compulsive positive thinkers are more likely to develop disease and less likely to survive. Genuine positive thinking — or, more deeply, positive being — empowers us to know that we have nothing to fear from truth.

Gabor Maté

Generally speaking, we don’t have a great relationship to grief and sadness in Western society. The tendency is to attach to pleasure and push away pain. Have you noticed how you deal with a common disappointment, illness, or even death? I don’t mean how you think you deal with it, but what you actually do. Do you find yourself avoiding the discomfort in some way? Our bodies have built-in protective mechanisms, based on our previous traumas, so there is no shame or judgment in how we deal. The truth is feeling your feelings is hard. If we can create safe spaces to feel, to grieve, we can start to move through it and actually come to a place of “positive being” rather than “positive thinking”. We don’t bypass the challenges for the sake of feeling good. In fact, I don’t think we can. When we suppress difficult emotions, they don’t go away. We have to make space for it all.

Grieving is a process, not a destination. There is so much scientific evidence that emotional trauma impacts our physical health and immunity, which most indigenous cultures, Yoga/Ayurveda, and TCM have known for centuries These systems and cultures contain maps for dealing with pain - there are practices, medicines, and ceremonies to help people process various moments of transition and emotional states. Think about it: what practices/rituals were you taught as a child to deal with trauma and suffering? For most of us, we need to create containers and learn tools for this as adults. One practice that has been very impactful for me is working with the Tibetan Dakini mandala. Through this practice, I’m reminded that every emotion has both an obstructed and an enlightened state. Meaning that there is wisdom in the emotions we would normally deem negative, such as anger, grief, jealously, or apathy.

When we are there for our own emotional suffering, we can be present with the emotional suffering of others. We are able to keep our hearts open when someone else shares their grief or sadness. We don’t need to improve or heal them. We can meet them with understanding and true compassion. On the relative plane, our suffering is different, some people endure unfathomable tragedies and circumstances that we could not imagine. Yet on the spiritual plane, suffering is suffering. If we can understand our own, we can feel for the rest of the world as well.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Autumn relates to the lungs and the emotion of grief. So, as we move into Autumn, I’m curious what are you allowing yourself to grieve? Is it a job, a relationship, a person, or the planet? Is it an idea of who you think you should be? Perhaps you are grieving during a transition in your life?

Anyone can take time to make space for grief. I’ve found the Tibetan practice of tonglen is helpful for making space for grief. I also suggest creating a time to relax without distractions, perhaps taking a bath or walking in nature, allowing time for contemplation on grief and feeling what arises. Working with an experienced teacher or therapist on somatic awareness and embodiment can be helpful. It is my experience that many meditation practices actually dismiss emotion as thought, but there is so much benefit in developing a practice on working with emotions. Most of all, feel your feelings. In this earthly realm, no one is above suffering. If we are to become spiritual warriors, so to speak, it means we must take a good look at our pain and learn how care for it oh so tenderly. Light itself is seen through contrast to darkness - you cannot have one without the other.

Please do not hesitate to reach our for a session if you are navigating grief or sadness in this moment.

resources

Tara Mandala

When The Body Says No - Gabor Maté