Reflections on Grief
"You must meet the outer world with your inner world or existence will crush you"
Recently, with the passing of my step-father, meeting the outer world has not been of interest. Grief is an interesting, multi-layered experience that cannot be rushed or changed just because you want; it need be allowed time to be and to be felt. Yesterday was the first day I have taught since returning from the funeral and the gathering of family to celebrate this wonderful man. My mind felt blank and yet also scattered and I could sense that looking people in the eyes whom I had never met was very much the last thing I wanted to do. I found comfort in my regular students, whom have been loyal to my classes. The barrier from "keeping it up" to "breaking down" was thinner than I realized, as I unexpectedly embraced a dear friend before I taught and was amazed at how easy it was to tear up and feel a wave of sadness, again. But I showed up. I taught, even though it was hard. I taught on being present, to allow ourselves the opportunity of life by feeling all that we feel; I taught on observing our intricate and sometimes, funny mind chatter; I taught on how life is a miracle and how every day, every moment is a chance to show up, be present and to live. I taught what I needed to hear to keep going; to remind myself how to meet the outer world, again, even when I didn't want to.
A dear student of mine over the holidays gifted me, "The Book of Awakening" by Mark Nepo and today's reading was this...
"There is a wind that keeps blowing since the beginning of time, and in every language ever spoken, it continues to whisper, You must meet the outer world with your inner world or existence will crush you. If inner does not meet outer, our lives will collapse and vanish. Though we often think that hiding our inwardness will somehow protect or save us, it is quite the opposite. The heart is very much like a miracle balloon. Its lightness comes from staying full. Meeting the days with our heart prevents collapse. This is why ninety-year-old widows remain committed to tending small flowers in spring; why ten-year-olds with very little to eat care for stray kittens, holding them to their skinny chests; why painters going blind paint more; why composers going deaf write great symphonies. This is why when we think we can't possibly try again, we let out a sigh that goes back through the centuries, and then, despite all our existence, we inhale and try again. "
Reading this sure doesn't speed up my grieving process, but it does remind me of how important it is to stay present with life that is now. It is a gentle whisper to enjoy the ride of nostalgia and to be grateful for the time and all the many lessons from my step-dad. It is a sweet embrace granting comfort to my soul that our human life is a short one and we need make the best of it to ourselves and to others through kindness, love, joy and compassion. But most importantly, it is a bold realism to live life!
Here is my list of how to live life, to wake up and be human
Tell those you love, why you love them and do it often
Delight in others successes
Don't sweat the small stuff
Soften your grip on anger, it is only poisoning you
Stop living out of fear of what was or what could be
Do what you have always wanted to do
Listen to others - it teaches you to slow down your own story and it encourages others to share
Enjoy the ride - let yourself feel and be seen. You inspire others as you do so.
Keep evolving and growing - it is your gift to be alive and to be human - Embrace it!