This week I have been thinking a lot about the nature of grief and suffering. I see it all around me, in me, and pervading the consciousness of our world. I've been reading a book by a Buddhist nun Pema Chodron called "When Things Fall Apart". I am not a Buddhist, but I have found the teachings to make more sense to me than any other philosophy or religion, and as a non-theistic religion, the teachings apply to our human experience versus a spiritual realm and much like Yoga, can aptly be applied in anyone's life.
As I move through emotions such as sadness and grief, I notice not only thoughts pervading my consciousness, but also specific feelings in my body... constriction in the chest, tension in my neck, tightness in my gut, clenching of my jaw. For this, I rely on self-care techniques such as deep breathing or kapalabhati breath (breath of fire), I've done a heart strengthening kundalini practice, and received acupuncture to help with the subtle tensions of my body. Self-care, self-care, self-care. It also helps to name the emotion, name the physical sensation, and sit with it, instead of constantly fighting against it.
As I work with the subtle body, I find the words of Pema Chodron help align some of the disconnect and discontent. As things as you know them break down around you, see if this phrase rings a truth, "Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation, can that which is indestructible be found in us." You may start to notice little deaths in each moment-- the sun sets at the end of each day, the bottom of your delicious cup of coffee, the close of a delightful hug, your child waving as she gets on a school bus and out of your sight, you see that each petit mort, little death, prepares you for the bigger losses-- ultimately your own mortality.
So often the temptation is to cover up, draw away, or escape from the suffering that comes from each little loss-- reaching for a pill, a distraction, anything to take our minds off the feeling of pain and loss. Yet, "thinking that we can find some lasting pleasure and avoid pain is what in Buddhism is called samsara, a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer greatly." Our suffering is based on the misconception that things last, that they are permanent (the 'good' and the 'bad'). Yet everything is subject to change and alteration, "decay is inherent in all component things". And more importantly, our suffering is a direct reaction to the belief that things are permanent and unchanging. Suffering is "inevitable" for humans as long as we cling to the belief that things last, and "that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security".
So my challenge recently has been to sit with feelings of grief and sadness, open myself up to the changing nature of all things, and be gentle. Use a light touch, notice the range of emotions that come and go... over seconds, minutes, days. A feeling, thought or emotion crosses across your experience like clouds in the sky, ever changing and impermanent. As I open up to the experience, I no longer cling to the feeling or thought, knowing that it, too shall pass. As I move through anger, sadness, denial, acceptance (in a circular, not linear way), I see each moment as a way to be a friend to myself. "Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy." I know that when the joy comes after the grief is passed, that it, too, is not permanent. All things arise and disappear, and that is the nature of reality. All we have for CERTAIN is the present moment.
The cherry blossom falls after its short beautiful bloom.
It floats gently down to earth. Its life is over, but the limitedness of its existence is one of the biggest reasons the blossom is so gorgeous. If we knew that the blossom would last forever, it wouldn't have the same poignant beauty, and we'd take it for granted. - Leo Babauta