“Community… Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free…” Starhawk
It’s easy to feel isolated and alone in our grief, and often times, the effort required to reach out can feel overwhelming. However, there is something so healing about sharing your story with people who truly listen and share sacred space to hear your deepest sorrow. There is great power in connecting with others who allow you to feel supported and honoured exactly as you are – with all your hurts, fears, pains and joys. Compassion begins to blossom when we see how rampant suffering and loss is in our society…and how much people want to talk and share the stories of their loved ones who have died, and their experiences surviving their deaths.
Today’s blog post is about various avenues of support, and various communities that have grown around Alberta and the world. The following are current and upcoming workshops/seminars/groups/discussions related to life, death, and grief.
As a long time yoga student and now a yoga instructor, I am often hearing/talking about ‘creating intention’ around a yoga practice – as a way of initiating a practice and focusing the mind. Intention can be a powerful tool to ground oneself and create a life of meaning and integrity. But, what exactly is an intention? And, how can it be used in a yoga practice, and then carried over into daily life?
In my experience, intention is often confused with goal setting. Setting a goal is an outcome orientated, future based object of a persons ambition or effort. Goals are something you work towards acheiving, with the end result being either a win/lose, positive/negative situation. Goals provide direction to your life, require planning and organizing your behaviour to achieve the objective of your goal. Goal setting is an extremely valuable skill – allowing you to envision your future world and move in a direction towards that destination. The un-yogic side of goal setting is that goals are centered around an imagined future, and the positive/negative outcome orientation around goals can create suffering. Further, goals do not guide you on how to live, they just guide you on what you want in the future, which is often volatile and out of your control.
Intention setting is different – intention is about how you choose to BE in the present moment. With an intention, it requires ever present attention to the changes and flow of your daily life. It requires constant mindfulness to respond to situations in your life in a way that is true to your deepest values, morals and ethics. It’s a committment to behave outwardly in a fashion that mirrors your inner values. By practicing “right intention” you live from a place of authenticity and unity, and from this place you can work towards your goal and create meaningful fulfilment in your life.
So, goals and intentions are intertwined. Intentions create a constant presence and mindfulness, aligning the energy of your heart with your energy of working towards your goals. Often, our goals become a little easier to reach when we act from right intention. This takes practice, awareness, and reflection. Especially when it comes to the storms we face in life, creating intention and acting from this unified core takes practice and compassion. When we lose our footing in the security of life, and stumble into confusion and despair, remembering our intentions can give us the grounding to reconnect with what is soulfully important to us. This reconnection is independent of the outcome of our goals…so when life changes and appears to fail us, we still have our intentions to allow us to find a foothold.
Yoga can provide a “practicum” in setting right intention by consistently coming back to it through out the class. If you can set the intention to “BE” every moment of a 90 minute yoga class, and non-judgementally watch the pull away from experiencing the present moment into the lure of a future oreientated striving, you can begin to understand the nature of the illusions of the mind versus the truth of the present moment.
As you move through grief, and work towards integrating your losses into your life (this would be the goal), you can approach each moment from a place of authenticity of your experience (this would be the intention). It is vital to come back to your noourishing center to remember that although you cannot control the events in your life you can use mindful intention to control how you respond – in a way that is self-supportive.
So, the next time you are in a yoga class, and the teacher invites you to create an intention, think about how you want to BE in the present moment, moment after moment. What deep value or wisdom do you you want to guide you through the ups and downs of life?
Then, when you are in a difficult pose and your mind starts to wander, or negative self talk begins to overtake you, come back to your intention. Or, if emotion arises – whether its anger or sadness, approach that emotion by remembering the intention that keeps you out of the “reaction” to the emotion and into the experience of blending your emotional release with your committment to BE with the present moment. Over time and with practice this will begin to organically guide you in all you do – on and off the yoga mat.
The following is from a video that a friend posted on Facebook. The link is here, and below I’ve taken the time to write out the message because it needs to be said…And, it can’t be said enough…. Namaste.
“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world today than for bread.” ~ Mother Theresa
Have you been fed today?
Has anyone told you today that you are loved?
Has anyone made you feel appreciated and let you know how special you are?
Has anyone assured you that you are exactly who you need to be?
And that in simply doing what you love to do, you are doing enough?
Has anyone reminded you that you didn’t come here to prove anything?
You came just to be you.
Because being you is enough.
You are one of a kind,
A true origonal, a masterpiece of incomparable value,
and without you the world would be incomplete
Like a puzzle missing a crucial piece.
And you are the only being in the universe that can fill that final space.
Has anyone told you the regrets of yesterday
belong to yesterday?
And that right now in this profound moment in time
you are perfect.
As perfect as you were created to be.
Has anyone taken the time to let you know that you are infinitely smarter than you give yourself credit for being?
And a thousand times more capable of achieving your dreams than you believe yourself to be?
Has anyone told you that you should never, ever doubt your own worth?
Because even in those moments when you feel it the least you are still wonderfully made
and there is within every single cell of your being enough power to light the world.
Your god placed it there the day you were born, and every loving thought you think radiates toward, brightening the world and making it a better place to be.
That is how powerful you are.
That is how loving you are.
So now I ask again,
have you been fed today?
Has anyone told you that your are truly loved?
If not then won’t you please,
let me be the one?
You are loved.
You are loved.
You are loved.
This is a great TED talk that is only 7:50 minutes long, and it’s about conscious listening. Granted, its about listening to others, and the world, but when I watched it I was struck by three things. 1. That our listening is filtered by things like our culture, language, values, beliefs and expectations, and 2. That when we lose our ability to listen, we also lose our ability to notice the quiet, subtle, and understated, and 3. Conscious listening creates understanding.
So, if this talk is about listening outside ourselves, can we not apply it to listening within ourselves?
If we look at the filters we experience around grief, we encounter many messages and expectations that sometimes feel contradictory to how we are feeling. For example, societal expectations to “stay strong,” when you feel like weeping, and to ”keep busy,” when you can barely get out of bed, and “keep your chin up,” when everything in your body wants to curl into a ball and retreat. Which begs the question, “What are we listening to?” How we should be? Or, how we actually are?
If we are inundated with messages that feel counter to our natural tendencies to grieve and mourn, and more importantly, if we spend our energy listening to these messages, are we at a loss for hearing the quiet, subtle and understated messages in our grief. So, our challenge becomes starting to listen consciously to ourselves – turning inward and using the signals in our minds and bodies to make meaning out of our experience. Our bodies are wise, and our grief has important messages. Its quiet call that requires us to slow down and take care of our fragile, vulnerable emotions which are painful…and painful for a reason – they invite us to begin to feel our losses and listen to the effect our losses have had on our lives. So, in time our conscious listening to ourselves creates understanding.