Dear Readers, What music moves you? I would love to hear what songs touch your soul. Feel free to comment below…
What Else Can I Do? By Karla Anderson
"Physicality is a gift. It lets us literally touch each other. I am not interested in theories or practices aimed at getting out of here. I do not want to focus on preparing to go to heaven or evolving into formlessness. I want to learn how to be here fully, in this body, in this world. And I want to live in a world infused with the power of. . . . physical sensation inseparable from heart and soul that calls us to live. . . . The meaning enfolded in our very cells is unfolded as we touch and are touched. This is Beauty.” ~ Oriah from The Invitation (c) 1999
I love this quote by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. I don’t think I would have always loved it – if I would have read it 5 years ago, I would have disagreed.
It was then that I wanted to escape the pain of living in the horrid reality of death so badly that I searched and explored for any way to connect with the “world beyond.” For me, I wanted proof of the afterlife, and a way to connect to the formless forms, to find answers. I craved to be re-assured that there’s some deeper meaning to thislife. In hindsight, that is how I embarked on (the darkest part of) my spiritual journey – searching for meaning and answers to the answerless question – what happens after someone dies?
Throughout the years, and through my practice of yoga and meditation, I found myanswer.
I hod to go on living…somehow…and believing in something…in a way that I could cope with suffering day after day after day….and year after year…because no life is ever granted immunity to suffering.
I decided to find my own answers to my most difficult questions by learning what feels right within me, and inevitably what doesn’t feel right. “Believe what you need to,” I told myself.
What started as a search to connect with things/beings/answers outside this physical world, turned into a deep and honest trust that all the answers I need are within me. I know it sounds cliche, but if there is one thing my suffering has taught me, it’s that I have internal wisdom beyond my conscious understanding.
Through death, I realized that while I am in physical form I want to live in this physicality as much as I can. I want to be moved by all things in this world, material and natural, joyous and painful; and all the sensations and wonders of my body. This doesn’t mean just living in a “thumbs up” world – because that becomes a source of delusion. I want to live in the truth of the heart, and the depth of the experiences of this life.
It is possible to have both – wonders and beliefs in the non-physcial realm, as well as the physical. I’ve developed my own beliefs about life after death, and these beliefs influence my life, my rituals and my prayers, but as far as experiencing this life I’ve been given, this body I’m blessed to have, I want to be here and in my body and mind completely.
It was my yoga practice that re-connected me to my body and my life. Class after class I was guided to notice my internal experience. All my sensations, emotions, and thoughts. What seemed like an onslaught at first, turned into a guidebook to my (unique) life. My relationship to my internal experience changed – what first felt like a war, turned into an awareness that this suffering woman (amidst a war), needed kindness and compassion. Overtime, this awareness and relationship gave me counsel on how to live my life, which was extremely valuable and supportive as I re-built my life.
Yoga teaches me to live in an embodied way. I do my yoga when I am confronted with a difficult conversation or situation, and I notice what wisdom my body is relaying from it’s depth. By slowing down and commiting to practices of self awareness and contemplation (yoga and meditation), I find choices where I once felt there were no options, and control where I once felt there was chaos. My yoga practice involves manifesting my internal life in a way that is true, supportive, and nurturing.
Suffering will never be irradicated from my life, or from anyones life, but it is in this wisdom of embodiment where I can find the ability to cope with suffering. Even when it feels like I am taking two steps backwards, I remind myself that even that (seemingly negative) sense is part of living in an embodied way, and the most important part is that I am aware, because with awareness I can create choice, and from there, take wise action. Embodied life means being willing to experience life in it’s entirety – including the joy and the pain.
In the words of Oriah, “I want to learn how to be here fully, in this body, in this world. And I want to live in a world infused with the power of. . . . physical sensation inseparable from heart and soul that calls us to live. . . .”
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
- Naomi Shihab Nye
I read a quote recently, that I had recorded in an old journal from 7 months after Cam died. I can remember, how angry this quote made me, and how it still makes me angry 5 years later. This quote was written by Doug Manning in “The Pain of Grief.”
“They were expected to be sad for a short time, then buck up, put it all behind them, and get on with life. That is how grief was done. Stoicism was the key to all healing. Stoicism meant character. Stoicism meant faith. Stoicism meant friends did not have to be involved in the uncomfortable intimacy of devastating grief.”
This quote represents a widespread misconception of grief; and, fortunately, my experience in yoga allows me to know emphatically that this is not a healthy way to process grief.
I remember in a yoga class, we were standing in Tadasana (mountain pose). The teacher put us in groups of 4. One person standing (that was me) and 3 people supporting the stander. One person was to my left, one to my right and one behind me. The supporters had their hands on my shoulders, and upper back, offering energetic and physical support. We were instructed to close our eyes, and be curious of our internal experience.
Sure enough, as the tumultuous waves of my life settled into silent, simple, supported standing, emotion began to come up and I fought like hell to keep it down. I didn’t want these people to see me breakdown and cry…I mean, I barely knew them. And, for that matter, none of them knew my story, my loss, my reason for being there. I was fighting to stay stoic. Emotionless. Strong. I was fighting for me; afraid I would be completely and helplessly consumed by sorrow, and afraid of looking incapacitated by weakness – a weakness that I felt internally in the face of my emotion.
My teacher was in front of me watching. Looking back now, I’m sure she could see my internal fight written on my face and in my posture. I remember clenching my toes, and squeezing my leg muscles as quietly as I could to stay composed. Back tense, fists clenched, palms sweating, throat closing. I swallowed to relieve some pressure.
“Don’t swallow it down, Sandy,” she said.
Damn it. She caught me. My secret was out; I was dying inside.
“Let it come up,” she coaxed.
And I did. It felt so good to feel so bad. It was such a relief to let my emotion flow out of me. It was such freedom to be supported and encouraged to not fight the internal pressure of emotion that was building up. Finally, my outward behaviour was congruent with my internal experience – I no longer had to pretend to be emotionless and stoic. I was even more surprised that when I started to cry, my supporters didn’t run away. They stayed with me and supported me. It was beautiful.
That was a pivotal moment for me, both in my yoga journey and my grief. The strong opposing visceral experiences of fighting my emotions and then flowing with them, is one that I will never forget. Where I thought I would be consumed by emotion if I let it out, I realized that letting it out was a release, and holding it in would eventually devour me.
At the start of each class, my teacher would say, “Your emotion is welcome here.” To me, that meant, I was welcome there. Me and the entirety of my experience…even the hard, painful, emotional parts.
The other thing my teacher would say, which I needed to hear was, “You’re perfect just the way you are.”
This created a template for my yoga practice. This class taught me that yoga was where I could let my guard down, and really pay attention to what I was feeling. And further, whatever I was feeling was OK because it was my experience. It doesn’t get much more pure and honest than that.
Most importantly, this experience changed my perspective. Instead of seeing stoicism as strength, I saw emotional openness and honesty as strength. It took way more courage, sturdiness and stamina to allow my emotion to come up, and to trust myself, my teacher and the people around me. It was a leap of faith that day in yoga class, and I came to realize that the only thing that will happen if I let my emotion release is that….it will release. What a blessing and testament of grace.
Yoga teaches patience and gentleness. It teaches you to open up to yourself – not only by providing a place to explore your emotion and body, but comforting ways to be supported in the process. It teaches you how to move away from the societal pressures to be stoic. It teaches you how to stay with emotion and non-judgementally watch it move through you….which it will. By really paying attention you will notice that emotions are impermanent and constantly changing. The intensity subsides if you give it an outlet…let it release, set it free.
I recently subscribed to Living With Loss Magazine. I have always enjoyed magazines, and over the years my tastes have changed substantially. Nowadays, I find most magazines to be full of fluff, and void of the meaningful stuff of life. Considering this, I have been searching for a magazine that is full of heart, and full of wisdom. What drew me to Living With Loss Magazine is that one of my favourite “death and dying gurus” is a regular columnist – Alan Wolfelt. And, quite simply, it’s a magazine dedicated to the rawness of loss and life changing experiences. This is something I will never become tired of.
Living With Loss Magazine is a compilation of submissions from the general public and from professionals working with those who are bereaved. The magazine has been created with the intention to provide hope and healing to the mind, body and spirit, and all their articles reflect this. They rely on stories from their readers for columns like “The Gift of Experience,” to share stories among readers that may inspire others. They print moving poetry, that speaks directly to the heart. They even have a column called “Validations” that is created for those bereaved people who want to share stories of their connection with their loved one beyond death…a phenomenon that many people have experienced….
Regular contributors to the magazine include specialists in the fields of death, dying, loss and bereavement including: MDs, Ph.Ds, counsellors, spiritual directors, nurses and occasionally lawyers and insurance providers. The contributing columnists have such knowledge and wisdom to share – based on experience, science and the arts. Their dedication to serve those who are suffering is obvious, as their author biographies indicate many professional and personal endeavours into healing modalities for the mind, body and soul.
A yearly subscription for Canadians is about 50.00. I made my order and had my first issue mailed that same day. I am truley greatful the people at Bereavement Publications Inc. have dedicated their time and committed to creating a magazine that honours death, loss and bereavement – and creates an open forum for sharing and healing.
If you are interested in ordering an issue of the magazine, or to subscribe, you can do it here.
…and…stay tuned, I’m currently working on an article for submission about yoga as a healing modality for grief….maybe soon you’ll see it in print!
How do you define strength and compassion?
This is a TED Talk with Joan Halifax - Compassion and the true meaning of empathy.
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.
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