Tag Archives: grief

Do Something

Isn’t that what we all want right now, to DO something, something that will soothe the Sandy Hook community, something that will prevent future tragedy, something that will make us and others feel better, safer?

We’ve seen horrors like Newtown’s play out, all too often, and we can predict how things will go for the next few days and weeks. There will be a call to do something financial — donate to the families, to the Red Cross, to a musical act that will perform a fund-raising concert. There will be a call to do something political, with discussions about gun control and mental health funding. There will be a call to do something local, to see if we can make our schools and churches and malls and theaters and stadiums and other areas we gather any safer.

And still we will feel helpless, as if there’s nothing really we can do, nothing to really make a difference.

But we can if we go hyper-local. I mean hyper-hyper local.

I’ve written before about big peace and small peace:

A child asked at bedtime, “Mommy why is there war? Why can’t there be peace in the world?”

“Well, to have peace in the world, we need peace in our country.

“To have peace in our country, we must have peace in our city.

“To have peace in our city, we must have peace in our neighborhood.

“To have peace in our neighborhood we must have peace in our home.

“To have peace in our homes we must have peace in our hearts.”*

So then, the thing we can do — the only thing really that there is to do, is to cultivate peace within. But how?

I’ve also written before about the powerful practice of tonglen, which harnesses the transformative energy of the heart using simple awareness.The transformative power of the heart centerWhat is this practice? “Tonglen” is a Tibetan word meaning “taking and giving.” Practiced mystics do this on behalf of all humanity.

Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher who attended prep school in Connecticut, says, “Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we being to take care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality.”

1. Get yourself into a meditative state. This can be done while sitting, while lying down, while hiking in nature, while walking (have a labyrinth nearby?) , or while creating art or music or dance. Do what allows you to lose yourself.

2. First become aware of your breathing for a few moments. Follow your breath in and out of your lungs.

3. Tonglen breathing has three parts for each breath:

  • For your inhales, imagine you are breathing in all the suffering there is. Allow this suffering to open your heart center further and awaken your compassion for all who deal with it. Ask God, Jesus, the Divine, your spirit guides or whomever to bless all the suffering that you accept into your heart. This is the opposite of the avoidance of pain — it requires the welcoming of it.
  • At the top of the breath, pause for just a moment to allow your heart center to shift and transform the yuckiness it holds. Hold the intention to do so.
  • For your exhales, imagine the suffering energy being cleansed and transformed by your heart center and sent from your lungs back to the world. Only now what was dark is now light, what was gunky is now clear. Envision this metamorphosis, as performed by your open and aware Heart Chakra. You willingly take in suffering, and joyfully send out compassion and healing.
  • Keep up the three-part breathing, mindfully. Fill up your room, your home, your neighborhood with this magnificently pure, love energy.

4. Flow and transform for 5, 10, 20 minutes. No hard rules — just do it as long as you can stay focused on bringing in the “bad” and sending out the “good.” Don’t worry about doing this “right.” Make the practice yours and play with your heart center’s own transforming power.

5. Pat yourself on the back for setting aside some time to be conscious and still.

I practiced a few moments of tonglen this morning and will do so daily for the foreseeable future. I envision a wave of people doing the simple and private act of tonglen, of willingly taking in the grief and horror, of holding it in a moment of transformation, and of returning to the world  the energy of peace and love.

Will you join me?

*vignette paraphrased from a story told by my Teacher, Ethel.

Image: painting by Lisa Marie-Olsen, used with permission

Breaking Hope

Either Hope is fickle or I am. Our relationship, especially during my days of attempting to resolve infertility, was a contentious one. I pinned so much on Hope.

We’re revisiting posts about “hope” for Time Warp Tuesday, the monthly blog hop offered by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed.

Kathy directs us to find an old blog entry :

It might be a post where you wrote about something you hoped for, how hope got you through a difficult or uncertain time in your life or more generally what hope means to you. Then write a new post on your blog about why you chose the post that you did and what has happened in your life since.

I dug through this blog’s archives and couldn’t find a post that fit the bill. But I knew I’d written about Hope (that bi+ch). I finally found a few posts on a different blog, an early one that details my infertility journey. I found three related posts in which my relationship with Hope arcs and resolves over the course of 3 years.

  • Hope-less: Failure to Thrive. Today I began to die. I feel alone. I’ve tried to get over my dreams to have a family, and we’ve talked about some alternatives, but we don’t seem to be able to pursue any. Now, the future literally doesn’t exist for me.
  • Hope-neutral: Treading Water. The problem with the method of dying I’ve chosen is the time it takes to do it — weeks or months of willful dying when the body is programmed to live. I feel like the dark curtain has lifted, in spite of my best intentions, and I probably will survive this funk.
  • Walking away from Hope: Fertility, Take Two. Only after a painful and final breakup was I able to move forward. Deciding on another IF treatment would be like betting your 401K on a ground sloth that somehow wandered onto the track at Belmont…Such a firmly rooted dream is not easy to pull up and discard. My pillow is wet for months on end.

With that I began dealing with my world as it was and not as I hoped and wished it would be. I am now a mom to two amazing tweenagers, whom I have parented since Day 1 (give or take). Somehow, I managed to get everything I longed for — after resolving my dysfunctional relationship with Hope.

Click over to Time Warp Tuesday to read more posts about hope, and maybe even add your own (even if it’s no longer Tuesday).

Time Warp Tuesday: Left Behind

Let’s see…which ultimate demise shall I choose  — “by one’s own hand” or “eff-ing cancer”?

I’m talking about my options for Time Warp Tuesday, the monthly blog hop offered by Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed. This month’s theme is Left Behind, and our assignment is to find an old post tells what it was like to live on after the death of a loved one. And then to write a new post explaining why I chose that post and what has happened in my life since. Continue reading Time Warp Tuesday: Left Behind