My mindfulness and meditation practice is extremely important to me. Some mindfulness masters teach that you cannot fully begin to meditate until you have wept deeply. I once read a story of a Zen teacher who flirted with meditation for years before he decided to commit. He recalled how he wept openly and often for two years and only after he had grieved for many things in his life was he able to sit in silence.
Recently, as I was sitting outside enjoying a beautiful day, I began to feel the pull of profound grief and sadness for the life I had uncovered: the loss, the pain, the torture, the years that I clung to survival as my only way of life. I was sad for the years of having no hope, no dreams, and no promises made, thinking that whoever came into my life would leave. I don’t dwell there very long anymore, but sometimes, it’s a place I walk through after being triggered.
I began to recall the lesson about weeping. I thought about the many times during guided meditation that I would begin to shed tears, not weeping, but feeling the unmistakable wetness. Feeling the tears stream down my cheeks, I stopped and pulled myself back to reality. The reality of kids, shopping lists, or work.
At the time, I didn’t understand that perhaps those tears marked the beginning of my spirit wanting to open up, cleanse myself through grief, and help guide me on my path. I didn’t understand that there is openness after grief, and it is an important part of life and growth.
Before I came inside to write this, I grabbed a fuzzy that was floating in the air, made a wish, and blew it away. I wished I could go away deep in the woods without the sounds of the world and just sit, just be with the sounds of nature, and the fog coming up from the ground at dusk.
I thought about a story I once read of a girl in a silver boat who had gone through the woods and came out on a beautiful shore.
Though I yearn to go into the woods without the sounds of the world, it can be a difficult experience. I get triggered in the woods; bad things happened to me in the woods, and, still, I love the woods! My desire to go into the woods to find a simple, peaceful experience, is coupled directly with traumas that are so triggering that going there is a challenge.
Mindfulness requires me to stay in the present. After I experience a flashback bringing myself back to the present can be difficult, especially if I’m in the woods. Yet, I want to be in the woods, I feel connectedness in the woods. It’s a paradox.
I realize that the girl in the silver boat and the Zen master who said they wept for years are stories. They are metaphors that help show us another way. They provide hope and give us the strength to keep trying, keep breathing.
I have been wonderfully surprised that some mindfulness teachers are saying, if a person is working through trauma, perhaps just sitting and meditating is not the best path at the moment. Practicing mindfulness is important, being able to sit with the feelings as they come is important, but forcing yourself to sit for a prescribed period of time may be counterproductive.
For me, that is the reality of my practice. Sometimes I can sit for a minute, sometimes longer. I accept that this is the process of healing and that meditation is just one tool in my toolbox.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had many conversations with people about grief and loss. Often trying to define it, and the many ways it can manifest itself. The feelings that sneak up on us, reminding us that loss comes in many forms and can be caused by many things. Some are overt experiences, some are insidious vestiges leftover from long ago. Staying mindfully non-judgemental when the feelings of loss and grief creep in seems to be a common struggle. It can be difficult to navigate.
Living mindfully, staying present, and surfing the waves of emotion as they come is my goal. I set my intention every morning; I try to evolve and know that without shedding the tears, feeling the words, and experiencing the grief, no matter how many times it rears its’ head, my beautiful, internal gnarly scar of survival will have a hard time staying rooted in place.
Photo by Janet Rosauer
Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph