Mindfulness and Grief

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      

49 thoughts on “Mindfulness and Grief

  1. Thank you for this. I struggle to find stillness. I can be still for a long time, not being physically active, or I walk alone for hours, but my mind never stops. And like you, I find it important to not force myself into something I cannot handle. Need to find MY way to come to a peaceful place.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thejourneytofindtherealme

    Mindfulness and meditation and yoga also help me. I can feel the burgeoning sadness in me. I let my emotions run free now. If I need to cry. I
    Cry. It helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a difficult loss. Im so sorry you lost your mom. Its wonderful that you let yourself feel the gut-wrenching grief. Im sure it may still come in waves and maybe sometimes out of the blue. Sending you warm thoughts. ❤️


  4. You may have read on my blog that my mother Lillian recently passed away. The last day I was with her at the hospice it was very difficult to leave knowing I would probably never see her in this life again.
    I had a gut wrenching cry in the parking lot and surprisingly it released a lot of my grief which I felt I held back from feeling. It was awful but healing for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For my family, mindfulness helped us see the blessings and gifts in the moment. It is these we tried to focus on rather than the emotional pain. It really helped! I have written a bit about this experience in the hope that it will help others.

    Your article is so beautifully written! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for replying me. This reply means alot to me.

    Such an awesome way of replying someone.
    Thanks. Again.

    You welcome dear friend.

    You can also check on my blog for the recent post and say your own views and contribution on it.
    I did a good post about “”” LET IT GO”””

    Enjoy the weekend.

    Peace ✌and Love ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your beautiful words just made my day. Thank you so much for adding such magical drop of words in my jar of motivation.I feel blessed by your writing right now.
    I found delight love in what you just said in your post.
    Again such a beautiful write up on your blog.
    Keep the vibes on.

    Peace ✌and Love ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s fantastic news Alexis! I’d love to be in a class with you, going left as well 😃😘
    Have you tried 5Rhythms classes? So good for Somatic healing and self expression? Dance on xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I LOVE dancing too!! I will dance anywhere to anything. In fact I take a dance class once a week and even if I go left when everyone goes right, Im still smiling and at peace.
    I definitely have to check out that link! Thank you for sharing your love of movement with me. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I practice my mindfulness most easily when dancing, whether at home in my living room with curtains drawn, on the empty beach with earphones in, or at a sacred dance class being run by a teacher. Dancing in the woods is a wonderful combination too. Movement definitely works better for me, dancing spirit that I am. Just keep doing what heals you, and exploring other options when they pull you… best wishes, G ❤
    PS: 'Forest bathing' is really a thing, even according to TIME magazine: http://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Gina, thank you so much for your feedback and your honesty. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for you to stay in the present sometimes. You, my equator friend bring so much light and love to this world. I feel your hugs and I’m hugging you right back. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  12. reading your words has opened my eyes to a few things, thank you for your honest sharing Alexis. practicing mindfulness is not easy as I fall back into wanting to stay in the past, it’s a familiar place there and yet it’s also a place that hurts deeply. I am deeply appreciative of your story and your journey through your pain and healing, it brings so much healing to us who read you and love you. Sending lots of hugs to you dear Alexis.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Suzanne

    Wonderful writing; thanks for sharing! Have you heard of forest bathing/forest therapy? I ask because I’ve been practicing it lately and find it easier to “stay with” than traditional meditation. It is usually done with a guide/group and involves attuning each sense to the smells, sights, sounds and feelings of the woods individually (as well as other practices). I have gone deeper with it than with other forms of meditation into a relaxed state. I have trouble accessing my grief anywhere, much less outside, so I think it is very poignant and meaningful that you were able to open yourself to that level of processing in nature.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. I love how you bring up that we have to get out of our own way. That is so very true!!
    I like how thought provoking your comment is. We do have to find our own path and give ourselves permission to know that we are all different and the path is never linear. As, always thank you so much for sharing. ❤️😊

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you, thats awesome that you are a mindfulness teacher. I agree, I think there are ways to incorporate mindfulness into our lives no matter what we are dealing with and Im glad there are people like you who teach and also blog out there to help us find the strategies and options. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Thank You so much for sharing. I love how you acknowledge your childhood self not being able to handle the situations. Its just such a loving and respectful way to validate our younger self. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank You Brighid. I love how you use the tiniest of steps. I think its so easy to lose sight of those tiny steps because we wait for a big event. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  18. A cry is cleansing, but only a cry. The woods are cleansing, but only as they are understood.

    Meditation is a tricky thing. I claim to be no Zen guru, but I have learned a thing or two about overcoming in this life and preparing for the one to come. Hopefully this life and the one to come will be only one life in actuality. I sense the transition in process.

    As for meditation, I find people get lost in the words that try to describe it in order to make it effective. Like when it is said to clear one’s mind. I don’t clear my mind. I make my soul available to hear from the Spirit of The Most High. It feels like emptiness, but really it’s acceptance.

    People often get impressions while in this state, but since they aren’t centred on Source, it is just their own thoughts, …often about religious things they’ve been taught. What we want is to tap into the Infinite and become enlightened and empowered in the Truth. So I focus it on Yahweh and wait for an answer, and trust that answer is true. I can test it. If it isn’t, I’ve got some work to do to let go of my inner control, because I’m not hearing Source, but rather myself.

    I do have to empty. I have to get myself out of the way in order to be open to Source. My will has to go bye-bye. Otherwise I will hear my intentions and not His/Her will.

    Why do I use the word Yahweh to describe God. I found that the original Names carry more power than the nondescript God word. Besides, I came into the supernatural when I combined the ancient knowledge of Judaism with the more modern knowledge of Christianity. This was almost hyper effective in getting out of the old triggered paradigm I used to exist in.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is, we have to find our path in this. What is Zen for one may be counterproductive in another. We never know where life is taking us personally until we tap into Source. There may be as many protocols as there are individuals out there. Life is very Zen.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Go-to Mindfulness

    This is a lovely account of how mindfulness has worked for you and I love the analogy of the woods! As a mindfulness teacher, I think that there are aspects of mindfulness and meditation that can be used by anyone, whatever their problem. I love hearing how mindfulness has helped people and it’s great when people spread the word. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  20. This is so beautiful. I have also had intense feelings during meditation, and have had to grieve losses (sometimes ones that my childhood self did not know how to handle). It can be hard to really allow ourselves to feel this grief but it is a cleansing and healing process indeed. Thanks for this, I really appreciate the reminder.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Powerful words. Like you, bad things happened in woods, and yet they are places of beauty, of healing. Learning to be present, to be mindful, is about the tiniest of steps after trauma. It means being open to ones deepest feelings, letting them wash briefly over, then releasing. Often with moist cheeks. Thank you for these words.

    Liked by 3 people

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