Photo: Margarita, 2019 “Wings are for landing.”
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”
David Whyte, an excerpt from his poem “Vulnerability.”
Grief and bereavement, the hero’s journey to the deepest parts of our hearts.
Perhaps when we encounter the courage and endurance to face what makes us fragile and vulnerable, we can gently start the process of uncovering our inner strengths. Feeling empowered is an experience that nothing and no one can bestow on us; it’s up to us to discover the full landscape and mysteries residing in us. In my personal experience of grief, this discovery journey continues to take place through the regular practice of mindfulness meditation and therapy.
Like in a hero’s journey, grieving is a rite of passage because it connects us with the potentiality of growth amid suffering. We cross the first threshold as we leave the limits of what was known to us to open space in our hearts and venture into difficult emotions.
Once at the core and shelter of our hearts, we find ourselves immersed in new realities and the presence of our innermost friends and villains. We walk through that space hoping for a breakthrough, and perhaps then, we can ask ourselves: What kind of emotional mentoring and feelings do I want to welcome me on the other side? Is it serenity? Forgiveness? Peace? Stillness?
Grieving is an invitation to connect with ourselves.
As we grieve and go through meaningful life transitions, the possibility for growth is an invitation to uncover new aspects within us and expand any idea we have about who we are.
We know when we are ready to do the work, and no one can tell us when and how to dive deeper into the realm of our emotions, imagination and desires. Connecting with those parts in us doesn’t mean life will then get more comfortable. Quite the opposite, healing and growth involve accepting to walk this life, knowing that we carry a cracked heart. In a way, wholeness is to be in harmony with seeing those cracks more clearly and having the will to heal and embrace the fact that we, like everything else, constantly change as we move through life. Mattieu Ricard wrote, “who we are now is just the starting point.”
Listening to the grieving process with an attitude of reverence.
During grief and loss, connecting with our pain can turn into a sacred practice of listening to our inner voice and mindfully paying full attention to what manifests in our hearts, body and minds. We can ask ourselves: Is this voice in me offering me the gift of clarity? Is this voice in me helping me reappear in the world more compassionately? Is this voice a messenger of honesty and authenticity?
Sometimes we may even need an attitude of gentle defiance to confront some of the voices carrying stories from our formative years or old relationships that don’t serve us anymore.
Mindful listening offers the opportunity to learn to discern between the narratives that cultivate temperance, love, wisdom and vitality and those that promote guilt, shame and stagnation. Letting go of those undeserving stories is a gradual process, not something that happens just by having the desire to ‘let go.’ Letting go or releasing what doesn’t serve us anymore requires time, effort, self-honesty and accepting the discomfort.
Grieving is the time for re-learning how to treat ourselves.
Perhaps, re-learning how to relate to ourselves is possible. We learn to surrender to the magnitude of the impact that grieving has on our life, resembling the ‘Return Act’ of the hero’s journey.
Ask yourself: What are the words that I will use to soothe and calm myself? What act of kindness and tenderness will I offer myself as a gift? How will I heal my wounds with compassion and forgiveness?
Grieving offers us an incredible opportunity, and that is to step forward and actualize the act when the hero returns in triumph. We can go as slow as we want because there is nowhere else to be, but here, in the midst of the adversity and knowing that we are searching while carrying the unbearable.
When we wonder, ‘Why to keep going?’ We will hear our braveheart say: ‘Keep going! Immerse yourself in the movement and flow of nature. You will survive the most challenging experiences, and when you do, you will learn that something is enduring within yourself that allows you to go through the most challenging times. That’s life flowing through you.’ That is what makes us humans. That is the shared humanity of growing and evolving through adversity.
We don’t need to be the struggle, and as mindful warriors do, it’s possible to relax into its tension. It’s within our reach to open space, breathe and release the tension and to search for beauty in the smallest things. Pain and grief co-exist with love and the desire to live, and we are left to dance in between the grey areas.
“I know now that this piercing pain, I feel most of the time, comes out of profound love and devotion. If ‘I’ manage to stay out of my way, I can then see more clearly. Those are my moments of power.
Don’t miss the opportunity! My most vulnerable self is the driving force, and I am following its path, trusting that my sorrow is an expression of love.”
Margarita Rabinovich, 2018. An excerpt from my journals.