2022-07-04 Grief (1 of 5) The Pain of Emptiness
3:08PM Jul 4, 2022
So hello on this Fourth of July Monday. And back from being away for a week and I thank my friend and fellow teacher, Paul Haller for teaching while I was gone.
So the last two weeks that had been here, the first one I talked about practicing with emotions. And the second week, in particular focused on anger. And for this week, I'd like to have the theme be grief. Perhaps sometimes these follow each other are closely related, so much so that I know some teachers who, when people come to talk to them about grief, will gently ask about, what about sadness. And when they people ask about when to come and talk about sadness or grief. They might ask, the teacher might ask, What about the anger is there anger here, sometimes they operate to kind of intend them or in relationship to each other. One One is partly sometimes a they partner to the other and in our lives. And my thing seems to be a little bit strange to talk about grief on the Fourth of July holiday here in the United States. And and, but you know, if we nothing is left out, we're celebrating her independence that was a violent, there are certainly things to grieve in that. I had a friend who a Buddhist teacher who first time he was asked to perform a wedding for a couple did so but in the he gave a dharma talk as part of the wedding. And the dharma talk was on dying, death and dying. And probably it was a bit of a surprise for some people who came I don't know if the audience a couple knew that was coming. But for the dharma teacher, he this was the occasion to the wedding to talk about something for him that was really at the heart or center of have a wise and caring life to take into account. And so perhaps there's some way that a wise life or caring life, even on a day of celebrating a certain kind of liberation and independence, that were that independence, liberation to be realistic, maybe there has to be space to also recognize and sit with grief. So grief is a hugely important issue for many people. Sooner or later, most people will go through a period of grieving, feel grief. And, but still, even so people who speak English grew up speaking English might think they know what grief is. But maybe there's no real solid definition of what grief is. And, and in fact, if you go to some different cultures, people will speak different languages. There are some languages in which it's difficult to find an equivalent for the English word grief. Or it might not, it might not have the same connotations, or the same meanings or the same emotional associations to exactly what we might mean as grief as English speakers. And even within a country like United States. There are many different ways in which people grieve. Many relationships people have with grief, many ways in which people understand that have meaning for it. So it's a very rich area to explore and very important one, it's also one that's very difficult. And I'm certainly aware that bring up this topic today and for this week, might be difficult for those of you who are in the middle of maybe intense grief and and you'd come to the 7am Sitting for an alternative to some some kind of something else too, rather than having to be reminded of it or sit with it or address it. So for those of you
all of you to be careful this week around this topic of grief and and care For yourself, and hopefully I'll do this week with a lot of respect for the for each of you and for the challenges and difficulties that this world of grief might have. But it's not just a challenge and difficult thing. It's such a profound and important part of our human heart. That, that there's something very meaningful and powerful and wonderful. That can happen when we learn to respect the grief deeply, when we learn to allow it and, and understand it and allow it to move through us and find freedom with it. And so, I think it's an important topic that we'll do. So today's mostly introductory words about the topic. And I want to tell a story, very brief story from the Buddhist time, Buddha's teachings. The Buddha had a lot of disciples, but he had two disciples that historically were are considered his, his main disciples. Some people have called him to, you know, the left hand and right hand disciples really been the closest to him. Otherwise, his deepest practitioners that were responsible for a lot of teachings of the of the Buddhist community at his time. So these two teachers were Sāriputta. And one who's less known in the modern world is Maha mukha, Liana and, and both of these, kind of very close, closest disciples of the Buddha had known them for years and years and they died, before the Buddha died, the die the Buddha died when he was around 8081 years old. And so I put, I think they both died in the last year, the Buddha was alive. And, and there's one little I've been yet that's preserved. The related to this, after Sāriputta had died. The Buddha addresses the ascent his order of monks his monastics in sorry, puto was a monastic, one of the leaders of the monastic community. And so the Buddha is addressing the community and he says, this assembly, this gathering of, of our community, feels empty. Now that Sāriputta has died. He doesn't say anything more about what he's feeling, but he identifies he sees it as being empty. And, and I find this very evocative idea that people have asked us the Buddha grieve is the Buddha ever sad. And, and the closest that we come to some evidence of something like grief, in the Buddha is him recognizing that looking out across the assembly, what's most poignant for him is the absence of his two disciples, or who's this three story, there's one disciple and so grief, one way of understanding it is that it involves the loss of something, the absence of something, something is not here anymore, that was important. And, and, and then that absence is an absence that we fill. And we fill it in different cultures and different people, different societies have different religions. That absence has different meanings as different associations, different impacts on us, so that then a death of someone that's so varied, how people will experience that death. So buried the impact that has on them, what that empty space that empty lost that absence entails and the impact it has in the meaning it has in the function it has and, and all the things that change. Are
that is what we want to study. That's what we want to understand and respect. And I offer the story B so that we don't have some idea that we know what grief is, or that grief is just grief by itself, but rather grief is a very broad word for, for a range of emotions a range of, of meaning making a range of, of impact that all kinds of losses might have on us that we can get to know better that we can sit with and be with. And if we just call it grief by itself, we might not really see the fullness of it, it might not see the conditionality of it, the, the contingent nature of it, and how given that condition, contingent nature of the grief that we have, how we can best live with it, or respond to it or allow for it or respect it. And so, to begin kind of unpacking, what is it this empty thing that happened? So one of the definitions I have for grief is that grief is the pain that comes with a loss. Grief is the pain that comes with something that was important, is no longer here. And, and I don't use the Buddhist word suffering here, because suffering implies a lot more than just pain. But pain is more of a basic feeling of discomfort or pain. And then in that, in that in relation to pain, and the sense of emptiness and space and even potential, that grief is what is going on for us. What are we experiencing? What are we contributing? What are the stories we're telling ourselves? What stories are we living by? That, that this loss is absence has impacted that story? What what identities do we have? What hopes for the future have we had? What? What What have we been kind of comforted by or or cherishing that's no longer here? What's the nature of that pain? What are we contributing? What, what, what arises with that pain? And there's many things so that's why some people say that when people will sometimes therapists or dharma teachers will describe grief. They'll describe it as being a combination of many different emotions, sometimes anger, sometimes numbness, sometimes hostility comes out, sometimes despair, sometimes discouragement, sometimes sense of hopelessness. All kinds of things come into play. Some people in some cultures that will pain and loss that comes the pain and emptiness that comes with a loss, sometimes is, comes along with a lot of love and compassion. Sometimes it comes with even joy and celebration. The there's some cultures I've read about that, where the word that's their equivalent to the English word grief, is a combination of sadness and love.
To win, what is it that in this complex, this rich domain of grief, it's part of the depth and complexity and, and fullness of our life. It's not a singular thing. And, and so in the meditation that we just had, I suggested this practice of as you breathe in, to touch all of who we are. And on the exhale, allow something about it to subtle, not to disappear, not to push it away, but allow it to kind of as it is to rest. So with grief, as we attempt in meditation, it to breathe and touch, the grief, that subjective experience. And as you exhale, allow something about the grief for our relationship to the grief to settle. And in that practice of doing that, in the middle of it, we're not caught in the grief or lost in the dream grief or reacted to the grief. We're exercising our freedom to touch it, and to love something to settle. And in a sense, that is where we find our freedom. So that we can give freedom to our grief, to our sadness. And that's all a wonderful thing to have our freedom together with the grief, not one or the other. So that's the journey we'll take this week is a journey through grief. And by the end of the week, I hope that you'll understand something about not how to be free from grief, but how to give freedom to your grief. And by giving that freedom to your grief, you'll find your freedom to so thank you. I look forward to this time