2021-03-28-Accompanying, Knowing, and Liberating Grief
5:54PM Mar 28, 2021
The topic for this talk is grief. And maybe the talk can be titled, liberating grief. And what motivates this talk is in big part is that the one year anniversary of many of us going into sheltering in place. And the dramatic way in which our whole world has much of the world, there's 99% of it has been turned upside down or inside out or radically changed by the pandemic. And in marking this one year anniversary, it feels important to acknowledge and make room for and bring forth the grief that has been part of this year. And that grief is not something that should be shied away from, or be embarrassed about. But it's actually a very important part of human beings and our human life. And, and it should be acknowledged, it should be understood and seen. And, and what's significant, I think, for many of us recognizes that the griefs of the last year had been wide ranging. And certainly there are, some of them are huge. I mean, many, many around the world, millions of people have died in the United States, well, over 500,000 people have died directly from the disease, the illness. And then there's been many who had been seriously sick. And some with the with the long term or second long call people, people who their symptoms that continue for months and months, and maybe it'll be four years. And so there's the grief of the loss of so many things, loss of people, loss of family members, friends, from death and sickness. And then there's the grief of just loss of connections of people we've been regularly connected to, are sheltered in place themselves. And there's not much communication and the grief of not being social in the same way we were before. There's all these small griefs that goes along, that we experience of all the things we can do that we're used to doing, and that we value doing and all the small ways in which be gotten energized and inspired about life and ready to go out and do it, or not available. And some people find there's a slow, slow, steady attrition, of energy of inspiration of motivation, partly from the slow kind of drip by dripping of little griefs, and sorrows and sadness is like a one. And then there's the things that happen in our society, the challenges, the grief, the sorrow, the sadness, about politics, and about racial injustice, and economic injustice. And, and nowadays, you know, we were aware of medical injustice and environmental injustice, and then, you know, and violence and hatred, the violence against Asian Americans is, you know, as heartbreaking, the violence against black Americans is heartbreaking. And, and the hatred that exists in our society that people go around shooting each other. So all these things together, you know, are forms of sadness and grief and, and that kind of accumulate there can accumulate if they're not acknowledged, and not known and not liberated. So there's four, three ways of being with grief. There's a company in grief, there is knowing grief, and there's liberating grief. And what I like about these words accompanying, knowing and liberating, that grammatically, they can both be a verb, and an adjective. So knowing accompanying grief means we are the companions of it, we bring ourselves to be present for it and be with it. But it also it's the grief that does the accompanying it's a grief accompany and grief can also be the grief that accompanies us. And it's a mutual relationship, you and your grief and to feel and experience that mutuality Really, really to allow the company to be full.
There is knowing grief where we can know it. But there's also the grief that knows something. Grief is not just ignorant or dumb, or, you know, uninformed. Grief is something that's really well informed about something very important. And what is it that grief knows. And so we know grief, we're also learning what is grief know. And then liberating grief is both in a weakened liberate the grief, perhaps, but also there's the idea that there's grief that is liberating. And, and how can you know something as painful and difficult as grief can be at times? How can that be liberating as well and, and to even to say those words, or suggest that idea can feel like a betrayal or to the grief we have or could feel like a insult to the degree of pain, we can experience the grief. So grief is such an important topic for us. And I had this amount in mind and that we could somehow do this talk together, that not just me talking, but maybe those of you have access to the chat, we can have a little bit do this, as in teamwork. The so accompanying grief. Grief is an ordinary part of human beings lives, there's, it's to be expected that we'll have grief, it's not a mistake to have grief. If we're living and paying attention and caring about life and caring about things, there'll be grief, there'll be sorrow, there'll be sadness. And, and so to spend time with that, and allow ourselves to feel that to trust it, to be with it. And people who do mindfulness practices can really maybe appreciate this, how valuable it is to be with something be well, this, partly because we start feeling that to not be with it, is to not be with ourselves. That as we learn to be really present for our experience present in ourselves. And being an opening up to all of who we are. There's a feeling of coming home to ourselves or feeling whole in ourselves, complete in ourselves or no part left out. And it's in doing so we become a refuge to ourselves, we become the refuge, a place of, of support the place of freedom and place of being, we're allowed to be full and complete. And as soon as we have some thing like grief that's too painful for us, or to embarrassing for us or to something we want to push away or ignore or repress, then we are dividing ourselves are no longer hold, we're no longer able to come back into our hearts and feel at home there. And so to and to the company, ourselves a company the grief is a means to kind of learn to stay hold, learn to stay complete, or learn to be a refuge to ourselves, no matter how big and strong the pain is. There's good reason why people want to avoid grief. And that is because it's can be painful, acute grief, you know, is searing is you know, it's just like everything is torn apart. And, and you know, that kind of the world to the fabric of the world is torn apart. And it can be excruciating to hear some griefs. So it's very painful. And so the idea of accompany and grief is to accompany our pain. And if we don't do that, then the grief and the pain remains, but maybe it goes underground. And it gets repressed or gets kind of ignored. And but it's still operate it's still there festering. And and it's there. If it hasn't really been dealt with fully or with dignity or nobility, then it can come back and come back and unexpected and maybe on healthy ways in terms of anger or excessive fear or or being too closed and numb from what's going on. So to accompany all this is to accompany the ways we grow. The company also the way to we get angry, the ways we get feel helpless and hopeless to just company ourselves in the pain.
So I did that this last week, to some degree. For me personally, it was a very touching experience time for me, where I moved my mother into a memory care home. And, and I think the most poignant part of it was walking across the parking lot of, of the, you know, the memory care place to bring her to the door. And because of COVID, where cat come in, someone comes out and receives her and, and accompanies her in where I stayed behind. So here I was walking across the parking lot, very acutely aware of what was painful for me over 60 years ago. And that was one of the earliest memories I have of my mother was her accompanying me when I was about four years old, across a school playground, I was holding her hand, and I was crying. Because I was going to the first day of school, in a foreign country in a language I didn't speak in Geneva where they spoke French, and I didn't speak French. And I'm going to a Catholic, that's best my memory, kindergarten, maybe something like that. That was run by nuns. And I was, so I was just he was walking me across, I was holding my hand I was crying. And now we're 60 years later, you know, the roles reversed and, and I remember he was not such as he quite understood what was going on. But I did. And so that came back. And now I'm a company, I made space for it. And then after I took her there, I went for a long walk in the hills around here just to accompany my grief company, my sadness of what was going on. And it was kind of kind of the richness of it partly was the leftover of a certain pain is the memory of pain from over 60 years ago. That speaks to our principle that that sometimes, our briefs or previous briefs, and even more so of the grapes are unresolved or on somehow have been pushed down or backdoored they get reopened with new griefs. And so the new griefs can be much more acute, because of the how it can be with with you know that we know that legacy of griefs that we've had, so to accompany grief, is to accompany pain. And, and for people who do mindfulness practice, we begin discovering that there's a difference between pain and suffering. And this makes a world of difference. And this is really what the heart of Buddhist practice is about is to if we can see that difference, then we can maybe learn to let go of the suffering, and then learn to with nobility, with the with compassion, accompany the pain that's part of human life. The suffering is when we contract around the pain, when we close the heart around the pain, when we cover over the pain. And we resist the pain, when we are afraid of the pain, all these other ways that we contract and get wrapped up in and it is the suffering. But the pain doesn't you know, and that's what we're liberating in, in Buddhist practice, all that kind of complicated reactivity to the pain. And it's but just to live with a pain and make space for it, be open to it. Be a refuge for the pain, help the pain feel safe, safe at us and to learn that are to learn that ability to accompany or pain. So it begins by, you know, recognizing what the pain is naming it so that we can see what what's been going on and what's been happening and and so for this pandemic in marking this anniversary,
there's been big, big grapes, big things to grieve and small things to Greaves and all these teeny incidental things that some people say we shouldn't count, you know, I shouldn't be that up to handling that and dealing with that. But the accumulation of all these small little things and that had been challenging and losses over this year. They add up to a lot and one of the lessons of grief is never discount any grief. never feel that because other people it's grief is so much bigger mind shouldn't count. Every grief counts. Every grief has something to accompany. To know, and to liberate, because if we don't do that, then slowly, incrementally, we begin closing down or pushing under and, and the vitality, the fullness of being here, you know, it's going to be diminished. So if you're willing, maybe if you could write some of you would be willing to write in the chat, maybe one or two or three words or whatever you want. Of what you have grieved this last year, that has to do with this pandemic. And be nice to have some names associated not not necessarily to people but a name to the to the different kinds of groups named here. And so what have we what have you grieved over this last year?
grieving, hugs, lost hugs, the absence of intimacy and physical contact with people not seeing a grandson. Going to school, seeing my friends being able to see my parents, Death of 20 clients, loss of relationships. I can't read them all but community lost distorted social connections sad. many paths have many past creeps resurfaced. Being in class with my students. isolation, nourishing human touch family visits, not being with grandchildren. Loss of grandmother, sitting in community connecting with many friends and dying High School. son's loss of his senior year. Yeah, no hugs. Loss of the world and freedom as it was. Being alone so much missed celebrations, loss of sense of safety are caught that died this year. After 15 years as our companion Yeah, these these also pets can be huge, huge grief. Loss of closest friend also. Not being in Sangha with distant relatives. I think moments even a freedom from fear not attending to a dear friend's father's funeral. Illness isolation, political corruption, PTSD, isolation. Dad's funeral. Yeah, that's a big thing. I have not seen my daughter and grandchildren for more than a year. Loss of truth and compassion and leadership. Music gems lost my ability to understand my loved ones changing friendships. So thank you all for writing all those things. It's a big deal. So these are the things to accompany. These are things to name and to be with and and sometimes it's helpful to have help support and accompaniment. That's what sometimes having friends you can talk to about the griefs we have, not to fix, not to solve, but just to help to me to be a cab have companionship in the grief. And some griefs are so difficult to be our own companion to that having someone else who can support us in that process. There are like grief counselors for example. And they're useful in many ways, but one way is that they know how to be companions and accompany and be present for and so it's easier for us to then to be your own companions for grief. Because we have someone who really knows how to do it and can do it with care and compassion and acceptance. And, and then learning how to be willing learning how to be comfortable, if that's the right word, with feeling pain, learning how to be open to feeling pain, learning the wisdom of being with pain. The more we love something that we've lost more we love something that we lost. That love doesn't go away and that something is precious. If we what is is to really, really kind of listen deeply get to know what deeply what's going on here. And that's a second step of this three step process, knowing grief, really getting to know what is this grief, what is this pain, being willing to really attend to it. Because there's a tendency, sometimes when we're in really, some situation, we're in a lot of pain, and hurt and feelings of betrayal, to get angry, and push things away and, and be hostile or something. And which was natural enough, it's a way of avoiding sometimes the pain. But to, but to really get to know the pain. Because at the rate to which we love something, to that degree, our capacity, our beautiful capacity for love, or a beautiful capacity for something good. Is, is there buried in the pain is found together with the pain, pain isn't all necessarily all bad.
And so to really get to know grief and no pain, to know that part of the grief, that kind of that suffering, as opposed to pain, to be able to make that distinction between the contractions we have and the resistance, the shoulds and the showdance. I shouldn't be feeling grief, I should be over it by now. I'm supposed to go through grief perfectly, and supposed to resolve my grief. I'm supposed to heal my grief. I don't know if we're supposed to heal grief or some people heal grief. But I don't know if we're supposed to or required always. Or we're supposed to resolve grief. Some of us never healed in the sense that the pain never goes away. But we can make more space for it is part of our deep humanity to feel the pain of living life, freedom, real freedom, it can coexist with pain. Freedom does not coexist with suffering. Suffering is the loss of freedom. And so to make to just keep opening the heart and allow it to be broken, allow it to have space for the pain that we feel is part of it, then sometimes our grief can be so strong that any words about it like the words I'm doing today can feel just impossible and too difficult to listen to and doesn't make any sense. Occasionally grief has to go we have to be rich rock rock, rock bottom for something to finally give out. Good just seems like so impossible. And so to really accompany really know how impossible it is. And stay there with it. Stay there with it is part of the sweat. This mindfulness practice teaches the to be with pain to be with it all. And just remembering some of the things that I was thinking about, we grieve. I've grieved in my life I've grieved anticipated futures, the future the now that won't happen because my friend died. we grieve what happened in the past, we grieve what didn't happen in the past, what should have happened in the past. So all these units are layers and layers of grief that we can feel. So this knowing grief in Vipassana practice has a lot to do with the direct experience in the moment, which is to feel it in your body, how is what is the manifestation of grief here and now in the body, what parts of the body are touched and moved and ache with grief and we can find identify how it is physically here now, then that becomes a place that the very location where we begin opening up to it, where we open the heart, we open the mind we open attention and make make see how big the awareness could be. So we can hold that place and be with it. If it's not located sometimes in the body. It just seems like it just overwhelming. But sometimes we located in the body. It has a kind of a locus it has a kind of location to be close with or intimate with or to touch or to connect to. So maybe here in the chat again, which some of you be willing to write, where, how and where in the body. Do you experience grief some of the locations and places for that
they're wonderful bodies that carry so much difficulty swallowing stomach and chest digestion mostly at heart upper chest throat right below the heart my face throat chest tightening on my chest my heart aches heart and lungs my heart area in my chest upper chest and throat right behind the sternum throat the throat absolutely in the chest and throat eyes and forehead breath in the smile lessees who turn up the ankle up run my eyes i squint a lot torso upper neck hot teary eyes tightness a belly broken heart in the chest and heart like a vacuum in my heart breath tightens tightness in the brain jaw tightens shoulders so thank you for all that headache from angry thoughts brain core am i being center of my body water flowing out yeah lots of tears headache lower back in the voice yeah so so many ways that manifests in the body darkness in the head and the entire being so these are the places that we bring our compassion and care these are the places we hold these are places where you want to bring a sense of safety to in the pit of my stomach weak mindfulness is to bring a sense of safety to these places in the body that ache and hurt and are contracted and tight and there's a way in which to trust that to trust feeling and sensing it and being with it it can be very very hard one of the things that makes grief is particularly difficult is when there is when we feel helpless or hopeless with the grief and and the sense of helplessness is a weekend for some people especially if it's chronic is really debilitating and the ability to accompany and to know and to feel and connect and and to make space for and to hold in the body is a way that over starts overcoming this feeling of helplessness we can help ourselves there is hope for ourselves it through this practice of mindfulness we have something we can do we have we can't we might be helpless in terms of for for those who are dead or gone or losses we have for them to come back but it doesn't leave us as a helpless person we can engage with agency with a sense of purpose and it's a profound thing very profound to learn that pelatih to hold our pain and not to add layers of suffering on top of it there is no shame and adding suffering on top of our pain because sometimes what we need to accompany what we need to open to is a clear seeing knowing and experiencing of those layers of reactivity we have and without that we don't have a hope of really experiencing what charlie brown called i think he called we had good grief good grief is the grief that is simple is unentangled we don't have all these layers of shoulds insurance on top of it it should be different we should be over it made our i don't deserve to be grieving because of other people's grief so much more all these things we do and then finally there's liberating grief and and this is kind of what i'm saying all along is liberating the grief not from getting rid of the grief not from not no longer having grief but liberating it from how the grief all the suffering on top of the grief all the reactivity all the judgments all the angers all the pushing away the resistance all the ways in which we divide ourselves by shutting out part of who we are because it's too painful to be with
to liberate is to become whole liberate is no part left out all of who we are is allowed to be there not because we are justifying or celebrating or condoning it necessarily but so that we can open up and and have it all be part of the whole the whole is always greater than the parts and grief is one of the parts they can feel like it's the whole thing when it's really intense but it's always a piece of part of the whole and to make room for it and to hold it and be with it it might be in that liberated person might cry because the pure simplicity of the pain brings along tears tears are not a sign of being unliberated they might be a sign of actually we're beginning to liberate ourselves that's when liberation happens i love the idea i love the app the ways in which it's possible to cry in meditation because there's something about the meditation posture where we it's a posture in which we never collapse we never sink we never give up we never succumb to it but we stay simple relaxed if you're upright upright and let the tears flow so there's not this self pity or the giving up or something and there's freedom and just crying there's freedom there's liberation found in that too sometimes so liberating our grief without needing to go away so that we can go through our life continuing to experience the grief that will come there's no there's no final freedom from grief and sadness but to go through life and be free in the midst of it is to allow ourselves to feel it the vitality the fullness of life with the grief and with the joys and with the love and with all that's here and this is not resolving grief in terms of going away it's not finally it's over it's it's the grief has its own life and so liberating our grief is to be generous to our grief so that grief can have its freedom the grief can do what it needs to do and to learn to trust the heart knows what to do the heart knows what to do with grief if we've liberated it if we we know it accompany it and we get out of its way and we've lived liberated from ourselves our hearts our grief knows what to do and sometimes we have to be patient it takes time so liberating our grief so some of you may be have had some experience of grief liberated in the way i've described i've talked about here and how does it feel how do you know that leaf has grief has been liberated how do you know how does how's that experienced in your house experience in your body what's it like to have grief maybe even still present but really feel it's been liberated so let's see here there can be a purity to the feeling of grief and strong emotion maybe that's part of the liberation yes and
part of what it feels like for me so willingness for the duration of grief comes along with a willingness a willingness to grieve a willingness to have pain
breaking away and lifting of weight i feel like i'm cured and safe when i let it go i felt more here and connected to others compassion sense in grief emerging sense of peace feeling joy along with the sorrow getting in touch with a raw emotion and being with it forgiveness there's truth in the deep sorrow and grief lifted weight of grief more love and accompanying grief relaxation and gratitude i feel lighter it feels cleansing forgiveness more peace and open This acceptance of experience at peace with putting down a large rock, grief from childhood became compassion for my parents. heart opens and I cry more with the connection. Grief is a necessary part of moving on from the loss. Feeling the joy right next to it. Great, thank you for all this very much. feeling the love behind the inside of grief and feeling grateful for such love. Feel like I'm moving again. relief. The heart knows what to do with grief when it has been liberated. I will always carry this incredibly wise statement. Thank you. Oh, it's a quote quoting. So thank you. So accompanying our grief, knowing or knowing grief and liberating grief. three different ways of being with grief at different times different ones, one or two of them are appropriate. And it's a profound part of our human life. And it's been an important part. I know how important is the right word, a very significant part of this last year. And as we begin the second year of COVID, with whatever changes might be coming that that to acknowledge little note what happened this last year. And two has been time really accompanying knowing and liberating this grief, hopefully will let us go into this new world is New Year, more capable and more willing, more wise, and how to continue to meet the griefs that will come one way or the other. We'll still have griefs. Whether even when the pandemics over will have griefs. This is part of human life and what there's no liberation, without being liberated in relationship to our grief as well. We are grieving beings just as much as we're loving beings, compassionate beings, forgiving beings, we're also being said it can experience pain. So thank you very much for this. And I'm aware that grief is a huge, well, abyss of pain, sometimes very difficult. And to bring it up today and evoking it this way might be very hard for some of you. And I'd encourage you to spend some time today caring for yourself if that's the case, maybe talk to your friends go for walks if you'd have no one to talk to journal about it, or write about it. So it's so he gave you give it some expression. And but do take care of yourself and, and and if this talk was particularly difficult, maybe in a few days, listen to it again, there might be some something moving and bubbling inside of you from it. But I wish you well and I offer you this talk with a lot of desire and care and compassion for your welfare and happiness and, and for all of us as we go forward together in this new next year. That may all of us support each other in this process. Thank you all very much