TrueHeartWork | grief
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grief Tag

Ash and Clay

images7DLRNA8RIt emerges like the first shy blush of the dawn. It sparkles, pinned to the luminous breast of the new moon. It arrives quite suddenly and unannounced, concealed in a swirl of dry wind that scatters a shroud of ash over our life as we knew it. It blinds us in the glare of a nuclear sky.

After years of “quiet desperation” we encounter the One who makes us feel alive, young again. A new love, bright with promise. We laugh and we dream again. In the eyes of our Lover, in the sweet swoon of his kiss we relax and gratefully fall into the unknown.  And in the delicious freedom of our free falling, we swing the wrecking ball through the shiny veneer of our marriage and watch as it swings in slow motion across the boxed up hopes and black bags of  disappointment.

“Finding ourselves” may leave a trail of destruction as sharp and black as obsidian.  Many of us will confront a terrifying Goliath who darkens the sky, throws his head back and laughs at our puny efforts. Standing small in his giant shadow we begin to wonder and doubt. Will we even like this Self we seek? Will be brave and strong enough to slough off the old ways, leave it all behind?  Who are we, anyway? A chimera? An ever-changing evolving experiencing of change and flux, decay and re-birth?

Most of us will meet the ambiguity and paradox within ourselves as it is mirrored back at us in our relationships. Most of us will wander through a labyrinth of contradictions where nothing stays the same and the relationship to ourselves, to our world, is constantly recreated.dancing_feet_by_lucidcarbon-d303tqs

Experimental philosopher Joshua Knobe asks us to  imagine what things are going to be like in 30 years. In 30 years, there’s going to be a person around who you might normally think of as you — but that person is actually going to be really, really different from you in a lot of ways. Chances are, a lot of the values you have, a lot of the emotions, a lot of the beliefs, a lot of the goals are not going to be shared by that person. So, in some sense you might think that person is you, but is that person really you?”

Neale Donald Walsch cautions that we “avoid the tendency to catastrophize.” That we stop worrying about all that could occur tomorrow, things that may never happen. And yet as we stand on the precipice of a life-changing choice and our hands are shaking and our hearts flutter and beat against the cage of our lives like the wings of a trapped bird, we do worry. It is part of our humanness to fret and to worry. We are hardwired to ask,  “what if ?” The impulse to “find ourselves” to “become” more than we are is the antithesis to “being in the now.” It strains against the shackles of obligation. It chaffs and frets as it paces round the constricting circles of daily routine.

images3ROV0UJNThe Complexity Theory proposes that our lives will eventually erupt into chaos before they settle back into a state of equilibrium.  And the longer we have chosen to stay in the gridlock of statis, the more violent and powerful the volcanic eruption may be.  Often we cling to the flimsy remnants of what was. We may leave an abusive and painful relationship and yet grieve its loss, even yearn to go back to the way things once were. We may leave a job, move to another city, end a friendship, and in our dreams and in the heavy ache in our heart, we always go back. In our grieving we are flung into turmoil, we feel we may drown in ocean of tears. We behave strangely; we try to delay our evolution through bargaining. We repress our grief or anxiety with medication, distractions and substitutes. We find comfort in the immobilised state that embalms us in the numbing ointment of our unhappiness.  And the longer we resist the longer we spin in every decreasing circles into the vortex of our re-birthing.

!cid_E11569390AA840BFB034316893AAE6D5@bells3PCLeaving Home is an archetypal experience. In myth and fairy tale, the hero who leaves his father’s house to journey through the wild woods must slay dragons, endure physical and spiritual deprivation, must wear the shirt of arrows in his struggle to fulfil his Fated quest.  As we separate from the matrix of our society, or  our  family, or uncouple from a relationship that no longer nourishes our spirit, we will discover those parts of ourselves we have buried long ago: our feelings, our gifts. what it is that we truly value. Like our original separation from our mother’s womb we must all face loss of innocence as we gain new experience in this earthly life. We  will bask in the warmth of love and suffer in the wasteland of betrayal. We will experience conflict and we will struggle as we taste the forbidden fruit and swoon in its sweetness.

 

Psychology is only now acknowledging what the astrologers have known for eons: in our struggle to bring back the lost pieces of ourselves are lives are often fragmented into chaos. We are propelled into a maelstrom of grief which shocks, terrifies and awakens us, so that we may sail to new world. Our hero’s journey towards individualisation may take many forms and come at different  astrological cycles in our lives. Loss and patient repair work are the warp and weft of the rich tapestry of life.“Through failures, symptoms, problems, we are prodded to renounce attachments, redundant now. With the breakdown of what has gone before, the possibility of rebirth comes,”  writes Marilyn Woodman.

Our inner call to renounce old ways, old attachments, carries with it no guarantee. We will walk through the vale of tears  and perhaps never find our Belonging.  Yet as Socrates said unequivocally, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  Our our soul’s purpose is to experience. And there are no Rights or Wrongs.  So often it is when we are sinking that we discover Who we truly are. When we can lift ourselves above the mortal realm and see our journey as a soul contract or an archetypal voyage of self – discovery we will be prepared for our journey. The sea will be dangerous. Clouds the colour of burnt bone will crush out the light of the sun. The  dark undertow will suck and pull at our little boat. And in the whirlwind and in the lashing rain we will meet our Divinity.

Australian poet andcartoonist, Michael Leunig, offers us the blessing of this poignant prayer:images2GSHA9GS

God Bless this tiny little boat

And me who travels in it.

It stays afloat for years and years

And sinks within a minute.

And so the soul in which we sail,

Unknown by years of thinking,

Is deeply felt and understood

The minute that it’s sinking …
Milk Carton Kids – Ash and Clay

 

 

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Thank You

tyra Nur Athirah girl in snowIt is the hardest thing. To give something up. To surrender. A cherished dream. A job. A relationship. A habit, a belief an addiction.

There are places, in the remnants of the vast forests that flourished in South-East Asia, where monkeys are hunted for food. Paw-sized holes are cut in coconuts and filled with rice or nuts before securing them to a tree. When the monkey reaches into the hollow of the coconut and grasps the food, it cannot remove its clenched fist because the opening is so small . So it stays there. Trapped. Holding onto the nuts or rice, waiting for death. Just like those monkeys in the shrinking forests, we hold on to what traps us, unwilling to let go. We hold onto our sorrow, our anger, the self-flagellating pleasures of guilt. We hold on to our need to be right. The acrimonious divorce, the family feud that force-feeds each new generation with the bitterness of hatred, the darkness of war that slices up territory, bodies, hearts – all kept ablaze by fists clenched tightly.When we are over-invested in an object, a relationship, an outcome, we clog the circuits, get overbearing, clench into fear, until chaos leaps and licks around the edges of our lives.

Crisis is a wonderful opportunity to surrender. We may have to bow our heads as we’re caught in the vortex of a crisis that pulverises our bones. As Marianne Woodman says, “In fateful crises, we may really have no choice.” The dice rolls and we have to accept things just as they are. And in defeat we accept what needs action and what requires a shift in attitude. We reconcile the irreconcilable.  Honesty unblocks energy, energises the body and the mind. “Everything that occurs is not only usable and workable but it is actually the path itself. We can use everything that happens to us as the means for waking up,” says Pema Chödrön.

Surrender.  From Old French, surrendre, to deliver over. To give up. To yield is to trust, to accept what is, not what should be. Yet to surrender implies we make a conscious choice.

For so many of us, the days, weeks, months and the years of our lives are cling-wrapped and placed in boxes labelled with “shoulds” and “musts”. Control freezes the life blood in our veins, stiffens our limbs, Botoxes the natural beauty of our faces. Spontaneity and playfulness are stored in the attic, with the toys of our childhood. smiling-girl_Photograph by Catherine WhitfordWe plan our days, pencil in meetings with our friends, and pack our weeks with activities and to-do lists.

Perhaps today, slow down to allow a driver to pull in front of you or step back to let someone go before you in a queue. Surrender to the sensual enjoyment of slowing down enough to be present as you eat a meal, sip a glass of wine, savour the sweet creaminess of an ice-cream. Surrender to the exquisite delight of orgasm, the dankness of grief, or the red balloon of laughter, the languid pleasure of an afternoon sleep. Surrender, under this heavy eye of the new moon to being fully present to touch, to taste, to the breath that breaths you. E e Cummings knew the surrender of the kiss when he wrote, “since feeling comes first, he who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you.” And Adrienne Rich knew surrender of touch when she wrote, “When we enter touch, we enter touch. Completely.”  So on this day of the new moon, plant a seed of a new intention. Trust the integrity of this precious moment. Be present for yourself, for the person you’re with today. Flow with what is, to the newly minted moment…

Kissing-Sailor-And-Midway-Peter-KapasakisThank You Alanis Morissette

Photography by Tyra Nur Athirah, Catherine Whitford and Peter Kapasakis

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Cannon Ball

Sometimes it is a slight tremor that cleaves a reservoir of ancient sorrow.

A rebuff by a friend or family member. An email, a text, you thought you had deleted, that besieges you, ravaging your heart. Sometimes it takes a cannon ball to crash through the structures of our carefully constructed lives: a trauma in the shape of death, divorce, or terminal illness…

This week, grief came to call, throwing a dark shroud over the landscape of my life. The death of my beloved, chocolate-coloured Burmese released a deluge of sorrow, plaintive echoes of an unbounded lamentation.

Each one of us has a unique journey. A timeline marked by graves of grief, some neglected, some still tended daily or on certain occasions. For some, letting go, moving on, comes easily. Others flee from the ravenous jaws of grief, buffered by a smokescreen of a smiling face, or the distraction of a full schedule.

Times of sorrow are not events, but transitional processes that unfold slowly.  These are sacred times in our life journeys. We are obliged to review, to reminisce. To embrace the lacerating pain, and make up a story that makes sense of it all, for us. It is at times of mourning that we must forgo the busyness, the anti-depressants, the avoidance and embrace the weight of silence that descends in the wake of loss. It is at these times we must fully experience the darkness, contemplate the nothingness, without trying to replace or substitute. Our inner children require nurture (not a spa-day of pampering), our bodies require rest, nourishment, a withdrawal of the senses. Our souls require silence, so that grieving can become sacred, rituals relevant.

Grief can be deeply unsettling, disturbing, and uncomfortable for others to witness. So often, I find myself stumbling over words, mumbling platitudes, sending my “deepest sympathies”. Shakespeare knew that grief requires framing: “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak, whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bides it break.” And physician and pathologist, Sir Henry Maudsley wrote at the dawn of the twentieth century “sorrows which find no vent in tears may soon make other organs weep.”

Kahlil Gibran observed “Tears and laughter are inseparable. The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain…. Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced…

We cry when we are joyful, and when we are overwhelmed by grief. Emotional tears differ from the slicing-of-onions tears. They contain hormones and endorphins which are a moist balm to the searing pain. Tears herald the depth of feelings, reveal relics of unresolved emotions. But only words can identify what lies buried in the heart.

In life, there are those people and animals we deeply love, those we meet in body and mind, a few very precious souls who know our souls. They may be born into homes, cities, countries, so far away from our original starting points. Through our choices, and the complex interwoven chainmail of synchronistic events, our journeys converge; mingle, often for just one brief tremulous moment. Tempus fugit … time flees. With each passing milestone, an anniversary of a death, or a birth or something new, the sweet remembrance of a time tinted now with nostalgia, we become aware of the transience of this life and the Mystery of it all. Sorrow can be a gestation period, long cold waiting in the dank bunker of nothingness… The bittersweet memories, “little bit of your taste in my mouth…” the faint perfume of sadness, the remembrance of deep sense of aloneness that pervades our lives cyclically in a heap of broken images. The inconstant ebb and flow of feelings. The fallow periods of sorrow that herald the bright bud of hope. We may appear less efficient in the world of doingness, and feel as though we are falling apart. We are. Everything will be a mess, and we are required to laboriously re-build from new foundations.

Sorrow, melancholy, depression, like the clouds that scud across moonlit skies to obscure the pure luminescence of the lunar face, are ephemeral, always cyclical. Like the ocean, they ebb and flow, to flood our shores with boundless energy and inspiration, or recede like the tide, revealing shards of broken shells and glistening pebbles etched in the wet sand.

Do we really ever get over ourselves? Should we even try?

“I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; A stage where every man must play a part, And mine is a sad one” the bard said.  Some walk lightly, some dance and sing along the way, others have a more sombre journey. A friend of mine shared that she had discovered a pair of pearl earrings in a velvet lined box. She had worn them only once. On her wedding day, a dewy-eyed bride, dressed in white. For her, these lustrous orbs from the watery deep enclose two tear drops of a frozen memory, the chronicle of a sacred day. She described how she had enfolded the cool silky smoothness in her hand, revisiting that time in her nascent life, to feel once more  the featherlike nudge of innocence, and the bittersweet lamentation of enormous loss.

Many of us may cope by framing a new narrative for the lost dreams and disappointments  that lie in wait like sharp stones on our path.  Nelson Mandela told a friend of mine who had a private luncheon with this iconic figure of the joy he experienced in his incarceration when he and the other prisoners would sing together as they worked crushing rock in the quarry, day after day in the searing sun and scalding wind. Many public figures have a narrative of their lives which fits their public persona. Often their birth charts may suggest otherwise. Nearly all of us have misty water-coloured memories of the way we were … our version of a prism of an event, faded by time, embellished by the re-telling.

When we are ready, we re-frame the story in the picture gallery of our life… or float like a cannon ball… until we understand why we are sinking… Damien Rice

THE TINY BOAT

God bless this tiny little boat
And me who travels in it
It stays afloat for years and years
And sinks within a minute.

And so the soul in which we sail
Unknown by years of thinking,
Is deeply felt and understood
The minute that it’s sinking.
Michael Leunig (1945- )

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When All is Said And Done

Loss can be a seismic shock that cleaves us open to release a torrent of pain or anger. There’s an art to grieving, I believe. An art to embracing the conflicted feelings: shock,  denial, bargaining, anger, and the bleak finality of acceptance. To grieve well requires patience and enormous courage, in a culture which has few rituals to swaddle the weeping heart, to embalm the wound till we grow scar tissue to venture into our lives once again. We are not taught how to grieve. We are taught how to name, categorise, label, mostly,  not how to deeply feel in our fast-food culture of “closure” and “moving on” as if  Love and Loss were malls, or drive-thrus.   Many of us don’t do “closure” easily. We find it excruciatingly difficult to cauterise, tie a torque around seeping lamentation.  We lack the will to dam up the tears that flood the excruciating emptiness. We stand naked in the winter of our discontent.  We sit, immobilised,  in the ashes of our grief.  The salt of our  tears lubricates the keening of our aching heart.

A young woman client arrived today, bowed with grief. She raged with Tiger-fierce anger, then imploded, numb with disbelief, as she told her story of betrayal and humiliation after a unilateral break-up. Her lover’s masochistic behaviour made her realise that she was still loyally clinging to old stories she had told herself about love. Still playing the powerless Victim, still meekly turning the other cheek, afraid to ask, afraid to want.  For some of us, part of the soothing balm of healing is the realisation that we can be angry when our former lover slithers up to us at a party, arms outstretched in a pseudo hale-and-hearty-greeting, hapless trophy-girlfriend firmly in tow.  It is permissible to recognise that the plume of white hot indignation that rises means we are still triggered, and that our pain does not have a short sell-by date. We do not need to be the compliant “good girl / boy”, and force a friendship with someone who has behaved despicably, or go through the motions of “learning lessons” when our inner brat wants to scream obscenities from the abyss of our pain.  We might need to knead and roll out the resistance patiently and creatively. Self-soothe, rather than push down further the bloodied blade of “whys” and “what ifs”.

New Age psychobabble has a lot to answer for sometimes, I feel. And, as for the much extolled virtue of “turning the other cheek,” or the misguided belief that our feelings are infallible truths, or we must think only “good and positive thoughts” lest we do ourselves harm, energetically, I have found that we often muddy the healing waters and prolong our wretched agony. Seeing things from your partner’s perspective can be useful – up to a point. But all we can really change is our own perspective – with a no-nonsense, “is this true?” as we question the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the one who did not, could not, want to love us. Even this takes some doing, and can be just another form of self abuse if we have not allowed the anger to rush up and release.

Anthropologists guess that humans first developed language and a bulging cerebral cortex about 1.6 million years ago, taking us down a very different evolutionary path to our close cousins, the chimpanzees. We developed, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, a sense of self, and importantly, a reflected sense of self, which shapes our choice of partner, as it is reliant on feedback from others. So, being humiliated, abandoned, or betrayed by the one we love has a devastating effect on our neurochemistry.  Emotions like anger and deep grief can hijack our positive self-talk and blaze through the libraries of books we have read on self-growth and spirituality, leaving us charred and utterly bereft if we do not have a solid sense of Self; and very few of us do. “Forgiving before you are ready is an act of violence against yourself.  And, you may never be ready” says Nicole Urdang.  Yet, once we are aware that all our long-term relationships and brief encounters are mirrors of our inner beliefs about ourselves, mere shadowy reflections of our shaky sense of Self, we can “love our neighbour – and ourselves.  No more pathological childhood trauma – wallowing in how your parents disappointed or abandoned you. The gift of grief and anger is another step in growing up. And if you honour the process, take your time to self-reflect, not self-flagellate, your tears will turn to pearls.

Astrologically, the transits to your own birth chart may suggest that this drama of grief and pain is happening through you, not to you. You have constellated the actors on the stage of your life, and you can access the power to change old patterns, even short-circuit family fate that has been mired in your ancestry for eons. If you can see your own collusion – not trusting your own instincts, perhaps “settling for” a lover who does not desire you enough to move from gridlock, who does not value you enough to commit to working through the power struggle.  To observe your own stonewalling, withholding, fear, criticism that has polluted the space between you, to have compassion for yourself as you revert to old default buttons, replay threadbare scripts. Only then can you begin to allow the cool tears and the hot anger to cleanse your heart, and make ready to Love again. Astrological Mars, representing anger, libido, fear, the Masculine Principle and our ability to fight off disease stationed early on Monday morning, then moves into retrograde motion on January 25th, reversing through Virgo for the next three months. This suggests that globally and personally, this is a time of turning points, of critical tipping points. A time that it might be helpful to examine how we betray ourselves, deny our intuition, stuff our anger and indignation down, tyrannize ourselves through negative self talk. A time to accept that the soul contract you had with your Lover-Betrayer was one of forgiveness and compassion.

Last word goes to Abba in that tremulously poignant song, When All is Said and Done:

“Thanks for all your generous love and thanks for all the fun
Neither you nor I’m to blame when all is said and done…”

Abba – When All is Said And Done 

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As Tears Go By

No life is without loss. No life is without a blackened wasteland where we wander, ghostly wraiths, haunted by the shadows of pain, anger, or bewilderment.

The lover who did not love us enough to leave his wife,  the woman who could not make space in her life for  the lucidity of a real relationship, the friend, spiritual teacher, colleague or boss, who unilaterally leaves us stranded, unheard. The child, who grows to a man, leaves our mother-love to answer his call to adventure, leaving us without identity and purpose, directionless, bereft. Like Demeter we mourn our loss, wandering aimlessly across the barren winter landscape of what is loosely, lazily labelled today as “depression.”  

I often wonder how celebrities endure the fifteen minutes of fame solicited by their relationship break-ups. The glamour of new love, the stalwart, much acclaimed “moving on” is captured by the Cyclops eye of the media. It is commended by society, eulogised by psychologists. The searing burn of the secret private death of that union, that love, must be mourned in a slower, more painful way, I imagine. Moving on is dealt with in Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief model, and loss must be honoured one tear at a time. Externally, we appear to have “moved on”, as we step out into the busyness of our lives, embracing new passions. But the vacancy of our loss remains, an empty room in our heart. 

Losing the people we love transcends age, gender, race and the accumulation of material wealth. My beloved 73-year-old aunt says, stoically: “getting older has meant losing the people I truly love.” A young client, inconsolable in her discovery that her lover has announced she is “moving on”, her passion cooled. A frozen couple, their marriage resembling a steel tramline as they live their parallel lives, strangers in the night. Their silent ache for the soft comfort of intimacy, their unspoken yearning for connection, now a distant echo of a passion once shared.

Part of our human experience is to experience and embrace loss as part of life.  We feel low, blue, heavy, heart-sore, weary, lacking our usual verve, frozen, numb, with the icy claw of the pain of our aloneness. We embalm our tears, make our thoughts our prisons.  Tie the tourniquet on our bleeding hearts so tightly that we close off to anything that might leave us open to the risk of loss again. We lose the wide-eyed idealism of youth as corruption in political, religious and corporate structures blights the seeds of hope for a better world.  We become infected with the virus of perfection as we scratch and claw, strive and struggle against our flaws and failures, losing our belief in our own unique potential.

We’ve read the books, cognitively know that suffering, anxiety, the unravelling of worry, the emptiness of abandonment are all smoky mirrors that keep us feeling separate from Source. We know that we are all interconnected, sacred drops in the Ocean of Divinity, God-Goddess. And yet, perversely, we choose to feel alone, to sup with sorrow, in the haunted rooms of our own memories. To ignore the soul’s knowing that lies buried beneath the fragmented surface of our fractured experiences. We may keen in our desolation; walk through the grim valley of the shadow of death, until we climb the mountain to the light above the dark clouds. Or we may choose to numb down the pain with busyness, with food, alcohol, or pills. There is no “right way” or “wrong way” and it may take a life time to learn to inhabit our loss, to endure the long silence in the wake of loss.  And yet, because each life, each birth chart,  contains an acorn of unlimited possibility, each one of us will experience loss differently and see the world through different fantasies that veil the truth.  Each one of us will have to decide to find the healing in every situation and solace in the secret shelter of our soul, before “moving on” with new strength, to transfigure our fear.

Marianne Faithfull

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHUQuD7ZzYg&feature=related

 

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