In many eastern religions we learn that the body and mind are not real. Therefore thoughts and feelings are not there. In fact they are distractions that keep us from self-realization. When we learn to witness our thoughts similar as we might witness a movie or the clouds in the sky we become detached from our thoughts and have a steadier mind.
A month ago, I returned to Yogaville, the ashram in Virginia where I received my yoga teacher training to assist in a yoga teacher teaching program. At a staff check-in towards the beginning of the month I said, “I am so excited to be here, and my one worry is about being far away from a friend who is terminally ill.”
Sure enough, yesterday, an hour after I had landed in San Francisco I received a phone message that this dear friend, after living and fighting cancer for two years, passed on. I listened to the message passively. I called the person who informed me of her death, and as I spoke tears unexpectedly flung from my eyes.
Today, a day after finding out this news,I find myself in a strange state of being grounded in my very present life of what’s going on and also feeling sad and confused.
For all the books I have read in the past few weeks, conversations that I’ve held, friends that have had parents and partners and other loved ones passed on, I can’t get a handle on this whole “death”. It’s the way I don’t understand letters as numbers or the way I want to see the intestines squeezing toxins out of the body in a half-spinal twist. Really? How?
I can’t feel it. I can’t relate to it. And I can’t take an airplane there. So then how is death real? Yoga would say it’s not. It’s an illusion. But my very rational type A self says, “But she won’t use her voice to communicate with me anymore!” and yoga would say there’s no “she” and there’s no “me.” And yet, I am not so disconnected from my body and mind that I don’t feel a very real sadness or see her physical death as a serious loss to the material world.
I also don’t understand how I don’t understand. People grieve every day for loved ones. Grief isn’t mine, it’s a collective feeling in which every one has experienced. And yet the feeling is so personal.
In a talk about anxiety, a psychologist spoke about how some patients who came to him were so infused with the importance of positive-talk that they were afraid to speak aloud their fears and anxieties. The psychologist made it clear that positive talk is a good thing if it clears the anxiety. For some, though, it is an avoidance tactic. And speaking those anxieties aloud, allowing yourself to really feel the feelings might actually be coming up (even if they are not positive) might help in relieving anxiety.
Often times when friends express uncomfortable feelings I say, “It’s there. It’s uncomfortable, And it’s okay.”
I’m uncomfortable. I guess it’s okay.
There is a collective of family and friends who love this woman very much and have been sharing pictures and stories to celebrate her life. My friend said to me yesterday, “Let’s get together soon. Eat something. Talk about our friend, and maybe even cry together.”
On the one hand, grounded in practice of meditation and yoga I witness the sadness, the anger, and the frustration at the grief and the incomprehensibility of it all. And on the other, I let myself feel all of it while being uncomfortable. I Perhaps by doing so, there will be some relief .
As a collective we will share our happiness and love of this woman, and also the sadness of our loss.
And in doing so we join hands with however many more in this world who have grieved in the past and will join hands with that many more who will grieve in the future. Perhaps this connection will, just for a minute, give us some peace.
Live on, darling. Thank you for your light.