Some of the thoughts and ideas that I express here were inspired and re-realized as I listened to a recent On Being podcast with Joan Halifax. Have a listen if you have 50 minutes and want to dive deeper into the topic of "Buoyancy Rather than Burnout in our Lives."
One part of this conversation that particularly spoke to me was around the topic of grief. Halifax said, "grief is humanizing" and not something to avoid. Yet our western culture does not honor grief nor its expression. We are masters of denial and discomfort around our own grief as well as that of others. We do many things to avoid feeling sorrow - from denial to entertainment to numbing to distraction to busyness. But none of these things help us deal with the heart of the matter.
Grief shows up in the midst of many life experiences - from the loss of one that we love to dreams unrealized to close relationships falling short to career shifts to children growing up and out. Sadness is a part of the human experience. And as I live out the second half of my life, these experiences multiply. There is more loss in the second half of life. But I live in a culture that is more instructive around "a stiff upper lip" and "put on a happy face" than how to have a healthy perspective toward sorrow.
I have spoken of this before, but when I deny and cover up sadness, it pops up elsewhere - maybe in my physical body, a low rumbling anxiety or depression, or in angry words toward those close to me. But when I am honest with myself and others, sit with my grief, and let the natural feelings flow, then I move toward wholeness and healing.
The first step when things are "off" within is to be mindful of what I am actually feeling. As I listened to the podcast on "Buoyancy Rather than Burnout," I was introduced to a beautiful and powerful meditation - "Encountering Grief: A 10-minute guided meditation." If you suspect or know that you have grief within, It is well worth spending time in this space. I have returned here several times. It feels like being held in the arms of God.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, acknowledging and feeling our grief does actually lead to more joy. I often return to the truth that Brene Brown put so beautifully - "numb the dark and you numb the light." When I am stuck, I remind myself of such wisdom. And I make time and space for the important work of being mindful around a full array of feelings that come and go as part of being human. There is an invitation for each of us to do the same. All are welcome.