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Making Space for Grief

Grief and Buddhismby Jerry Kolber

Over the past few months I've been making my way slowly through Mark Silver's fantastic Heart of Money course.  Mark is a Sufi healer who offers an opportunity to look at money through a heart-centered lens - as a reflection of the divine - rather than as a measuring stick. I was re-listening to an earlier mp3 from the course this morning and something Mark said struck me as really interesting and related to my Buddhist practice.  

 

To paraphrase, he was explaining that during a body scanning exercise, areas of tension can be related to underlying anxiety, which are frequently related to unresolved grief.  Part of the exercise involved making space for these underlying emotions, and particularly (as it relates to money) the emotion of grief.  Mark was pointing out that grief doesn't necessarily have to be about the loss of a friend, pet, or family member - grief can be over unrealized dreams, relationships that have ended, or any other area of your life where you have "lost" something (be it tangible, or just "the way").

A few months ago, I lost a creative project that I had invested a lot of time, energy, and money in.  The circumstances of the loss were more akin to a car crash then a measured letting-go, and as I sat with Mark's exercise again I realized I have a great deal of grief around this project.  My Buddhist practice helped me to see that the idea of creating space for the grief to exist, rather than trying to assign blame, suppress it, or deny it, is actually the way to "be present" and honest and accept the grief without trying to transform it to something else.

When Mark said creating space for your grief to just exist without changing it is the pathway to healing, I realized I could think of no better description of Buddhist practice. My practice is about creating space for whatever exists - be it grief, joy, sadness, anger, elation, fear, confidence - to exist without my trying to inflect and transform it.  

Clinging to the stuff I label good, and pushing away the stuff I label bad, is literally the definition of creating anxiety.  The more energy I invest in creating, maintaining and defending the emotional body of my choice (i.e. - anxiety), the less energy and spaciousness I have available for compassion and service.  My practice is about recognizing the claustrophobic and anxiety laden process by which I inhale and manufacture my self, vs. the spacious exhale of selfless being-ness.

Sometimes when I notice how actively I'm pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain, I realize that I'm basically stalking my own mind - I'm laying in wait in the shadows, trying to hunt down and collect the so-called happy feelings, and threatening and beating up the so-called unhappy feelings.  If I was my own mind, I'd call the cops on me for this stalker-ish behavior, but instead I'll continue to practice to refine my ability to notice when I'm adding too much of the the flavor labelled "me me me" to the delicious soup that is reality.

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Comments

"The more energy I invest in

"The more energy I invest in creating, maintaining and defending the emotional body of my choice (i.e. - anxiety), the less energy and spaciousness I have available for compassion and service."

So true.  Acting on stress is just a waste of time!

Looks like we both went for the soup metaphors on the same day...it must be a Chef Boyardee Dharma Holiday that We didn't know about.

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