Bringing Mindfulness to Grief & Loss

Let’s start with a caveat.  Grieving is natural and it is hard.  There are many forms of grief; some stemming from birth and childhood, some from particular occurrences or from a progression of causes and conditions, some that will be with us every day, and some that do eventually ebb and integrate into the weave of our life.  Each of us has our own unique array of losses and coping mechanisms.  Each of us is on a journey to understand ourselves and this life.

Mindfulness simply put, is a way of orienting our attention to the present, expanding our awareness, and softening our critical/reactive impulses to our own inner experience.  On the journey of reconciliation and healing, being more at peace with what has been and more present for the life unfolding before us, mindfulness supports the meaning making process.  What is referred to in Buddhism as insight, and what is now referred to by grief specialist David Kessler as the sixth stage of grief.  Here are some thoughts of how they go together.

It’s simple, but not easy. 

Paying attention on purpose in the present moment, non judgmentally is one way to describe the technical mindfulness practice.   This can be applied to daily tasks- wash the dishes while you wash the dishes.  And it can be applied to formal meditation, be aware of your breath flowing in and out. As we attempt to be more fully present, we are often shocked with how hard or uncomfortable it can be.  Distraction and preoccupation are ingrained habits and can be exasperated with grief and trauma.   Getting pulled into difficult thoughts and feelings can also prevail.  Building connection back to the physical body and present moment awareness may take some time and work. The effort is actually part of the healing.

Kindness & Compassion are a must.

Mindfulness is like the light of the Sun, helping us to see more of what is going on in our body, mind, and heart.  Kindness & compassion are like the warmth of Sun, we need the warmth to help us make sense and meaning of our lives. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, one of the first experts in the modern field of death & dying used to frame all of our griefs as lessons to be learned so we could fully know love.  When it gets hard in any moment, find ways to evoke the warmth of kindness and compassion.  It is there, and you need and deserve it.  To be able to care about your own pain is an important inner skill to practice.  Sometimes the simple affirmation “this hurts”, “this is hard,” is enough to help you over the peaks of difficult emotions.

It’s OK that you’re not OK

When we start practicing mindfulness, we perhaps think we will feel some calm and then be able to do something productive with our messy grief…

In reality, as we learn how to be more present and aware of our inner experience we will see that it is messy!  The practice then becomes getting to know that, learning to navigate that, learning from that.

As we are able to be more aware and less reactive to our sensations, emotions, and thoughts, we see ourselves in a bigger context.  We are not just these sensations, emotions, thoughts.  They are part of us, but they do not have to snare us the same way again and again.

We can acknowledge, honor, explore, even befriend parts of our experience that we couldn’t tolerate before.  It is OK to be as you really are, right where you are, for now.

 

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

 

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

~Elisabeth Kubler- Ross

Having a home yoga practice has a whole new meaning in this time of virtual yoga classes and social distancing.

Students have commented that while virtual classes aren’t quite the same, they have helped them create structure, practice more regularly, manage the stress of this extraordinary event; as well as, make, sustain, and renew connections with others.

There are also the privacy, convenience, and cozy factors.  You don’t have to drive across town for your favorite class, practice in your underwear if you want, and you have your pets nearby.

Taking all this into account, as well as some of the challenges, here are some suggestions about how to make the most of the virtual yoga experience.

  • Am I doing it right? Remember that Yoga is so much more than the poses and techniques; the process has its own magic. The way we endeavor to teach is extra awareness based so there is less chance of doing it wrong and more chance of learning from your direct experience.  *If you do have a particular question about technique, ask after class or email. 
  • What are we doing now? You can get lost at times….it may be that the teacher wasn’t perfectly clear or that you spaced out a bit….no big deal, just tune back in and find your way anew. If you have feedback for any of us in regards to clarity, tell us or email so we learn.
  • Is there anybody else out there? Sometimes it helps to notice the participant list of who is in class before we begin and recognize that you are doing this with other people at the same time. You are actually having a communal experience. There is a period before class and after class to say hello, and you can also just zoom in and out without socializing.
  • I really need to vacuum…It can be useful to create a dedicated space in your home. And to keep it clean and clear of stuff. This is a very classical recommendation for yoga, create the space that signals your brain that you are doing something special. If you can’t find that space in your home, or your device doesn’t allow that, it can just be your mat zone while you are on it.
  • Am I doing enough or am I getting lazy? Being physically challenged can be over-rated, you end up forcing it and creating pain rather than relieving it. And, it is hard for us as instructors to know what is safe and productive when we can’t see you. A good rule of thumb is to do 80% of what you think is doable. If you want to see how it is to challenge yourself with a particular pose, do it every day at 80% and see where you are in 1 week.

With the current boycott of spending advertising dollars on Social Media platforms, it reminded me that I was overdue in speaking out about our departure from Social Media last year, aka Social Media Distancing.

From the time the Information Super Highway was a dirt road, I have been an optimistic pessimist in regards to the Highway …reading Clifford Stolls: Silicon Snake Oil paved that Highway for me.

At the Sol Center, we had been questioning the efficacy of social media platforms for a long time. Cambridge Analytica, constant false news and adverts, personal privacy, the incendiary ramblings of elected officials, etc …it was all really just too anti-social, and not at all compatible with the verdant mindful mission of the Sol Center.

In the fall of 2019 it all became abundantly clear, that it was now the time to depart and no longer offer any support to Social Media platforms in any fashion.

The catalyst for this departure came about after reading what happened with Suzie Kelly and the loss of her retirement savings. The data that Facebook and Aristocrat had compiled about Suzie, allowed Aristocrat’s behavioral analytics to easily recognize and prey upon her gambling addiction, or that of any Facebook user.  Good News! Susie, and two other Plaintiffs were able to reach a class action agreement in principle totaling 155 million in the Spring of 2020.

Upon learning about the peril of Suzie, I had come to realize that our departure from Social Media needed to happen with immediate effect, Natasha understood and agreed. The business implications of a social media presence for the Sol Center or Natasha could no longer, in any form, be justified …and with that we were gone.

From a purely business perspective the decision was difficult, but it was conscience, reasoned, and liberating.

I do miss the adventures of: Felix at Huddersfield Station, Augie the Plant Doggie, my cousin washing his RV, Sadie Golden, and of course your adventures as well. So for now whilst we practice Social Media Distancing, I just imagine.

To be truly effective in forcing the hand of change on Social Media platforms, an entity cannot simply temporarily or permanently suspend the spending of advertising dollars. Entities must remove themselves from Social Media platforms entirely …and the same for individuals.

We are all feeling so much right now, processing a lot of news, figuring out how to prepare and how to adapt- at home and at work.  What we may not realize is that we are grieving as well.  Grieving for what is unfolding, for what will not be, and also for the unknowns of the future.

While this situation is enormously complex, and the effects of it all will affect us each differently, there is also something surprisingly unifying.  We are all in this together, it is not just one country or state or city or family.

Here are some tips and tools from my yoga, mindfulness, and grief practices to support your mind/mind/spirit in this trans-formative time.  I hope they can help, and I know personally they do.

  • Elisabeth Kubler-Ross laid out the 5 stages of grief:  denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, acceptance.  They were not her last words about the process and often are taken too literally, yet they are good signposts.  Notice what you are thinking and feeling- which one might apply to your current state of being with all this?
  • This is a chaotic time, whether your life has come to a full stop, or you are actively engaged in an essential function.  What can you do that helps you personally calm down, slow down, tune in, pause, and be present.  Ask yourself, “what am I aware of right now?…How am I relating to myself and the moment right now?…What is needed, if anything?..
  • One of the most powerful self-compassion tools is to bring your awareness to your heart center, or to breathe into your heart center, or to put your hand or hands upon your sternum.  Sometimes, this is enough.  Feel the sensations. No words needed.  Just the feeling of connecting to your heart center can be soothing. Think of this as stocking up on compassion, kindness, and patience too.
  • Find safe ways to express your feelings and ideally to feel them through for a few minutes at a time.  The more we deny, distract, project, suppress our feelings- the more problems they create in our body and in our relationships.  In lieu of a safe person, there is always pen and paper- write them down, let it rip, and rip it up or burn it if you are worried about it being read.  The point is to get it out, externalize it.  Sometimes it is pure catharsis (it is a good sign if you cry while you are writing), sometimes it leads to insight (it doesn’t have to), let go of analyzing why or problem solving (you can talk back to the voice that goes there quickly).
  • We all have different ways of processing our feelings:  exercise, dance, art, music, nature, talking, meditating, praying, playing.  You don’t have to put words to them, but you do need to feel them, honor them, let them flow rather than simply sit.  Emotion implies motion.  Give yourself permission to feel what you feel and see where it takes you.  There is a short poem by Mary Oliver that expresses this perfectly:
    We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
    What a time they have, these two
    housed as they are in the same body.
  • One practice I have been doing spontaneously lately is simple breath awareness, or conscious breathing.  Just being more aware of my breath coming and going throughout the day, as I am doing what I am doing.  Letting it be and appreciating what it is.  I am thinking of this as breath affiliation.  We all need to breathe to be alive.  Breath is the symbol of our birth and death.  For now I am indeed alive and well.  I can breathe well for all those that may be struggling.  Jon Kabat Zinn often said “practice as if your life depends on it, because it does.”  I always marveled that he made the mindfulness practice truly seem so critical. Today it truly is.

Take care

Natasha

Sol Center Friends,

The Sol Center is temporarily closing in response to the COVID-19 situation.

As there is no recipe to ensure everyone’s safety in gathering at the Sol Center, this decision was made to protect us all within our community and the community at large as well.

More news about what is happening will follow via email and our website.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me for support, at any time, and phone me at 520-628-9642.

Take care

Natasha

Your financial stake in the Sol Center during this time will be respected, in whatever way you might require.

Home

Space

Breathing

Just breathe

Breath

The space of infinite awareness

Awareness

Eyes open

See with clarity

Feel clarity

Clarity

Silver edged space

Stillness

Freedom

Space

Vast open awareness

Breath

The rhythm of space

Awareness

The calm

The awakening

Pain

Don’t run

Joy

Don’t run

For Now

Don’t run

Clarity

Burning up the seeds of fear

To be who you are now and now and now

The Space

That dissipates all raw emotions

And the space

That releases denial and coverup

And the space

That is awareness breath clarity

And Home

Vedic Astrology Highlights Fall 2015 & Super Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse September 27th

 

We have a Solar and Lunar Eclipse this month.  Here are the Highlights of what is UP.

The Solar Eclipse will occur later this night that I write.  It is partial and will not be visible to us in the USA.  Yet the energy of an eclipse effects the whole planet, perhaps more so where they are visible.

This occurs in the sign of Leo, in the later section of the constellation called Purva Phalguni- it is associated with wealth so there is some buzz in the astrology community about this having impact on the global economy.  Some say the wild ride the stock market just took is indicative of this energy fluctuation.  Particular effects may be felt for 6 months.

Eclipses are considered inauspicious periods to initiate new endeavors.  They are auspicious for spiritual attunement and refinement.  As we know, life often insists we do things in spite of the signs and omens.  Truly, the key is to have a daily practice that purifies your heart and mind in some way.  This is the key to weathering whatever will come.

It is also considered helpful when the solar eclipse happens before the lunar.  We always have eclipses in pairs and this time the lunar eclipse will follow and be fully visible for us in Tucson.  It is quite powerful as it is a total eclipse and the moon is close to the Earth in its orbit- this is called a super moon.  It is also interesting as it happens early in the evening- it will be fully eclipsed around 8pm Tucson time.  Easy to witness and meditate upon.

Again, there is lots of lore regarding everything and it is said that it is not good to be outside during an eclipse- that you are personally negatively affected by it.  But in this day and age, when we are disconnected from so many natural rhythms, I sense it is a remedy; a way to honor the subtle and the shadow element of life, to witness the celestial phenomenon and strengthen our commitment to light.

The lunar eclipse occurs Sunday night, September 27. It occurs in Pisces, in the section called Uttara Bhadra Pada.  It is associated with the flow of water, purification, renewal, and release from long held patterns.  It is the water that smooths the stones.  I hope you get to experience and enjoy this event in some way.

Lunar Eclipse Tucson

Mars in Leo: September 16-November 3

Mars is leaving its 2 month sojourn through the sign of Cancer, which is its sign of debility/ difficulty.

This is a big shift for Mars energy.  In anyone’s chart Mars signifies raw energy, courage, power, brothers, and land.  In the fire sign of Leo the King it regains its sense of being a spiritual warrior.  This is very significant if you are Aries or Scorpio Rising or Moon by birth. You will feel empowered again.

Sun in Virgo: September 17-October 17

The Sun will soon change signs- from Leo to Virgo.  There is quite a bit of intensity in this yearly visit as Rahu is here and Mercury turns retrograde this same day. September 22-24 are very intense Solar days.  Be extra mindful and curious.

Mercury Retrograde: September 17-October 8

Mercury is retrograde in its own sign of Virgo, that is good in ways as it spends more time in one of its places of power and amplifies all kinds of Mercury and Virgo related things:  intellectual and organizational activities, service and healing matters especially.  It backtracks right into the Sun, full combustion, September 29-30. These are days that Virgo or Mercury people could feel inspired yet depleted.  It retrogrades into Rahu October 7-8 and then goes direct.  These could be interesting days for Mercury’s mental energy- creativity and innovation abound.  But be careful with important decisions.  Rahu is a trickster energy!