As the Christmas Season is upon us, I have been reflecting on how grief can affect one’s perception of this holiday. Having experienced my mother’s death in 2016, and then my brother’s sudden death in 2017, I just didn’t have it in me to “DO” Christmas” last year….The solution was to skip it all together, hence a trip to Cambodia. It felt peaceful to be in a country that was predominantly Buddhist, and to escape the hype of Christmas advertising and expectations that seem rampant in our culture. In Cambodia, December 25, is just another day. Any efforts to advertise Christmas seemed rather pathetic, and for the benefit of tourists. What really struck me, was the sense of kindness, joy and presence that people extended to us, many of whom live with very little.
Charlie Brown’s expression “Good Grief”, brings to mind a passage from Francis Weller’s book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow.” To be human is to know loss in its many forms. These seasons in our lives are intense and require a prolonged time to honor what the soul needs to fully digest the grief. We are told to get on with it and get over it. The lack of compassion surrounding grief reflects an underlying fear and mistrust of this basic human experience. We must restore the healing ground of grief. We must find the courage once again to walk its wild edge.” In Cambodia they seem to understand the need to allow their souls time to fully digest grief; a celebration of their deceased loved one’s life, does not take place until after the one year anniversary of the death.
When we rush grief, we don’t provide ourselves the opportunity to mourn our loss. Ray Reginald, author of Touching Enlightenment writes: “So much is carried in our bodies. The Wisdom that is held within our tissues is something that we have almost completely forgotten. And yet there is no awareness more situated in the present moment than what is found in our bodies. With our body, we are in the presence of a force and intelligence that is filled with wisdom, that is loving, flawlessly reliable and strange to say worthy of our deepest devotion. When we begin to inhabit the body as our primary way of sensing, feeling, and knowing the world, when our thought operates as no more than a handmaiden of that somatic way of being, we find that we, as human beings, are in a state of intimate relationship and connection with all that is.”
Grief and Yoga have led me to this wisdom within my body. During the time after my losses that I felt most raw, I stopped attending yoga classes. I allowed my practice to meet and support me where I was. As I listened within, I instinctively slowed everything down. My movement became meditative and mindful; deep breathing and restorative poses took me inward to a place of “holy peace”, and rest. I am trusting that my body does know how to heal, when I provide it with what it needs. A body that can relax, can heal.
Yoga is not meant to take away grief. It is a support that activates our inner resources so that we can tend to our body and mind when we feel broken and dismembered. A gentle and restorative practice, encourages us to be active participants in our healing. Yoga helps us to feel grounded when our world is shaken, helps us to release held tension and emotion in our body; breathing practices take us out of our thinking mind and activate our life force within. Healing grief requires time and attention to our hearts. Yoga is a process, and a practice. We show up for ourselves with compassion and curiosity, tending to each moment, each sensation and each emotion as it arises. Yoga eases and can provide a lifelong foundation for centering and relief during difficult times.
A recent “Yoga for Grief” participant shares: ” I thought my journey with grief started with the passing of my daughter. I know now that grief has many faces and many time periods. Taking this class has opened me up to this realization. Gentle restorative yoga poses, and using my breath, have helped me release the barriers of grief. I’ve felt a gentle lift from the pain that I’ve held in my body. I am grateful to have taken this class. Lynne has a gentle and calming effect and teaches from her heart and soul. Many thanks.” B.C.~ Saskatoon