I recently lost my beloved cat Lily. After experiencing Lily’s death, I had a fleeting urge to go unconscious – sleep, eat, drink wine, whatever. As a grief counselor, I of course knew that wasn’t the way to go, and the urge passed. Instead, I took a walk, using the opportunity to ground myself. Breathing in, I felt my feet touch the earth, breathing out, I felt peace and spaciousness mixed with my grief. Then I recalled the story of the Buddha and the grieving mother, who learned that everyone is touched by death and grief. I looked up into the blue sky and saw a flock of birds flying in formation. I was opened into a sense of wonder and heartfelt compassion. Again, I touched my grief and allowed myself to cry deeply, feeling my heart breaking. I was reminded by Stephen Levine’s phrase: “Tragedy holds the seeds of grace.”
Experiencing my emotions on the level of felt bodily sense energy is vital for me, and my mindfulness meditation practice is a great way for me to work with my emotions. I have always been very intellectual and analytical about my feelings, and have learned through my meditation practice that theoretical or analytical understanding is really the booby prize in therapy and in life.
Later in the day after Lily’s death, I sat down to meditate. Immediately as I sat down, all the pain came back. Instead of pushing it away or analyzing it, I allowed myself to feel it – a throbbing burning pain in my chest, pounding in my heart and head, hands tingling. I touched the painful sensations on each inhale, and let them go on each exhale.
After practicing this way for a while, the pain was transformed into the nakedly alive feeling of sadness and compassion for myself and all others who are grieving. I welcomed my emotions without self-judgment as my friend, knowing that they are an expression of my life force. What was left was an open hearted and tender love for my Lily.