Seed-Thoughts for Growing a Peaceful Heart
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
From Hamlet, William Shakespeare
A few years ago, one of my sons brought to my attention a new book by Ryan Holiday, “The Obstacle is the Way". Tapping into the ancient wisdom of Marcus Aurelius and other Stoics, Holiday proposes that what stands in the way IS the way.
Grief can be overwhelming; many folks get stuck there; others make it their identity; some people never get out of it. Viewing grief as an obstacle makes sense, because it surely is an obstacle to well-being.
If grief is an obstacle in your life, let’s consider what it would look like if we were to look at it in a friendly way rather than seeing it as an enemy. I’m inspired by Shakespeare today and wish to plant some positive seed-thoughts that will bless your growth to peace and well-being.
Take it slowly, Dear Reader, take as much time as you need to incubate and nourish these thoughts. Allow them to move through your mind and into your heart; you will feel the relief and lightness of spirit as awareness dawns upon you.
First seed-thought: Acknowledge the grief
Personal inquiry is a good place to begin. Have courage and keep asking. A good thing to remember here is that the cure is within you. No one can ask the deep questions or answer them for you. You have all it takes to create wellness for yourself.
What happened? What was lost? How many layers of loss am I looking at? What were the circumstances? Why? Who was involved? Whose lives were changed? Did I see it coming? How did I contribute to what happened? Could it have gone differently?
Second seed-thought: Open your heart and allow the feelings
Truthfully, this is where we lose a lot of people along the way. Especially men, but not only men. Feelings can be frightful, and allowing them to come up in the light of day can be very scary. Every feeling is allowed, but do avoid all blame and judgments. Try not to spin off into thinking or analyzing or interpreting any of it. Just notice the feelings and stay with them. They really can’t hurt you.
Life will break you.
Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning.
You have to love. You have to feel.
It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.
Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.
Third seed-thought: Attend to your feelings
We tend to want to brush away our feelings, or stand on their necks and squash them beneath our boot. If you made it through acknowledging your feelings, now all that is asked of you is attention and tenderness. Apply in large doses, as if you are comforting a small, innocent child.
Attention was our immediate need at birth, and it’s no different now, except that many of us have learned to do without it. People will run from you if they sniff out your grief. We must each, in our own way, attend to the feelings of grief and loss. Nobody can do it for us, and nobody can help us.
Letter from Lori
My dad died when I was 12-years old. I am twenty-five now. Not a day goes by I don’t think of him. I still feel frustrated that he is not here to share in my experiences, triumphs, and concerns.
If you have had this loss, the pain you feel will bring you closer to your heart; the one place where he lives now. It is the place where your closest relationship with him exists. Your life is going to bring you pain and confusion for a long time. Focus on the wonderful memories of your dad and the feelings of anger that you may have toward him.
The greatest gift you can give your dad and yourself is to stay in touch with your heart. That is where your dad lives now. It is the only place he will live forever.
If you look away from your heart, then you leave him alone, you leave the most essential part of you all alone. Open your heart up to how you feel and express your feelings in any way which you feel comfortable; through song, through art, sports or poetry; anything. In this, your dad will live forever.
Fourth seed-thought: Make a decision to practice feeling better
Yes, it really does come down to this. Absolutely. It’s a decision. The Buddha gave us two pillars to consider here: Pain is inevitable; Suffering is optional.
If Fate throws a knife at you, you can catch it
Either by the blade, or by the handle.
~ Persian Proverb
Fifth seed-thought: Accept grief when it shows up
Oh, I know! This is so counter-intuitive! But it is critical to not resist it when it shows up, as it will. Like the weather, sometimes it’s cloudy and dark. Don’t resist it. You can simply recognize it for what it is: heavy weather; a cold, misty day; thick smoke; grief. Welcome her as an honored guest – she’s not come to stay, only visit. These grief bursts will subside in time if you don’t resist them. Can you look at them and simply recognize your full humanity, the way in which we are all connected? Please go gently now, and wrap yourself in great tenderness.
It is essential for us to welcome our grief, whatever form it takes. When we do, we open ourselves to our shared experiences in life. Grief is our common bond. Opening to our sorrow connects us with everyone, everywhere. There is no gesture of kindness that is wasted, no offering of compassion that is useless. We can be generous to every sorrow we see. It is sacred work.
~ Francis Weller, psychotherapist and author
Sixth seed-thought: Integrate the losses into your great heart space
I call this “weaving” and suggest that we all become good weavers. It’s a paradox that great pain is the way, and nobody gets through this life without their fair share. It’s what unites us and develops a core of strength and compassion, individually and collectively.
Love is the seed of our healing.
Step out with love
Take it back and give it again, and again, and again.
This is the seed of coming back into wholeness.
The love you gave is not lost.
The beloved has returned it to you for your healing.
It now needs new form.
Remember: love has no expiration date, and it is infinitely recyclable.
Take the love you gave to the beloved and give it everywhere,
give it away.
For in the giving, you are healed.
~ Deborah Morris Coryell
Seventh seed-thought: Embrace it all with love and gratitude
The embrace is required; it softens us and allows us to accept peace into our hearts. Resistance, denial, anger, bargaining, depression only harden us and keep us at a distance from ourselves, our friends, our loved ones. And grief lives on, perpetuating pain and suffering.
The Thing Is
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, “How can a body withstand this?”
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
~ Ellen Bass
Eighth seed-thought: Meet yourself in mercy at every step
Don’t you just love the taste of this word on your lips? “Mercy”. Yes, we simply must meet ourselves here every step of the way. Letting go of every negative thought and caring for our well-being are primary to moving through the obstacle of grief. Indeed, the price for not loving yourself is high. So, no matter how you choose to plant your garden of seed-thoughts, make sure that mercy is abundant – planted daily and deeply.
This is a practice in developing infinite love and compassion for self and others. These seed-thoughts will take root, grow and bloom for you. It’s a promise. The obstacle is the way.
May you be at peace, GriefSpeak