The older we get, the more we lose; this is the law of impermanence. We lose loved ones, cherished dreams, physical strength, work, and relationships, the degradation of the environment. Often, it seems like loss upon loss. All these losses bring up enormous grief that we must be prepared to embrace completely, if we are to live with open hearts. As the losses mount, the need for conscious grieving becomes more pronounced.
We must take time to remember our losses. Rather than close ourselves to grief, it helps to realize that we only grieve for what we love. It takes bravery to stay with pain when it arises and not run or erect barriers. In these moments the usual tendency is to withdraw and become self-absorbed. We become dry, sour, afraid; we crumble, or harden out of fear that more pain is coming. In some old familiar way, we automatically erect a protective shield and our self-centeredness intensifies.
It is important to be patient with the process, and not be in a hurry to put our grief behind us. In allowing ourselves to grieve, we learn that the process is not cut and dried. It’s more like a spiral that brings us to a place of release, abates for a time, and then continues on a deeper level. Often, when we are grieving, we think that it’s over, only to find ourselves swept away by another wave of intense feeling.
Through the process of loss we are often confronted with looking at our lives, who we are, and what we are about. This sense of self that we have known has become secure in its habits and defence mechanisms over the years. Loss will often bring a break-down and challenge to this sense of self. We start to see through its cracks and become confused as to what reality is. What once seemed so absolute now begins to seem relative. When this happens there is confusion and disorientation, some fear they are going insane.
The best way to deal with this is to not fear it. Don’t try to push it away and retreat into familiar habits. Just allow it to be. Although you may feel some anxiety, the ego’s defence mechanisms usually give way no faster than you can handle it. Any hidden aspects of your personality will be brought out into the open. Loss breaks down defence mechanisms and for the first time you are allowing yourself to see your state of mind as it is.
To counteract our natural tendency to turn away from the pain we open to it instead. Surrender to and become intimate with it. Allow the sharpness of these difficult times to pierce your heart. Allow the pain to touch all those parts of yourself that you generally don’t want to touch. The suffering that burns through you, deepens compassion and opens the door to deeper understanding of who you are. At the same time if we hold onto the suffering and grab at it and wallow in it or cling to it, it will also stop the process of its natural unfolding and healing.
During this time be kind towards all qualities of your being. The qualities that are the toughest to be kind to are the painful parts, where we feel ashamed, as if we don’t belong, as if we’ve just blown it, when things are falling apart for us. The path to peace is right here, the place that you want to get away from. Honour this moment and take time to cultivate compassion towards your perfect and imperfect self. The more you connect to the wholeness of your being, the more you will integrate all the parts.
Only by learning how to grieve and taking the time to do so can we hope to leave the past behind and come into the present moment more fully. Slowly you will arrive at a new and more profound integration of your experience in a more evolved structure. The whole journey is an evolvement of breaking through old structures to develop broader structures, then breaking through those broader structures. With each step comes a deepening to who you truly are and to the birth into more love, more peace and more joy.