Dare I mention our elections?
We all know that what is happening in the world of American politics is outrageous in so many ways. Truth is too often ignored or at best illusive. I am not even going to mention the names of those seeking nominations in their respective parties....we all know them too well. I have made my choice for voting in April and I imagine most of you have also. I imagine most of us are pretty worn down by the lies, exaggerations, attacks, polls, predictions, finger pointing, promises and yes, even violence.
What might be helpful for all of us to remember is to take a breath and to practice balance. There is really no need to read every article, every post on every social network or to watch every debate. Check yourself as you watch or read. It is not a calming experience and it seems pretty futile to me. Spending precious hours paying attention to the wrong sources each day is not going to change anything. However, your vote and appropriate support for your candidate will help. I have gained insight from reading local author Mike McCabe's "Blue Jeans in High Places." His plan and the actions he and his followers are taking make sense to me. www.bluejeannation.com
A balanced approach to this election year can be an important piece of living well. We have many months ahead of us and not much is new at this point. Balance can include going to sources you believe are reliable, track what these sources are saying a couple times a week (more or less) and then go for a walk in nature on these beautiful May days.
I am NOT suggesting people walk away from politics. Just the opposite. Our voices matter. Educating ourselves matters. Action matters. But wasting time listening to and reading the same old, same old futile information over and over and over again seems to me to be a waste of time and energy as well as a source of frustration. Throw your energy behind your candidate in positive and helpful ways, ways that matter if you so choose...when the time comes to do so.
Balance is such an important approach to our lives. Not too much and not too little of anything can lead to peace and calm even in challenging times. It matters with exercise, nutrition, our emotions, relationships, work, socializing, involvements (just look at your calendar), solitude and stillness, and so much more.
Think about looking at the pieces of your life to see if balance is an essential practice. Try sitting at the river's edge, alone, and look inward to see what needs changing and then create a plan, one at a time, to make changes. Perhaps include how you plan to deal with this election year.
And as you increase balance in your daily life, also remember to vote.
A few weeks ago someone posted a graphic on Facebook that read a bit like this: "there is something to be said about driving and singing to very loud music." I have always agreed with that and found myself doing just that as I returned from Chicago where I spent four days attending the long awaited celebration of my brother's 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Given his health from age 28 (2 weeks after ordination he was in cancer surgery not expected to live) until today, he should not have made it this far.
Princess Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, who delivered his sister's eulogy was interviewed on the CBS News Sunday Morning show today (March 15, 2015). In the course of the interview he said (in response to interviewer Tracy Smith's statement "It has been close to 20 years." "Yeah, I met someone the other day who was so interesting, she had actually lost her sister in a car crash, in fact the same time. And I said, 'How is it for you?' And she said, 'Well, the pain's the same, it's just the tears are less.' And that's very profound."
It was 3am on January 3. A light snow was falling as three rabbits ate grass in my back yard. They looked cold. I rarely have sleep problems now but I know not to fight them. I make herbal tea, grab a book or sit in the dark. I don't dare turn on my computer, iPad, Android phone or iPod. None of these will help me get back to sleep.
I had driven to the nearby town of Dodgeville that day for a computer repair passing the cemetery where my husband Bill is buried. To distract myself from the sadness I always feel when I drive that road, I flipped on public radio. On this day I was feeling relieved that the holidays since Bill's death were finally over. One of my favorite programs had just started: On Point with Tom Ashbrook.
I learned this was his first day back following the death of his beloved wife, thereby ending the distraction I sought. Most anything of value on the subject of grief draws my attention. I am a therapist and bereavement counselor and I am also on my own grief journey. Certainly not like I was early on, but grief is forever and as many people who have walked this journey know, five years, though it seems like forever, also feels like yesterday. One learns to live with grief and search for anything that will ease the pain. I have spent 40 years working with those who hurt, many of them grieving...most I might say since grief is about many kinds of loss. How I wish all that experience had helped just a bit after Bill's death but nothing could ease that gut wrenching pain; pain that sits more quietly now, but still rears its head unexpectedly in spite of all the grief work I have done.
Many of us spend a good deal of time crying in the first few months of our lives. It all starts with the birth cry which occurs as the newborn's lungs expand with air. And then come the tears mothers read so well knowing when her infant is hungry, wet, uncomfortable, overtired, scared, angry and more. As adults, crying varies between the sexes, with women crying more often than men probably because it is considered more socially acceptable. As adults we cry when we hear lovely music or see something beautiful. Tears flow when we are sad and happy; frustrated, overwhelmed or trying to get attention among other things.
And most of us cry when we grieve.
Actually with grief we weep, sob, and sometimes wail because the pain is so deep. Sadly, in our society, we tend to be uncomfortable with tears be they our own or someone else's. As a result many hold them in far too often; apologize for them; and save them for when they are alone even though crying with someone is a sacred experience. My husband used to call my tears "holy water".
I originally wrote this article for Marty Tousley's Grief Healing Blog. You can find it at: http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2013/12/meditation-helpful-to-those-who-grieve.html
It is only through holding our own broken hearts and wounds in an attentive and compassionate embrace, that we can, over time, move through our grief to some stage of peace and resolution.
~ Brad Hunter
Research studies confirm that the practice of meditation and mindfulness changes our brains and our lives; reduces pain, anxiety, confusion and stress; boosts the immune system; and increases concentration, focus and compassion, among its many other benefits. In addition, the practice of meditation and mindfulness can assist us in healing our grief, because it helps us live in the present moment...where our grief resides. It gives us better access to the "now," thereby helping us become more aware of our pain and sadness, and in turn begin to heal it. Distracting ourselves from our grief is necessary and helpful from time to time, but repeatedly avoiding pain and grief only serves to prolong the journey to healing. Any tool that can increase concentration and focus and bring us to that place where grief resides (the present moment) is surely a tool that will facilitate grief healing. As a dedicated advocate of the use of meditation and as a fellow mourner, my hope is that others learn how helpful it can be as they walk the labyrinth of grief in their own lives.
I was out in my back yard this week trimming Arborvitae back off the fence. I returned at 5:30 the next morning before the heat of the day to pick up the trimmings and load them into my Subaru to take them to the dump....it would probably take four trips. I imagine it took me a total of about 3 hours or more to do this.. My Golden Retriever Bentley came out with me and after smelling every corner of the yard checking for the presence of squirrels and rabbits, he stood by the door waiting to go inside. Each time I looked over to check on him, there he stood...patiently waiting to be let into the house. He did not bark or squeal. He just stood silently.
Living well for many of us includes sharing our lives with a variety of pets. Some of us prefer cats, others prefer dogs, birds, fish or horses. If an animal is truly a pet, s/he becomes a family member and when they die...we grieve.
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I have not had many pets in my life. As a child we had a puppy for about two days when it died. I don't remember much about that. As an adult I had a cat named Toby and later I fell in love with dogs. Our first dog, a Golden mix, was a throw away. Our neighbor saw its owner slow his truck a bit near a dump and throw Buffy (pictured left) out the window. He was 4 months old and became our family member for 13 years. He roamed our woods with us, curled up with Bill or me (or both of us) as we watched television, listened to music or slept.
Following a loss, we attempt to describe what follows using words and phrases that include grief recovery, moving on, moving forward, healing our grief, healing our lives and more. People ask us how we are doing? Some really want to know. Others...not so much. Many tell us how we are doing or how we look or act. Many wish us well and it comes from deep in their hearts.
As for me, I have not found a word or phrase that accurately describes the journey and pain that follows a significant loss.