Saying Yes

July 22, 2009

Mystics of all faiths celebrate the fire that clears the landscape of the soul, preparing it for a direct encounter with divine love.  Spiritual seekers have embraced contemplative disciplines for millennia in the hope of finding a small glimpse of the emptiness that is plenitude, a single moment of the ego-melting that leads to union with the absolute.  Prior to the death of my daughter Jenny in 2001, I had spent decades in pursuit of that spiritual nakedness.

I have never encountered a more direct path to the undifferentiated awareness the mystics speak about than the journey of grief and loss.  Tragedy and sorrow can accomplish in a single moment what years of sitting on a meditation cushion may never yield: an unequivocal surrendering into the arms of the mystery.  There is no other place to go.

I am not unique.  In the years since Jenny died, I have encountered hundreds of people who have experienced the inexplicable gifts of grief and loss, and have dedicated themselves to cultivating, harvesting, and giving away that bounty.  This is the grace of radical unknowing the mystics speak about.  The terrible initiation of darkness and despair that strips our souls of everything that stands between us and the sacred.  The dying that happens when someone we love dies, shattering the container of our hearts.  The boundless love and gratitude that comes pouring into and through that broken open container.

I would never have willingly agreed to exchange the life of my daughter for the transformational grace that has come in the wake of her death.  I would gladly relinquish every shred of the increased aliveness and childlike wonder with which her death has filled my life, if it meant I could cuddle her close and sing her to sleep one more time.  At some point every day, I still hate that Jenny is dead.

Yet, I cannot deny the gift of being emptied and scrubbed and filled with the light the sages of every tradition throughout the ages have spoken of.  The boundless love expressed best in poetry and song.  The longing that takes away your breath only to fill you with a never-imagined vitality.  But only after you have surrendered completely to the darkness, to the fire, to the unraveling of all you ever thought you knew.  I have understood almost from the beginning that my only task is to say YES to that.

In this blog I will explore, through my own and others’ stories, how the journey of grief and loss can fill our lives with ever-expanding awareness, radiant vitality and unimagined joy.