Gathering the Stories

May 3, 2010

I have begun getting up an extra hour early and writing with the sunrise.  It’s time to shape THIS BEAUTIFUL WOUND work into a book.  Part of me hesitates to share this, because right now it’s still in the gooey undefined stage of a caterpillar melting into something unrecognizable inside its cocoon.  Yet by letting you know what I am up to, I am psychically accountable to you.  I get up, make coffee, light a candle and offer the light, and get to work, because I said I would.  I ignore my email, last night’s dishes, philosophy papers to grade.  There is only this: articulating the power of grief and loss to make butterflies of us all.

If it wasn’t for my friend Andrew Harvey, I might never have begun.  He extracted a promise from me on the phone last week, after inquiring about how my work was going and then really listening for the true answer.  The thing is, there is never a convenient time to climb Mount Sinai.  So you strap on your sandals, leave a pot of soup on the stove for your family, and start walking.

A few days ago my friend JB, who knows me more deeply than maybe anyone on the planet, gently challenged me:  Are you sure you want to make grief the focus of your life?  She was responding to the way I still come undone in the face of heartbreak: my own, yours.

I had just told her about going to see what was supposed to be a funny movie the night before with my husband seated on one side of me and a good friend on the other.  There was a car crash scene – buckling metal and shattering glass – and while the whole audience, including my companions, was laughing uproariously I felt like I was going to throw up or pass out.  How many times have I imagined Jenny’s accident, the sounds and movements of the scene of her dying?  The contrast of what for me is a trauma set in the context of a comedy fried my circuits, and I left the theater in tatters.  Every week people call and I sit with them inside their burning.  It is only by entering into the heart of the pain with them that any kind of alchemy unfolds.  I love this service, but I do not want it to define who I am.

GD & I went to Crestone this weekend to celebrate my birthday with our dear friends, Tessa and Father Dave, the Carmelite monks.  Tessa and I have collaborated on various Teresa of Avila projects and have become intimate soul sisters.  Fr. Dave is an exquisite poet with profound interfaith sensibilities, and we share the same birthday.  They are my informal spiritual directors, and so, over champagne and miso soup, I asked for their guidance.  Tessa did not hesitate to let me know that this book is exactly what I need to be writing, that I am gathering up my legacy teachings and offering them so that I can release them.

And so I write, and let go.

This book will include examples of people I have sat with in the fire of grief and loss who are transforming, and those who fear they never will, and those who already have.  If you have any stories to share with me, I would like to hear them.  You can email me through my website, or share them on this blog.  Thank you!

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2 Responses to “Gathering the Stories”

  1. Doug said

    By all means Mirabai, write your book. As someone once said, “don’t leave your story or your song inside or unfulfilled”. (Not that I get a sense that is a problem with you…:-)
    I regret I will not be at Omega later this month for your workshop; it would have been wonderful to meet you. I am tentatively scheduled to help out there in August if it comes together….
    The thought of attending your workshop did bring up some questions that I thought of emailing you about, and if you wish to email me a longer answer I would love it. But briefly the question is in regards to I guess simply put, the delivery methods of grief itself. While personal loss of someone close to us, is one, certainly experiencing someone else’s is another way, or perhaps the horrors of war, or drug addiction, racism or intolerance, or pain we have inflicted on ourselves, are all ways we experience deep grief. I guess my question to you is, if in the final analysis all grief simply reminds of our true separation from God, and your focus often seems to be on the loss of a loved one, do you work with the different causes of it and see similarities as well as differences that effect your ability to work with it, or experience it differently? Can these differences simply be seen as different aspects of separation, and worked with with universal principles collectively together, or do different types of grief need to be worked with or experienced differently or separately?
    Again I wonder if your workshop finds a need to define different types of grief and if you need to approach them differently… And if in the end, separation from God is the universal cause of all suffering….including grief…
    Best wishes and warm thoughts always…
    Doug in Traverse City

  2. Mirabai said

    Your comments & questions are profound & insightful as always, dear Doug. I agree completely that all grief is an echo of our essential longing to return to our divine source. While it is true that I tend to focus primarily on grief in the face of the death of a loved one, I fully acknowledge that any experience of radical loss and profound sorrow can be the occasion for the kind of transformational grace I am talking about. The reason I return to death is because death has a way of thrusting us into a face-to-face encounter with the Great Mystery more powerfully than almost anything else can.

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