June 26, 2010

Our Beautiful Wound retreat at the Omega Institute was a deep and transformational journey again this year.  From the first day, a magical circle of love and trust coalesced between the participants, and I was blessed to bear witness to the building of community before my eyes: a community of shattered hearts surrendering to the wonder of the grace that pours through the broken places.

Here are a few excerpts from Bev Roche, a South African chef, and the mother of a beautiful little boy named Callum who died in a tragic accident when he was eighteen months old.  Bev and her husband Sean are currently embarked on a fertility voyage, which has not yet landed on the shore of conception.  May we all add our prayers for new life to theirs.

In her first email to me the week after our gathering, Bev writes:

Last week a few pennies dropped. (And I got to talk about Callum a lot, which was very refreshing. Being with people who didn’t shy away from my pain was wonderful.) I realised how I am adding to my own pain by wishing my life was different all the time. So I’m trying to be more accepting of my reality. (Like I used to say to Callum, ‘yes’ is a perfectly good word too, not everything has to be ‘no’) And I discovered the concept of ‘groundlessness’. I know I am constantly chasing to make things safe and secure. I foolishly believe that one day I will have it all together and it will stay that way. But in fact, I already know life is not like that. Best get used to the fact that there is no solid ground beneath my feet. And never will be. I think timing is also very important. I could not have taken on board a lot of what I did, say, a year ago. And a lot of seeds were planted, which I think will come to fruition over the coming weeks and months. I’m thinking of how I can be of service too. I was watching a movie by a lady called Kris Carr, Crazy, Sexy, Cancer. And I realised how cancer patients are also ‘broken open’ and discover the ‘groundlessness’ of life. I am thinking of offering to cook for cancer patients, free of charge. Especially when they’re undergoing chemo, or are unable to cook for themselves. I just want a few people to start. Because I am still dedicated to my primary activity of getting pregnant.

Bev’s next email, a week or so later:

Up till now, I have had 2 modes of being: one is ‘functional’, but numb (and I have done this very well. Putting on a facade for everyone that everything is fine). That is 99% of the time. And the other is crushed. Which I do in private and no one sees. I realise now that although ‘functional’ is good, and denial / numbness is as good a way as any to just get through the first year, (the ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy) now I need to change. When the pain comes, I won’t push it away, I will feel it. And if that sometimes means that people see it, then fine. I will talk to people about Callum more. I need to let them know that I want to talk about him. And I realise that that makes me vulnerable to people’s (sometimes awkward) reactions. Which is why I have avoided doing it in the past. But I’m stronger now, and I will feel more compassion for them, than the anger that I have felt in the past. This is big stuff! And it’s a journey. And we will go up and down, and backwards and forwards…

When I asked Bev if I could share her thoughts with you on this blog, she replied:

I would be so honored if you shared my thoughts on your blog. You are more than welcome to use my whole name if you like. And you must point out that I could not have written any of it before attending your wonderful workshop. I am amazed at the shift that has occurred within me. It seems to me I didn’t make any progress the whole of the first year, and now I have made a quantum leap. I have even started to think about what I might say to someone who has a fresh loss. You may recall I told you about meeting a very newly bereaved mother at the Compassionate Friends meeting we attended on the eve of Callum’s first anniversary. She asked me whether it gets better. I was floored. I said something like, it’s still too early for us, or you’re asking the wrong person, I don’t really remember. It would be a little different if someone asked me today.

I know I have experienced a big shift because I finally have some sense of the ‘gift’ that comes with deep pain. I had read about this concept before, but really had no idea. Maybe even rejected it because it sounds so crazy, even insulting to someone who has lost a child. I read Elisabeth Lesser’s book ‘Broken Open’ very early on, and it deals very much with this concept. I thought it was a really good book, but still this concept was in no way real to me. I have also just finished reading Mark Matousek’s “When you’re falling, dive.” I got so much out of it, and I just know that this would not have been the case before.

Thank you, Bev, for your exquisite reflections.  And thank all of you beautiful beings who sat with me last month.

This work is profoundly gratifying.  And very subtle.  It’s about continuously yet gently inviting people to rest in the center of their own experience and find the secret medicine available there.  This demands that I share my own experience, and demonstrate what it looks like to have entered into the heart of what happened to me, which looked like a catastophe, and emerged filled with more love and life than I ever could have dreamed possible.  But it’s not about me.  It’s about making a place where pilgrims on the road of grief can lay down their burdens for a moment and break bread together.  It’s about silence, poetry, music, and more and more it’s about rejoicing together in the absurd perfection of life exactly as it is.

Stay tuned for details about our next Omega retreat in August, 2011.