Mindfulness, Heartfulness

January 14, 2013

The other day I heard myself speaking during a radio interview about the power of mindfulness practice in grief and loss.  I was aware that there would be people listening who were at that moment swept up in the flames of fresh loss, and here I was cheerfully directing them that they drop down and sit in the fire.

I explained, of course, that this was not a theoretical suggestion, and that mindfulness practice had saved my life when my daughter was killed in a car crash.  Not that I was able to meditate during those first months; I could barely place one breath in front of the other.  But the fruits of years of meditation practice prior to the accident had given me just enough courage and strength to show up for fleeting moments and soften into the reality of what was happening: the trauma of Jenny’s death, the loss of my child and my identity as her mother, my own shattering.  Into those moments of presence, a tender spaciousness opened, and I found that I could, miraculously, be with it.

During my meditation this morning, it occurred to me that what I forgot to mention in that interview, and what I do not always remember to share with my bereaved brothers and sisters, is that I made the choice to be present with my loss not to practice my mindfulness skills but to honor Jenny.  I had felt a sense of urgency about not turning away from death because that seemed like turning away from my child.  I wanted to offer her the gift of my unwavering commitment to accompanying her on her journey away from me, even if to do so meant merely dedicating my breathing to her, and paying attention.

And so I have come to see that it is not so much a mindfulness practice I am teaching to people who are navigating the desert of grief, but a heartfulness practice.  When we choose to be present to our loss–to sit in the emptiness, the mystery, the sorrow and the rage–as a way to honor our loved one who has died, we are offering the fullness of our hearts.  What greater gift can we give to our beloveds?