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?

7 Responses to “Mindfulness, Heartfulness”

  1. Christine said

    How beautiful Mirabai! With spiritual maturity we can move beyond the “practices” that *attempt* to assuage our feelings of loss, and grief. to just being with the heartfelt experience of loss, grief, honoring the trauma, the feelings that arise – the truth of our experience.

    I admire your honesty and authenticity in the telling of your experience. As you say – “to soften into the reality of the trauma” offering the fullness of your heart. I feel it! 🙂 Blessings of love! Chrsitine

  2. Lori Anne said

    Beautiful, gentle words for the difficult act of leaning into the grief. Being with it, in it, of it in a way only one who knows can explain it.

  3. Karla said

    Beautiful Mirabai–and so true. I love your framing this as a “heartfulness” practice rather than mindfulness. It is an honoring of our children. And I love the image of dedicating our breath to them. Thank you, thank you. So much love to you. Remembering your beautiful, shining Jenny. ((((((Hugs)))))

  4. Meditation practice can help in times of grief – that’s clear to me personally, and there are many testimonies “out there” to that. But the idea of the intention stemming from a commitment to be with the loved one on their journey away from one is a new idea to me, and very interesting – thanks for thinking this through and communicating.

  5. Toinette Lippe said

    This is just lovely. Thank you so much. T.

    Toinette Lippe

    711 West End Avenue #6AN

    New York, NY 10025



  6. Bridget Robinson said


    Please contact me @ your earliest convenience..just today I felt led to contact you while reading daily your book on St. Hildegard and after I read this entry I thought I would share with you my own as well.

    I have found that it is in the visiting of our own faint, miserable ,exuberant and expansive hearts of lost dreams..plans..inner ponderings and hopes ,we can then respond to another.

    One must begin by welcoming ,embracing whatever arises..whether it be anger, hatred , fear or delight , joy. Dropping down into it ,then waiting, with patience, for the GIFT , Gem to arise
    holding it with all your might for the other

    Karitas is then born!

    Bridget Robinson

  7. doug said

    Hi Mirabai,
    Thank you for the thoughtful post, as usual.
    I hear it so many times, in so many ways, the biggest problem many of us face, is, we can’t seem to accept what we have been given without trying to change it on some level. This includes the good as well as the bad.
    I hear of people who struggle to be perfect, who are trying to improve themselves or the planet and have been working on themselves for a very long time, as if they could possibly improve on what was already given to them
    It says right on our own coin, “In god we trust” how few of us can practice this with a childlike faith.
    It must be Gods greatest sorrow, or a parents at times, to see one’s child not accept the wonderful gifts given while they go off to find something better; I speak from experience here… 🙂
    Listening to Gary Zukav (Dancing Wu Li Masters) on a rerun of Oprah today, he was talking about how to access this being present, accepting state we need to get to and work with, in order to change. Accepting where we are truly at, not where we imagine ourselves to be, is the start.
    Between the “yes but”… and the “what now” needs to be the “what am I feeling”. Because, not only in the present lies who we really are, but by accepting, often with the wide range of a feelings and emotions that often accompany where we are, also lie the seeds of personal change and growth, whats possible. The ability to (as you have spoke of before) arise from the ashes anew…
    Not for lightweights to be sure… 🙂 But fortunately as you remind us, the God of Love is always there to embrace and comfort and does not care how we get there, only that we do. Our parents are always ready to welcome us home when we are ready…
    Our grief honors life itself reminding us that an important part of living is suffering, whether we understand it or not, it makes us who we are and nourishes us.
    I know you know….a part of all us does….

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