| from here|
This little, unassuming book has been such a comfort to me since I've been reading it. The section on identity and grief, especially, put to words what I've been feeling.
We grieve whenever an anchor in our understanding of our identity is lost. Picture your identity as a necklace of precious stones that comes undone and needs to be restrung. If some stones are lost, new ones must be added to replace the old ones. Grief can be understood as the process of picking up the pieces of your identity (the stones) without the help of someone you had assumed would always be there, or without a relationship that was a crucial part of your life (the string). Grief is the process of finding out who you are in a world that is barely recognizable because of the tremendous change that has taken place. You may not be able to answer the question, "Who am I?" for a long time after your loss.
So much of my identity was lost with Dave. Not a wife? Not a Mrs.? I had been a part of a "we" for 15 years, since I was 20. It's difficult to imagine that I'm edging closer and closer to a year of life without him. My identity is still being rebuilt, of course and I'm learning, bit by bit, to let that unfold without trying to rush it. But it's true that I won't be able to answer "Who am I?" for a long time and it's difficult to accept that. Difficult, but necessary.
The section on permanence was also especially meaningful to me.
We long for permanence in all aspects of our lives, often to the point of missing the present moment. You may yearn for youth long gone, unaware that your life today is what you will see as your youth in the future. You may wish you could reexperience some of your happiest moments, and in so doing prevent yourself from making new ones. You may wish you could stop thinking about someone or something, and thereby lose your experience of today by holding on to an unpleasant feeling. You may even imagine permanence where there is none. All these efforts to seek permanence are, in the end, futile. It is true, but hard to imagine, that in one hundred years, you and everyone you know will not exist.
I recognize this tendency to long for permanence to the point of missing the current moment. It's a recurring lesson for me. All of this makes me think more and more that meditation and mindfulness in general might really help me. It was never before quite as clear to me until Dave died just how much time I waste worrying. I miss out on the present because I'm so fixated on permanence. It's just no use wishing things were different. Natural and understandable, YES, but my energy could be better directed.
I think the ability to be more mindful and live in the moment is like a muscle that can be strengthened with use, thankfully.
Strengthening this ability, according to the book, requires practicing mindfulness through meditation and one of the reasons I love this book, is that the author does a good job of debunking some myths about meditation. Instead of emptying your mind (which the author claims is fruitless), you focus on not engaging with the constant flow of thoughts that flit through your mind. You focus on the breath, the moment, whatever it is you're doing, and let those thoughts pass right through without letting them run the show. You practice staying HERE, in the now, even if it's only for 21 breaths. Eventually, Kumar says, you will notice it becomes easier to not engage those thoughts and focus more on the current moment.
I think those of us who are grieving could really benefit from the ability to detach from those thoughts long enough to be present once in a while. We have so much going on emotionally as we grieve. We have our memories of our loved one's last moments and the guilt/fear/shock/terror that go along with those moments. We worry about our future without our core person. We try to make sense of things we truly can't make sense of. We struggle to figure out who the hell we are now. It's probably pretty crucial for us to give ourselves the gift of mindfulness occasionally as we do the hard work of rebuilding.
And we know, first hand, just how tenuous life is. The next moment isn't guaranteed and the past is over. All we have is NOW, after all.
Anyone else read this book and have some thoughts on it?
I highly recommend it, even if, like me, you think meditation/mindfulness is a little too "woo woo" for you. This is like mindfulness for the practical-minded!