Gratitude for the Grieving Goddess
Lately I have been far from the studio in both body and mind, but never in spirit. The thing that keeps me feeling connected is reading our awesome blog. Whitney we are grateful to you!!On the other side of that coin, having suffered two very profound losses in a short period of time, I felt a twinge of additional sadness knowing that our Sage has left us for literally greener pastures. Back to Washington he goes. Sage you are awesome in every way. May the journey be filled with daily joy, gratitude, and moments of awe!
Joy, gratitude, and moments of awe would seem to be practices reserved for the happy and optimistic among us, right? Actually, these practices are even more useful for those of us who are grieving. What can we do during those times when we just don’t want to do anything? Deep down, we know we can work through grief through our regular and consistent asana and meditation practices but we resist. Like crazy! Nevertheless, we need to lovingly nudge ourselves to do these practices regularly, but for less time and with much less fire. We need to actively create healing spaces through our yoga practice.
It is also important to really feel that grief rather than shoving it all under the rug. Create a unique time and place for that and keep your appointment. Sure, you will feel sad at other times too, but this set-aside will create an opening for grief to move through the system. Create a sad song playlist and go ahead and have a good long cry. Then balance that with some radical grief therapy in the form of a gratitude practice, a joy practice, and a random-act-of-kindness practice.
In his book The Upward Spiral, neuroscientist Alex Korb cites dozens of empirical studies showing that gratitude practice activates a gratitude circuit in the brain. This gratitude circuit elevates physical and mental health, boosts happiness, improves sleep, and helps one feel more connected to other people. This is so helpful for the grieving because if you have ever been there, you know that after loss you feel very alone.
Gratitude practice is easy, though if you are deeply grieving, you may need to look hard to find anything to be grateful for. Still, try it. Write down one or two things you are grateful for each day. I like to do this in a calendar. As you look back, you see all the things you have to be grateful for in one place. Again, many studies have shown the health benefits of spending time in gratitude. The website Heartmath.com describes in detail the process through which gratitude practice evens out heart rate patterns and creates smooth, regular patterns, also known as heart rate coherence. Heart rate coherence keeps the cardiovascular system running efficiently and calms the nervous system. Calming the nervous system improves one’s overall health, which lifts grief in small but cumulative ways.
Now let’s talk about cultivating moments of joy. As a very quick practice, write down five or six things that bring you joy, that can be done in a minute or less. Now practice two or three of them. For example, I just took a sip of tea and smelled a flower. Then I watched a bird! See? I am still alive. I am still connected to you and all other sentient beings. Wow, we really are all connected.
Cultivating a Small Healing Gesture Practice
You have heard that random act of kindness help both the giver and the receiver. When you are really hurting, helping someone else in even a small way can radically improve your outlook. Again, seeing that you still reside among the human race, that you still matter, and that you can still make a difference in the world, is affirming enough to pull us out of a deep funk. Anything from sharing a smile, to letting someone go ahead of you at the store, to picking up garbage on your morning walk, will do. Be sure to keep doing this practice every day. If you can find the courage to connect with a stranger, you will feel especially renewed. We are all part of the human race and the web of all existence. Reaffirming that connection in even small ways is healing to the grieving goddess in all of us.