Grief: how it deepens our common humanity. Yoga: how we evolve through grief

Please join me on Saturday April 2nd, 2:00p – 6:15p PDT for a workshop I am teaching titled Yoga for Grief, via Zoom. Signup details are below.

What do we do when confronted with suffering, when we are disillusioned with life, when someone betrays or harms us, when the unimaginable happens? Losing our footing – as we say- and slipping into despair, frustration, anger or grief is a natural reaction when life throws us a curve ball. We tend to think of this as a personal phenomenon, but we are experiencing cultural and global grief on a scale not seen in nearly a century.

Covid, the political divide, the war in Ukraine, our economic see-saw, just when we thought we are getting over, or working through a traumatic series of events, something new arises. The truth is, there are no guarantees in life, roses have thorns, and the Buddha reminded us that life is suffering. The Buddha also suggested that there is a path to the end of suffering.

We generally think of grief as the inconsolable emotional depths we go through when we lose a loved one. Yet we go through similar patterns to process any loss, all loss. Grief exists on a spectrum. On one extreme, “pathological grief” is when an individual is unable to process loss and incapable of resuming their life, even after a year or more. Yet many of us will recognize that we go through many of the classic stages of grief for smaller events. We lose a job, money, a friend, an ideal.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance were first coined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross in 1969. Since then there have been different versions of this process, but I find that these five give us a good framework to recognize our every-day inner dialog that accompanies loss.

In our current affairs, the shadow of Covid stalks our past and our future. We read that many people are in denial of the virus. Some people are angry that they must wear masks, some are angry that others choose not to wear masks. Our liberties are challenged. Everyone reassures themselves that their beliefs are based on fact. The bargain is that, if we do the right thing, this will all go away. And then another mutation appears to shatter our optimism and we get depressed. These stages are not like a step ladder, they are not linear, but you will recognize the pattern.

When we recognize that loss is a part of everyday life, that we are generally ill equipped to deal with loss, that loss exists on a spectrum, and that there are things that we can do to alleviate our suffering, why wait? When we recognize that loss and suffering affects us on all levels, psychological, physiological, it effects our sleep, our relationships, and that there is something we can do to improve our health, why wait?

Yoga, conscious breathing, reflection and meditation are all effective ways to practice the life skills that help us build inner resilience. Just as we need to learn how to strengthen a muscle, we can learn how to flex this compassionate self-abiding.

Some yoga classes are designed to help you build cardiovascular health, some to strengthen your bones, and some can help stabilize the nervous system. Our yoga practice will help reinforce the relaxation response through a discussion and experience of the effect of various poses. Metta meditation, Tonglen and basic pranayama are equally profound balms to sooth the heart.

Metta:

May we be safe and protected from inner and outer pain.
May we be at ease in our body and in our hearts.
May we be happy, may we thrive and live a creative and connected life.
May we be at peace.

Tonglen is a meditation practice that is known as “giving and taking”, wherein we first settle into a tranquil inner state, and then open to the suffering of those around us. It is a progressive practice that begins with people who are familiar and comfortable to us. As we are able to transform the feelings of darkness into those of ease, the practice suggests that we move on to relationships that are less comfortable. This meditation helps us condition our inner dialog from one of aversion to pain into one of being able to open to compassion.

Workshop Details

Title: Yoga for Grief
When: Saturday April 2, 2022, 2:00p – 6:15p PDT (includes 15 minute break)
Who: All levels are welcome
Where: On Zoom
Teacher: Just me, Lisa Walford

To sign up, please visit https://urbanashramyoga.com/events/yoga-for-every-generation. I look forward to seeing you there!

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