“Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out.”~Thich Nhat Hanh
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”~Pema Chödrön
“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”~Helen Keller
Last weekend I went to a local farmers’ market. Standing apart, in masks, we waited for each person to choose their produce. I watched hands testing the ripeness of tomatoes and cantaloupes, picking up eggplants, and putting them down. I didn’t feel safe and I noticed protection and judgment creating armor around my heart. As I paid and moved from the line, I saw two children sitting with their mother beneath a tree eating strawberries, enjoying the perfectly ripe sweetness on a summer’s day. Tears came to my eyes and I felt the sadness of loss, of mourning what was so extraordinary that day, the simplicity of ease, of pleasure, and safety.
Often when I talk about mindfulness, people want to know, how can mindfulness protect me from my pain? The answer is that mindfulness doesn’t take away what is painful. Mindfulness can help us make room for our pain and give us the capacity to hold it with loving awareness. I call this, “not abandoning,” and it is the core of my practice.
When I registered how deeply I felt the loss of ease, of welcome, and safety, I stopped and allowed the sadness and mourning. I felt it in the tears that came to my eyes, in my skin, and the pull in my throat and the feeling of my body closing around my heart. These emotions and sensations are hard to be with. As a nation and a world, we are encountering moments that stop us, moments where we see starkly what we have lost, who we have lost, and how we have lost each other.
This awareness of my suffering and the suffering of the collective is the heart work that allows us to show up for our mourning and loss. This sadness and grief when held with mindful, loving awareness tills the soil and prepares the ground in our heart’s garden. It germinates the seeds of tenderness and longing we all possess. Our mourning tells us we are vulnerable and connected to all beings. Our mourning shows us what is so important: connection, welcome, love, and a world where Black, Brown, and white bodies can all feel safe.
As I write about my sadness, a soft rain is falling on the straw-colored grass, bringing it back to life. Even in the short hours from dark until mid-morning, the grass seems greener, fresher, and more alive. This is aniccā, the Sanskrit word for impermanence and continuation. When I encounter that place of sadness in me, it has already shifted. I wrap myself in this moment, in the soft rain, the benevolence of nature watering her children. This mourning has cleared space in me to see what is still beautiful, the blue jay calling from the pines, the grass being born again, the kindness of the rain and my heart softens, welcoming back the ability to love what it loves, even when it feels so far from my grasp.
May we all trust our light,