The heat and glare of the late afternoon sun felt more intense than expected for late September, and the grasses alongside of the trail and over the rolling hills looked thirsty.
As I started to lead the hike for Whole-Self Wisdom Connections, a group of cows decided to cross our path. They moved slowly, eyeing us all the while, until they gathered underneath the shade of a tree. All I could hear was a frenzied chorus of chirping coming from the branches above them.
According to the book, Animal Messengers by Regula Meyer, the message of the cow is abundance. She writes “(Cows) teach us how, by unquestioningly accepting and admitting what life gives us, we can grow wealthy,” and goes on to say that “To live in plenty, one must first learn to accept with the whole heart…Open your heart wide and take this present moment, with all that it offers, into your heart.”
This seems fitting given the fall season – a time of harvest, thanksgiving, abundance; however, it’s also a season that asks me to accept (with my whole heart) some losses – falling leaves, shorter days, and the loss of warmer temperatures. This time of year can leave me feeling anxious as I sense an old pattern in my body that “I’ll need to get more done in less time,” or maybe the anxiousness is due to something else…
We passed by the haystacks and took a moment to ask ourselves, “Where in our physical environment do we see stacks of things piling up?”
I recalled the stacks of receipts I needed to sort through in order to track my bookkeeping, as well as some file folders of ideas for future coaching programs that needed attention. Could these areas in my life be the places where I needed to accept “with my whole heart,” anything I might be suppressing, including feeling the energy of grief?
Naturalist, tracker, mentor and author Jon Young prompted me to ask this question after I took his webinar series on Advanced Nature Connection Practices, Healing Grief, and Initiation. What resonated most was the notion that the areas in our life that need grieving are the same areas where we’ll find disconnection – patterns of behavior that deviate from who we really are, our true nature.
This complements what I’ve learned about trauma. As children, we expect the adults around us to behave in a connected way, but when they don’t, the confusion and fear can feel overwhelming. A part of our essence takes off into another wave pattern to avoid feeling that energy (i.e. we disconnect), but to replace it, thought forms come into the area of the body that perceived danger. This not only restricts blood flow to the area, but it creates a pattern of protection – behaviors we express to avoid similar situations and keep us “safe” (which may not be true, and likely exhausting).
As we grow into adults that are able to make conscious decisions, we have the opportunity to heal these areas of disconnection (that have stacked up overtime – generations even!) so we can have more room for the experiences that match our true desires and live life more fully; however, shedding a light on the areas of disconnection and healing them requires feeling the grief, and the culture I grew up in didn’t exactly create a space to feel that emotional energy. There were times when my body wanted to wail, but it either wasn’t acceptable, or didn’t feel safe to allow the sounds and movements of grief. At the same time, as someone who can feel others’ emotions as my own, I was actually okay with that – I mean, who wants to feel someone’s grief? It’s not comfortable (and I might feel my own!).
But if I continue to suppress the grief, it stacks up (as does my bookkeeping and program planning paperwork) and I get stuck. In her book, The Language of Emotions, Karla McLaren prompts us to feel the downward pull of grief – allowing it to ground us and press us into our bodies so that we stop and ask ourselves, “What must be mourned?” and “What must be released completely?” She writes…
Grief is so powerful, I think, because it has the job of defending our bodies and our emotions against the cultural training that makes our intellects and visionary spirits so domineering. Our visionary selves cannot connect fully to grief because they see no death and no loss. They soar into the future and above the world as it is; therefore they don’t really mourn or grieve death…Our logical and linguistic intelligences usually try to find reasons for it, and make everything seem logical and tidy, which is the opposite movement to that which grief requires. Grief asks us to become quiet and stop all forward movement so that we may dive into the depths… (Our bodies and emotions) know grief, which means they can act as our guides and mentors (p.312-313).
Our hike continued as we turned onto a new trail, descending down the slope and toward a pond. When we reached the water, I posed the next question, “How can we feel safe enough to feel the grief?
There are people who practice deep listening – to themselves, and to Nature. Jon Young calls these people grief tenders – people who can listen deeply, who can hold space, who can remain in a state of grounded neutrality as others process the emotional energy needed to reconnect to themselves. Do you have a neutral grief tender in your life?
Having someone who can listen to the story and hold space for you to accept and feel (so you don’t get stuck in the story) is one example of support. Another example is to give the energy of grief a sound. We walked further along the pond and stopped to see what the tone of grief might sound like for each of us, but my socially conscious self took over. There were people following their dogs into the water and I worried what these strangers would think (and how our hikers would feel), so we moved on, but please feel free to try it in the privacy of your own home. What does the tone of grief sound like to you?
Personally, I’ve found that after I’ve cried/processed grief, I feel a deeply relaxed lightness in my body. This feeling alone is enough to make the initial discomfort worth it, but I’ve also noticed that when I let the stacks of grief flow, I can connect to my true nature and the universal flow that wants to guide me into a new way of being (e.g. more ease, energy and engagement!)
The start of October has brought several days of rain (some hail even!). I wonder what was released with the rain, and what was mourned.
I’d love to learn more about what you’ve noticed about grief. When you allowed yourself to feel it, what did you notice about how it strengthens the connection to your true nature, others, earth, spirit? Include your comments below, or feel free to reach out to me at kelly@kellycmullen.