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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Grief and Journaling...

Grief:  The process of coping after a loved one's departure to the other world, or whatever your concept of death is.  Each of the religious traditions have their own customs and rituals to help cope with the mourning and pray for a peaceful journey from this physical world.  IT gives us the ones that are left behind in this physical world a source of hope and solace, providing strength, courage and gratitude to face life without them by our side physically.

What happens when all the customs are over?  What do we do with ourselves once we begin to resume a semi normal lifestyle without them by our side?  How do we perceive our lives now? What changes must we make for ourselves if any? And last but not least, how do we continue to move on and move forward?  There is no one way to grieve.  In fact, i am a strong believer that we never fully get over a loss of a loved one, but simply in our process we learn to accept it as part of life. 

Time, Self-Care and unconditional faith in a higher power are three tools that can help along this process of grief.  Time is needed because in time, the pain will be gradually begin to lessen, but the memories will not.  Memories will come flooding some good, some bad, some too painful that you want to block out.  Yet, at other times, scents, smells, and flashbacks of certain images will appear because that is part of ones memories.   Time is needed on our part because in time things change.  What used to be is not any more.   How we perceive things changes in time. 

Self-Care is needed to help us in these stages.  It is easy to get lost in the various emotions following the loved ones' passing - guilt, blame, anger, fear, denial, -all these come to you in a flash - and various triggers can get us in that mode.   And when we get there we can often get stuck in those emotions which could lead to self-destructive patterns.  Therefore self care comes in handy.  Making sure we eat wholesome food, making sure we sleep, making sure we walk/exercise, making sure we are in tune with our emotions, and last but not least  making sure we give ourselves what our heart needs.  An internal checklist is important to continue asking yourself- how am i feeling at this moment -what do i need at this moment -am i doing the things i need to do to take care of myself - am i nourishing myself or am i destroying myself.  
Sometimes we are so busy taking care of others that we don't know what it means to take care of ourselves - we don't like feeling that empty void of not having someone to tend to - and we get panicky - therefore taking the time to really have a internal dialogue with yourself about what your needs and wants are is important at this time.  

Take a look at what sustains you inside - not outward?  What gives you a reason for living?  Make a list of 10 things to live for? Write it down and see what stands out?  Make a list of things you love?  See what is crying out to you if you don't do it enough.  It is out on paper.  It has come from the depths of your soul and it is showing you what you need.  Stop the internal critic in you that says - you don't deserve it - no you as much as anyone else deserves it - and so now is the time to allow yourself that space to do so.  
Self-care is important because we are taking the time to honor ourselves and to honor the person who has departed.  They would want us to continue withour lives.  They would want us to continue living and so not only for them, but for ourselves we must do so.

Faith in a higher Power is extremely crucial.  Whatever your religious belief is - knowing that your every need is provided for and that there is a higher power that is looking out for you gives each of us the strength to move forward in this process of grief.  One of the biggest champions of Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler Ross talks in big detail about the various stages of grief - that there are five stages of grief - and it starts with denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  At every step of this stage, knowing that you can have an intimate relationship with a higher power or your higher self and have a dialogue about whatever stage you are in helps with the grieving process.  I am reminded of a Hindu epic story, The Mahabharatha in which two families are made to go to war with each other.  One side of the family has the Lord in Human Form with them at every step of the way - guiding them, consoling them, arguing with them, providing them with wisdom, and nourishment in the midst of the battle, and in the midst of coping with multitutde of layers of losses.  They all had to go through the losses, the grieving moments, the anger, the sadness, but at every step they had their friend, or Lord in Human Form with them -which to me was their faith - faith that I can pass through anything if I have Him/Her on my side.  

And last but not least Writing because writing heals.  Write about the anger, write about the last moments, write about the laughing moments, write about the what ifs, write about the beauty, and write about the loss.  Everytime you write, you are taking a step closer to healing.  I have had so many people say to me - it is easy for you because you do it all the time.  No it is not easy - it takes perserverence and a willingness to do it. There has to be a will and when there is a will the doors open up.    As I said earlier, a memory, a scent, a song, a picture, a prayer all these will begin to remind us of our loved ones as we try to resume normalcy.  And what do we do with that? Do we put it away because it is too painful to bear or do we look at it in the face and say "I will embrace you even if it is painful."  Because by remembering  I am honoring you and realize that although your form may not there, but everything that you were and stood for is still there.  So you live in me, and I live in you.  Writing down our feelings, writing down our thoughts, certain memories all this helps with the process of grief. And in doing so the healing begins...

Happy Journaling!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Running...

Ever feel like you are running out of energy but you have to keep going? This week has been one of those weeks.  I have five million things in my mind that i need to do and as much as i try to pace myself, i find myself losing energy everytime i check off one more thing on my to do list.   Others would call it time managment. But when the body can't keep up then you know that you are racing faster than what you should be and it is time to slow down.   I did a workshop last week, in which the question that was posed was in regard to free writing -and wanting to write down everything that your mind is saying needs to be written on paper, but your hand does not write fast enough - and how does one balance that.  It is almost as if one is flooded with ideas non stop and you want to  get it all down before you forget. But you can't move your hand fast enough.   Today feels like that.  It feels like i am trying to get it all done without taking that breath.  But it is the breath that sustains me. 
So too -  writing with a stream of consciousness - the writing is to develop the practice of slowing down and writing mindfully as opposed to running with your mind.   The mind has a habit of making us run and when we run we get breathless, tired, and confused.  Often we lack clarity. 
So the technique is to breathe and learn to listen to the heart.  A meditative practice and a reminder to myself again and again that if it can't get done today - then it will be done tomorrow.  Another lesson is prioritizing -and staying focused on the present moment.  Asking myself constanty "what is it that i need to do now?" "what is it that i need to do at this present moment.?"   "what is it that i need to listen to more often."   And that is exactly how i decided to go through each day.   Instead of letting all the things that is on my to do list for this week and next week and next month flood me - i took a deep breathe and let it out and asked myself these questions - and slowly but surely, i felt a sense of energy being slowly restored.  Clarity opening up my vision and a feeling ok in that moment.  

Journaling Prompt:
Ask yourself this question:  What is it that I need at this moment? What is it that I need to focus on at this moment?
Write for fifteen minutes nonstop. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Saying Goodbye...


There are two types of death, one is caused tragically and the other one gives you time to prepare for your loved one’s final departure from this physical life.  I must say that my experience with death has been one of the latter.  I was 13 years old –in fact it was right after my 13th birthday when my grandfather passed away.   He was in the hospital, and I would go and visit him at the hospital, often taking him for rides outside for some fresh air in his wheelchair.  But little did I know then, that those days would be shortened as his final demise was soon approaching.  As a child, it was difficult for me to comprehend exactly what was going on – all I knew was that everyone was extremely sad, and I was sad because he was no longer alive.   Death was a teacher to me at a young age.   It came to me at the prime of life – and it taught me the impermanence of life and how life does go on even after the beloved is physically away from you.   There was one thing that it also taught me:  that this was part of life that was inevitable and that things should never be left unsaid –in other words have no regrets in life. 

Today I write this many years later as a mother, daughter and granddaughter, as I am from a distance witnessing the unfolding of my grandmothers’ departure from this physical world.  My grandmother lives in India.   I am fortunate to have known both my grandmothers as a child and into adulthood.   But today, I must say good bye without being physically present with her.    As my sister said, it is a strange feeling to be part of this process across several continents.  And I am grateful for technology that gives us the opportunity to say good bye, to send our messages, to get updates so that we can all be part of the process.   

It pains me with deep sorrow that I am not physically there with her.  It hurts to know that I will never see her again.  But more than that, feeling sad that her body is withering and shutting down.  This is a woman who is strong – and that is an understatement.   There is a quote I love, that says “ you never know how strong a woman is until you put her in hot water.” That is what “meme” is.   Her spirit has been transported down to all her grand children –and that is one of a child, one of curiosity, one of devotion, one of generosity, one of stubbornness, one of determination and will power, and one of a firm foundation in tradition and one’s roots.   Till this day, her words still ring in my ear in French to me “ Tu veux la famille or la vie, choisir maintenant.” – translated – do you want family or life/friends, fun/etc – choose now.   And I can hear her laugh.  Oh, How I love to see her laugh.   She has taught us the meaning of family – and hospitality.  Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, you name it – she has been part of them danced at them, sang at them and even arranged some of them!  Wisdom who knows no bounds-giving us advice that is practical, concrete and solid.  This is a woman who has lived.  She has lived to see her children get married, most of her grandchildren get married, and been witnessed to even meeting her own great grandchildren.   So why should I be sad when she has lived fully.  I should be celebrating the life she lived and praying for her peaceful and pain free departure.  Why should I be sad, when she will be free of suffering from this physical body- that is weighing her down and preventing her from being free.? 

The sadness comes because as human beings we form attachments and we relate according to our attachments- so to lose that attachment means losing apart of ourself.   Yet, when we begin to come to terms with this process of dying we realize that we are one – there is no separation.  But it takes time to get to that process.  And I must say, that it is different with each person you lose. 

Rarely do any of us think about death until it actually hits us.   But the fact is that we must all prepare for that.   It doesn’t mean that we live a life of morbidity, but more that we begin to prepare ourselves that when the 11th hour is here, we should not have regrets, and we should have been able to say what we needed to say and have forgiven.   It is so difficult to let go.  We want to hold on so tightly to those we love and yet we know that it is for their highest good that we must say goodbye.  Saying goodbye to them and saying to them that it is okay to let go is equally important because it gives them permission to continue on their journey.   And just as it is difficult for us to say good bye it is as difficult for them to leave us.  I have seen, witnessed and believe that the dying will not leave until the ones they are leaving behind have come to terms.  At other times, it is unfinished business or a long lasting wish that they still need fulfilled.   Whenever her time will be, will be -she is slowly in her own way preparing each of us to come to terms with her passing and when her job is done, she will fly away like a butterfly.  

I have lost many family members in my life till date.   With each member passing, there has been a vital lesson to learn.  With each member passing, I have learned to cherish life deeper and make the most of this life I am living.  With each member passing, I remind myself daily that I am not immune from dying myself and that I must also prepare for that day.  With each member passing, I am reminded about quality of life issues and what is important for me if I were to get critically ill.  With each member passing, I am reminded of what is truly important in life- and that is love.  With each member passing, I must live a life fully just like my “meme’ did.  I thank her for her inspiration, and I thank her for life.  As she said to us : Bonne Dieu Donne bonne Chance & Guru Amardas!   God Always be with you and give you luck!

 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Altruism

 
 Altruism: The act of being selfless.  What does being selfless really mean? And how much of our selfless acts are really a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and what we are trying to prove about ourselves.  Do we really commit acts of selflessness through sheer unconditional love?  Is it possible to be totally unconditional in our love?  If we give, do we expect something back in return?  I am a firm believer that the more we give –and not just monetary – the easier it is for us to be altruistic.  Yet, as humans we are bound to experience ambivalent and mixed feelings when do choose to be selfless.   The most difficult piece I believe in being altruistic is not having expectations and learning to trust in the process –but it takes time to get to that level.   I think this is part of our soul evolving and growing – and in time it teaches us about the real things in life that matter.  

Altruism is a message that I have heard since I was a child.  Give, Give, Give –for it is in giving you shall receive.   As a child, the message was simple –the more I give, the more I will be rewarded.  So on many levels, I gave because on some level expected to be compensated, rewarded, or even just complimented on how giving we really are.   It is good for the ego to hear compliments and to hear thank you’s.  It makes us as individual’s feel good about ourselves.  And it reinforces positive behavior.  Obviously, as we mature into adults, we change, and our definition of altruism changes – so we think.    But somewhere deep down we want to be acknowledged for that act.  We are humans, it is normal to feel that.  But when do we get to a point where it doesn’t matter anymore about the consequences, the thank you, the acknowledgement or the pat on the back – that it just becomes a matter of compassion.  Like a mother – there is no question in even asking –they will be there for their child immediately, and not even think about the thank you.   I believe compassion is needed to become selfless.  I also believe that compassion begins in the home, in the family and in time, gets extended to community/society.   Sometimes for others it is easier to do it on a community level rather than on an individual level -i.e. family. 

My son’s school is creating a kindness garden.  Sowing seeds of kindness so that they can grow …kindness spreads.  That is important to teach – on a global level.  It is beautiful that they are teaching children that as they begin to form friendships, relationships at this age.  It also helps them make better choices.   Often as adults when we  put in a situation where we have to make choices about situations and commit a selfless act- it is not always easy.   It takes alot of dissecting, discussion to help come to that decision.   The decision/choice is because it is for the   higher good.  We know that we have done the right thing at that moment, because our heart is at peace.   The mind is the one that begins to taunt us, to tell us that we are being taken advantage of, that we need to stand up for ourselves more, that we are being too nice.  That is the mind speaking to us.  And when the mind begins to play its tricks on us, we know that we are not acting in accordance with the higher good.  It doesn’t mean that we do not communicate what is on our mind –that we do not process what we are feeling – we need to because as human beings we need to communicate.  Communication and compassion go hand in hand.  And when the two of them are in sync, we learn the act of being selfless.    

We give of ourselves, our time, our money, our love, our space, our opinions, our joy, and the list goes on because it is for the higher good.  Because it is to help another individual or a group that needs that little bit of kindness,  that little bit of gesture, that little bit of love.  We give because we want to demonstrate that they matter and that they are important and just like we take the time to give, they need to take the time to honor themselves too and love themselves.   We give because we trust that even if it is a sacrifice on our part, that there is a universe that we are placing our trust in who will support our actions and give us the courage and strength to bear the ramifications and consequences.  These lessons come to us over and over again in life to teach us that in different ways.

I read something this morning – “prosperity is not what we have attained, but in rather what you give away.  It is only when you become empty that you can be filled with something greater. “  today I was placed with a dilemma where I had to make a decision which involved being absolutely selfless on my part- a decision that was difficult to make – a decision that could affect other decisions down the road – but I did it because I cared.  And I believe that is what unconditional love is – it gives without worrying/expectation/reward.  It gives to give.

 Journaling prompt: Remember a time when someone did something for you unexpectedly, just because.  And it was just what you needed at that moment.  Remember how it felt.  Remember feeling the shock, the gratitude, the bewilderment, remember all your emotions.  Write about that experience.   Now Pay it Forward.  And by that I mean, pay it forward with another act of kindness –to a family member, a friend, a stranger, anyone.  Just do it.