I am stuck or maybe I am stuck on the belief that I should be feeling more than I am so in which case I am stuck on the idea that I have created for myself of what grief this time around is like. Feeling bound up somehow with the energies of anger and that in turn has me all balled up inside. Tight. Constricted. A bit constipated. My partner suggested I might need psyllium for my soul but I’m starting to see maybe I just need a little more rock n roll maybe a few more hours going for a stroll, maybe a few more hours or sitting in a garden tending to a tender heart.
A month since our furry friend Tomo died and all the cliches apply to me and my partner and how life seems for us right now as we are both swallowed up in grief and the feeling states and mental states that accompany loss. Pain. Heart breaking pain. Loss and sadness. Tears have come freely and frequently and I have been both surprised and confirmed in the path of the Dharma that in the midst of racking sobs of despair and anguish a dharma seed would sprout and a small voice whisper “do Tonglen,” or “Metta, Robert Metta,” and without hesitation – acting and following – and finding a shift in perspective, a slight change of heart, a new way of seeing that made a difference, and with that gift faith blossoms. And one of these days I will again realize a moment or more of complete ease and freedom as promised by the Third Noble Truth….
But right now I’m stuck. I’ve walled myself off from anger with firm aversion it seems and it works (sort of) you know, to push away those feelings that are uncomfortable and to shut down the heart. It works. I don’t feel. I am protected. But then I come to see that I am also shut off from the well springs of gratitude, joy, presence, easily flowing kindness to others and to myself and this is no way that I want to be. When our teacher learned of Tomo’s death she told us to “find and drink from that which is a source of vitality for us.” I tend to take her words to heart so for the past month I’ve been turning to all the “wells” I’ve learned over a lifetime to turn to when the going gets rough.
There are well springs of energy and vitality not unlike the well that never runs dry that Jesus purportedly spoke of one day to a woman he met along the way. I don’t know I only suspect that the well Jesus was referring to is that well of infinite Love that he was in touch with an that we can be too.
Before Tomo died, my favorite haunt was the garden where I might pray and I play. I give thanks to those whose energies and hands the garden exists and I give thanks that I am privileged to take refuge within it. I go to the garden to sit upon the earth and to reconnect with nature, with life, with green growing energy. I go to the garden to commune and to contemplate and I go to the garden to photograph the life that lives there and the daily transformation that occurs there and the light that eternally dances.
I go to the garden to commune with flowers, to hang out in beauty, to re-connect and anchor this body to the earth and this heart with the seasons of life and death played out in a garden patch, and to contemplate Life and Love and Light and God and to play with the camera and photograph it according to playful intuition and care free spontaneity rather than by rules of thirds or histogram graphics; now and then an image of enlightenment arises and a moment occurs and I am gone and only the flower is – only the flower and all that a flower is – is….
We all need places and spaces we can go, to replenish and refresh our souls and when one’s soul is heavy and the heart’s unsteady and full of ache, eyes dead tired from crying jags and you start to realize its not just the loss of one being that you are crying for but you are remembering all the losses of everyone and every pet you have loved before and here it is again. “Grief comes bundled,” my wise partner told me several years ago as we mourned the loss of her father. And again today as we mourn the loss of our cranky demanding, ritual driven and wise black Lab; and this hour, as I mourn the departure of a rare and wonderful friend whose generous heart and quirky mind has kept me safe and warm and held in a friendship of total acceptance and freedom to be as just as quirky and clumsy as I am….. So every week I’ve been going to the bar. Not to drink but to drum.
Monday’s, there’s an open jam for folks to play the blues and I’ve been going down, signing up and sitting in. This well is an old and familiar one and over the course of life I have drank deeply from it. On Jam nights the players change but the rhythms and structures remain largely the same because they work, because they are known, because we all feel these rhythms, tempos, and beats grounding us in the very most primal regions of our brains – our hearts – our spirits and our souls… Drumming connects us to very deep wells; its sources of energy are universal, timeless, and all inclusive and people have always come together to make music and to dive into that ocean of pure joy!
Since Tomo died I’ve been going down to this watering hole more than I’ve been going to the garden. I guess grief this time around prefers a more gritty rhythm n blues kind of cure than a peaceful stroll through a rose garden. More Muddy Waters, I suppose. Lately, I’ve been drinking quite heavily from it and I’m getting a little besotted – my ego is on a roll and my inner adolescent is in heaven and though I still feel stuck – still feel as though I am blocking something I need to openly hold, each time I lay down a solid back beat or gaze at a flower, I yield a little more, a little more light seeps in, a little more kindness appears and Life moves to fill the void left by Death…and we move on…eddies in a stream.