I’ve been blessed to celebrate another birth-day. Due to unexpected heartbreak I am feeling challenged to truly absorb the blessings. I am working hard to shift my view. Sometimes I find it’s Work to be grateful, particularly when I feel sadness & grief. I cannot seem to see beyond the immediate pain into some bigger-perspective where the heartbreak makes sense, & is even necessary.
At the start of the recent advanced teacher training I was fortunate enough to participate in, we were walking to one of our first epic 3+hour sessions on the mat, through Oakland’s streets. There was a snail halfway across our sidewalk, headed for 4 lanes of traffic & another sidewalk on the other side, with no greenery for snail-miles in that direction. Without debate I picked it up & put it back where I assumed it must have come from–the greenery up & over the steep wall behind it. I wondered if I was interfering & if it would experience any frustration at being back-tracked.
Which made me think of all the times I have been waylaid by grief, by changes outside of my control, by set-backs that I could not comprehend at the time. It’s only with this perspective of time–of seeing the longer view–that I have begun to understand trusting the longer journey. Sometimes that journey has been made even longer than I would have liked at the time. Sometimes I have to start all over again. Loving. Living. Learning. Seeing. Being.
Allowing myself to be moved by Life.
The truth is that my vision is limited. Even as much as my intuition increases & my ability to see & accept what-is improves, I am still–like it or lump it–not omniscient. I can’t see the four lanes of roaring metal machines that will destroy me if I keep going in the direction I’m determined to go. I can’t see the impervious monster feet that will crush my tender body if I insist on sticking to a path that doesn’t serve me. All I can see is that my snail-trail has been subverted & it feels like I am back where I started. It took me so long to make that progress & now here I am all over again!
In my fixation on where I feel thwarted, wronged & even injured, I fail to see how danger & destruction have been averted. So even though I still cannot see the bigger picture, it serves my heart more to wrap it in gratitude than it does to continue to pull it apart with the sharp tweezers of self-pity stories.
Here is what I wrote in the midst of the grief, a lesson from some of my elders:
In a moment of great heartbreak I leaned into one of my favorite trees—a northern hemlock, perhaps 250 years older than I, so an esteemed elder. In her trunk are several thick iron stakes. A few paces away is another favorite tree, a white pine that would take 3 of me to hug, & maybe just as old as the hemlock. Her trunk is hollowed out, as if by lightning, or thick fire. Leaning into one, then the other, I asked—
How can a heart handle this much heartbreak?
The one with stakes through her heart said, we cannot escape our wounds. So we grow up from them.
The one burned to her core said, time is long, roots are deep & the sky is higher. These wounds shape us.
And in my fixation on how I feel thwarted, wronged & even injured, I fail to see how I’ve been blessed by something beyond my sight. When the one direction I am heading is blocked off, I can fail to see the countless other directions I could take. In that moment of pain, I fail to see how the pain itself is shaping the direction of my growth. And I usually fail to thank it.
Thank you to everyone who has wrapped me in love today! And thank you just as much to the one who could not do so. By moving away from your lack of love, I find I am far from lacking in love.
I’d love to hear from you on your ways & means of growing from grief–please feel free to leave a comment!