I don’t write very often. I don’t write because everything has already been said, and at least one person has said it better than I ever could. But despite the lack of original ideas and original words, and despite the fact that this particular topic has already been cooked until soggy, I am writing you today, dear readers, to talk about heartbreak. But first, let’s talk about meditation.
I have a daily practice. I wake up, go to my little puja table, set my timer, sit down and say my daily meditation prayer*. Usually, the dreams from the night before will be the first morsel of distraction after having a seat, followed by a laundry list of to-do’s for the day, and finally, in the last minute or two of the session, I find that my mind is obedient, still and quiet. Some days feel more successful than others, but even one or two minutes of stillness helps to set the tone for my day. And although seeing “progress” on the day to day is less obvious, all the good teachers say to be patient and the results will come. I know that it is a practice, not a destination, so I persist.
Recently, I experienced a loss. Like salt on a slug, we all know this shriveling, crushing, slow-death feeling, so there’s no need to elaborate. But since meditating with some regularity in the last few years, the practice seems to have prepared my heart, mind and body in an unexpected way– in a way that brings a new clarity to this all-too-familiar experience of loss. When I sit down in the morning and the overwhelm of sadness hits me like a wave, I can see myself grasping for reassurance, attention, or something to fill the void. I can feel the hot bile of anger rising in my throat. I can feel the teakettle of tears under pressure behind my eyes. I can feel the bass drum of dread thumping in my chest. I can feel my tender heart contracting against the reality of the moment. I can see all the ways in which I am attached, and all the ways in which I am avoiding. But instead of following through with an habitual exit strategy or distraction tactic, I’m finding that I can sit with the pain a little more easily. I’m facing my loss head on and with a sense of objectivity. Whereas, in the past, the combination of the loss itself and a lack of practiced mindfulness had absolutely obliterated my ability to see past the pain of my own experience. I used to ignorantly think that I wouldn’t be able to endure yet another heartbreak. What a delusion! What is happening now, through meditation, is what feels like a fortification of my heart. I am able to yield into the pain, rather than resist the experience of grief. Shitty little fact: It takes practice to get good at grieving.
When we suffer– from loss, trauma, heartbreak, and deep grief, it can shatter our hearts. But rather than resist and shut down, maybe we can see the pain as an opportunity to expand the capacity of our hearts. Can we use our vulnerability as an opportunity to grow? Can we learn to feel what’s beneath the pain of our own experience in a way that allows us to tap into the vastness of our compassion? Can we use our grief as a way to connect more deeply to ourselves, our family, our friends, our lovers, our enemies, and our global brothers and sisters, knowing that they too are suffering? When we are able to sit with our pain, we start to open up to the possibility of healing past wounds. We are actually sitting with the pain of a million heartbreaks, endless loss, and infinite grief. Meditation during a period of loss, heartache and pain can allow us to feel more directly into our humanity, if we are willing.
There seems to be a widespread misconception that meditation is an escape route, or a spiritual bypass to feeling pain. It is not. It is a way to for us to honestly see, feel, and experience the ebb and flow of life in its’ unadulterated truth. If we have the courage to look deeply enough at our own suffering, it will show us a doorway to transform pain into potential. Fear into growth, vulnerability into strength, hatred into compassion, disdain into forgiveness and grief into love. The world is suffering. Can we be wise enough to use our own experience of pain as a catalyst for peace?
May I be truly grateful for this day before me.
May I use it well and be mindful in all my thoughts, words and actions.
May I gracefully accept and learn from all that I encounter.
May I be compassionate and release all judgment in the face of that which does not meet my ideals.
May I be still and attentive enough to receive and recognize divine guidance.