Honor moments of loss and sorrow by seeking healing and gratitude.

Grief. Loss. These are things that we all, at one point or other, have to face in our lifetime. Whether it is a personal struggle or a collective struggle, such as the one we all dealt with in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, how we address it often makes a lasting mark upon us.

While we all express grief differently, many choose to ignore it or try and put on a brave face. This is not an effective strategy. The reality of grief and loss cannot be denied, and repressing grief only serves to prolong its negative impact on our lives. It also stifles our ability to honor the memory of who or what we have lost with joy and gratitude. Without the ability to transform grief into gratitude, the effects of the trauma remain in our mind, body and spirit.

Of course, it’s easier to emphasize the positive elements of our life. However, life is filled with challenges, and it is the challenges that reveal our character. It is the tough times that show us the measure of our spirit, and the depths of our resilience. It is one thing to glide through a 60 minute spin class—it is a whole other feat to manage the effects of trauma skillfully in a way that develops the spirit and soothes the soul.

Recognizing the anniversary of September 11 this month, we have a collective opportunity to address a trauma that affected us all on some level. Of course, you may also choose to use the following practice for any feelings of grief or loss that you experience. The objective here is not to further avoid these feelings, but rather to witness them, and see what healing or resolution they have to offer.

There is a difference between bearing witness and immersing oneself in an experience. Our goal with this practice is to bear witness, to simply observe the feelings within, not to recapitulate the trauma or re-immerse ourselves in the feeling. It is helpful to give the feeling autonomy, to make it an individual entity within you. This helps you to see it in context, as an observer, and witness its effects on your body and mind.

This is a powerful practice, and a catalyst for great healing. Do it as a way to allow grief and loss to teach you the depth of your love, gratitude and resilience.

A practice for transforming grief

  • Create a quiet and sacred space. Light a candle, and surround yourself with items of comfort, perhaps related to the issue at hand. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Tune in to your breath, and focus on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body.
  • Allow the feeling of grief and loss to arise. Simply witness it. Watch as it moves through your body, and feel it as it settles in one (or a couple) of locations. Place your hands on the body where you feel it settle, and breathe into it.
  • Watch the sensation. Give it permission to take form or shape. What do you see? It may be a color or an image. Without judgment or interpretation, simply witness its form.
  • Continue to observe, and ask the form, “What message do you have for me?” It may offer you a message in several ways: a thought, a phrase, a feeling, a sensation or a realization. However the message comes, accept it without further dialogue or interpretation.
  • Continue to witness the form and sensation in the body, moving your hands if it moves and breathing with it. As you bear witness to it and its message, it will transform. Continue breathing and observing as it does.
  • When you are ready, bring your hands to prayer and bow the head slightly. Offer gratitude to the experience you were given today, and take the message with you as you breathe deeply.
  • Open your eyes, and move with gratitude through the rest of your day.

Photo credit: francescoch, Thinkstock