2 years ago, when my son Joseph died. The pain was overwhelming. Many people were kind, and that helped. But how to manage the pain? How to recover? I had no idea. Losing someone as fun, loving, insightful, amazing and Awesome as Joseph created a huge, gaping crater in my life.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
These are the most painful words I have ever experienced. After Joseph died, I kept trying to go back in time and save him with these words. I guess taking responsibility, and thinking I could have done something to prevent his death felt better than the helplessness. I probably went through hundreds of scenarios trying to save him.
I looked to see how others handled loss.
I searched online. Looking for other people who had not only survived, but even thrived from their loss or trauma. Before Joseph died, I had started reading books from Martha Beck. I read “Steering by Starlight”. While the book was amazing, it isn’t directly related to recovery from loss. So I ended up searching for Martha Beck’s articles from Oprah magazine.
I found help from this article:
Stop Regretting Decisions: Martha Beck
I began to see that my hamster wheel of Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda was filled with fiery pain. And I also realized that there might be a way to get off of this horrible hamster wheel from hell.
Surprise Discovery – Healing with Meditation!
One way to step out of the pain was meditation! Meditation was not a new concept to me. I had dabbled in it a little. And while it was nice, I really didn’t think that stopping to focus on the breath for a few minutes was going to be truly useful. Healing with Meditation? “I’m in Pain here dammit!” How is breathing supposed to help that? I’m already breathing!
But it did.
Meditations about letting go were really helpful. Meditations about loving-kindness were great. I actually started with a 5 minute meditation called inner f&*()ing peace.
It took awhile for me to work up to 15 minute meditations, I took the challenge of doing 15 minutes of Vipassana meditation every day for a month. I found myself less easily spooked by noises. I could calm down and handle stress wihtout panicking. Overall, I just felt better.
For the first week of Vipassana I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be trying for. They said to concentrate on the sensations of breathing. “Ok, breath in, breath out. Oh man, I wonder where the cat is? He was so cute when he was playing with the curly ribbon. Did I put cat food on the shopping list? Oh yeah, breath in, breath out.”
At first I felt guilty about not staying with “breath in, breath out” past 1 revolution. Then I noticed the person leading the meditation said that it is not a mistake. Just go back to “breath in, breath out”. It took a couple of months before I put together that the purpose of this kind of meditation was to help us to become “The Watcher” of our thoughts.
I began to realize that becoming “The Watcher” of my thoughts helped me to see the ultimate truth — thoughts do not make reality.
The philosopher Descartes penned the phrase “I think, therefore I am”. It seems that this underlying belief is permeated in our culture today. Reasonable enough, right? However, on closer inspection, “I think, therefore I am” loses validity. It is rumored that when Descartes was asked if he would like some tea, he replied, “I think not”, and disappeared!*
All kidding aside, it is liberating to realize that our thoughts are Not required for existence. I never would have discovered this had I not slowed down enough to meditate daily. It isn’t so much about discovery as experiencing the peace that comes from slowing down, breathing, and watching your thoughts go by.
Scientists agree that meditation is beneficial for the brain. It can lengthen attention span, reduce anxiety and memory loss, and even generate kindness!
12 benefits of meditation
I have to admit it’s getting better
There is a Beatle’s song that says, “I have to admit it’s getting better”. It comes to mind now as I’m writing this. By looking to those who had healed after trauma and loss, and listening to their sage advice, I have found healing. Healing enough to find myself singing, playing, or coming to a place where I can share my journey in the hopes that it will help others to heal.
As a matter of fact, many of the people who survived and thrived after loss found healing with meditation. First there was a whole helluva lot of pain, then there was surrender, then there was healing with meditation. At least that seems to be the case with Martha Beck, Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle.
Somewhere in my research, I came across the work of Byron Katie. She healed from a depression so severe that most people were afraid to be in the same room with her. Katie had a life-changing experience that filled her with joy. After that, she spent hours meditating.
I’m not ready for hours of meditation. But I have learned that meditation can change your brain. It can help you get off of the hamster wheel from hell. It can help put the pieces of a broken heart back together.
Highway to Heaven
Meditation helps me arrive at acceptance. And acceptance is where heaven can be found. One of my favorite books is “Loving what is” by Byron Katie. Doing the work of questioning my painful thoughts, or becoming the watcher of my thoughts has helped me see that death is a transition, not the end. It helps me feel closer to my son. It burns away the “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda’s” and leaves me with the golden treasure of peace.
Meditation brings a connection of spirit that calms my soul.
I’ve come a long way from guffawing at the thought of healing with meditation. I think it would be impossible to heal without meditation.
*Martha Beck – The Joy diet – please note that the joke about Descartes is from this book.