Of Grief and Gratitude

Paris. Mali. Syria. Beirut. Russian plane in Sinai.
Like you, I have been continually heartbroken, shocked, and overwhelmed by the horrific acts of terrorism in the past few weeks.
And noticing, inside myself, that when I begin to feel overwhelmed and helpless, a part of me wants to shut down, to hide.
To turn away.
To turn off.
To do anything but turn on to the feelings that I have.

We have all been taught to turn off, turn away.
Turn away from the homeless person begging for change. Turn off from the impact of climate change that we each deepen with our daily actions and inactions.

No one had to teach us to turn off. Our patriarchal world culture models it with actions so much louder than words.

Part of the responsibility and privilege of the feminine is to not just hear the news – but to feel it, deeply.

At the School of Womanly Arts, one of the core aspects of the feminine we study is Grief.
Immersing ourselves in it.
Embodying it.
Wallowing, you might say.
Exploring its depth, breadth and darkest reaches.
And finding the places where it unites and alchemizes with radiance.

Picture this: last weekend, 900 women head to Miami for fun, sun, sisterhood, connection, flirtation.
We are all so excited and so, so ready. (If you missed it, our next introductory weekend will be opening for registration soon.)
And Friday night, a few hours before our event, Paris is attacked by terrorists.
We learn of the destruction after Friday’s session.
We all listen, watch and read all the news reports. Heartbroken.

The next morning, a woman from Paris came forward to participate in one of the exercises, wondering what she was doing here, in Miami, with us . . . while her country was bleeding. Some of her close family members were at the stadium the night before, when the terrorists attacked.

How could we navigate this, in community?
We are all Paris. We are all those victims’ mothers. We are all suffering the impact.
This is the power and responsibility of Sisterhood.
This was an opportunity for all of us to do what is desperately needed in our broken world – which was to grieve, together, as a community of 900 women who had just met the day before.

Turning on to our grief is not easy.
We are not used to it.
So many of us were taught to back away from our strong emotions.
So many of us were taught to keep a lid on anything and everything outrageous. To turn it off.
So many of us find our strong emotions – embarrassing. Ridiculous, even.
We are inexperienced.

For many of us, the last time we threw ourselves on the floor, lost in anguish and despair, was when we were two. And for that, we were each probably reprimanded.
So we learned to stop allowing our bodies to feel.

But, in Sisterhood, each of us can find our way back to ourselves.
We can hold the space to move through the awkwardness and turn ourselves back on to feel the feelings that we have pushed down and pushed away.

Soon, every woman in that room was released to her way of grieving. Full on sobbing. Wailing. Howling. Rolling around the floor. Silently weeping. Moving it through her body, with dance. With anguish. Being held in the arms of her sisters from all over the world.

We let it rip. For all of our brothers and sisters, internationally. For all the times we could not grieve in our lives. Turning on. Feeling our feelings, right here, right now. For the fucking thrill and righteousness of weeping out loud in sisterhood.

From that shared experience of turning on our grief, we could go on. We could continue, and carry on with the depth and breadth of the curriculum.

Holding the tragedy, deeply – while holding the joy of connection, and the spell of the sensual, just as devoutly.
And each of us being flooded by the overwhelming privilege that it is to be alive.
Turning on to the rapture in the rupture.
Moving from the deepest intelligence of our bodies.
Living the antidote to terror, the antidote to fear, the antidote to feeling alone.
Turning on to our shared grief set us free to honor life, even more deeply.

After we grieved together, we had a dance party that nearly lifted the roof off of the Convention Center. So much joy, so much gratitude, so much celebration.

The quality of this celebration was incandescently, heart-breakingly beautiful, because it was so deeply soaked in the grief of all that we have lost in this world. Which makes what we have oh so very – almost unbearably – precious.

Here, in the words of one of my greatest teachers, from his new book, The Smell of Rain on Dust:

“Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.” – Martin Prechtel

I am so grateful to have a community of sisters who give each other permission to feel and celebrate every drop of what it means to be alive.

There is so much tragedy in the world right now.
The gift of the feminine is to turn on.

Turn on to feeling what is there for you to feel. Because inside that grieving is your transformation, your connection to your divine, and the ability to make the sacred connection to gratitude for the gift of life.

Terrorism sends out the virulent condition of fear. Which results in turning off feelings and emotional connection.
Which leads down the road to more and more disconnection.
And more and more terrorism.

To choose to turn your grief on is to take a radical step.
It is a difficult step, a courageous step.

Our sister from Paris said that when she began grieving that morning, she felt ridiculous, at first. But then, her body found its way. And then, she could surrender to the volcano of feelings that wanted expression, in the arms and presence of sisterhood.

She saw that the reason she had come to the event was in order to be able to bring back this permission to grieve, to her family and friends in Paris.

It is only through our deeply felt grief that we can really and truly connect to gratitude. Which allows each of us to live more deeply, more preciously, and more radiantly.

This Thanksgiving, I am going to leave an empty chair at my dinner table, to remind myself and my loved ones of all of the sweet, good, hard, hot life that has been lost this year. And to remind us to not be afraid to turn on to feel every drop of the sadness and pain that is ours to feel.

To feel the grief of all that has been lost is to expand your experience of all the beauty and wonder and joy of the sheer radiant rapture of life, itself.

We can do this.
We can choose to turn on to our grief, and by so doing, turn on to our gratitude.
We can reweave the web of interconnectedness between every living being on this earth, by choosing to turn back on.

In the comments, I’d so love to hear your thoughts . . .

  • How can you use this upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving, (whether you live in the US or not), to fully embody and express the emotions that are inside you?
  • How are grief and gratitude living inside you, side by side, right now?
  • Who will keep an empty place at their holiday table for all the lives that have been lost this year? And who will praise life, with me, this Thanksgiving?

 

Tell me how you rupture, how you rapture.
Tell me how will we breathe, give thanks, and celebrate together?
How does the knowing live within your body?

In love, grief, and gratitude,

p.s. If you’ve been curious about the work we do at the School, come and feel it. Our next introductory weekend, called The Experience, is opening for registration soon. This event tends to fill very quickly, so if you think you might like to attend, click here to get on the list for email updates.

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