When my son was in a Waldorf Preschool, the school had a Lantern Walk & Festival in the second week of November. I remember that I learned a lot that night about allowing and exploring the darkness —just by being silent, singing together, and being in the darkness of nature with a lantern and a child. I felt warmed and nurtured by the silence. From this place of feeling nurtured, I was able to reflect on my sister’s death a few years before, and feel her presence and feel the joy that she gave me, just as the joy that I feel from my young son.
This is an example of how we can use the present moment and nature to nurture and expand us. We could even say this was an example of “savoring” the quiet and darkness, in order to be open to processing more difficult feelings like grief.
This time of year is also said to be a time when the veil between the human and the spirit worlds is at its thinnest, so we can remember that help from the spirit world/God/the Great Universe is always there for us. It is also a time of year when we recognize that the cold and darkness are coming, and we ban together to help each other as the darkness closes in.
The essence of this British festival is to acknowledge the light that shines forth from each of us. This light needs to be protected, just as the lights inside our lanterns do, so they don’t blow out. Like one of the songs says: “Each of us is one small light, but together we shine bright!” And acknowledging the light helps us also notice the darkness there too. This is a key tool for grieving safely — to expand ourselves with light and whatever creates light inside of us, so that we can accept and allow room for the darkness too. This completes the circle of life.
Grief is a big scary word in our culture, so I’d like to de-mystify it a bit for you. Grief is just a whole bunch of uncomfortable feelings swirling around together all at once. It’s sometimes overwhelming because we cannot seem to identify the feelings very well to get out of that overwhelmed feeling. But, actually, it’s pretty simple to do if you can use mindfulness to say: This is grief, this is a lot of feelings, I’m overwhelmed with lots of feelings. Naming what you are feeling helps to slow it down. Next, see if you can name one or two feelings you are having: Sadness, Anger, Resentment. Next, just let the strongest one be there and notice it. Name it. There. Now breathe, and go back to doing whatever you were doing.
How can we slow down and allow these feelings to flow a little?
First, find some quiet time. Being alone in nature is one of the most powerful ways to allow feelings to flow because nature holds us in all its beauty and nurtures us back. If we take this lesson from nature, we can begin to bring in our own ways to nurture ourselves too.
So here’s 2 tools you can use right now to bring in some lightness and compassion when things feel challenging to you, or when you your are grieving a loved one.
1. Soothing Touch – Bringing your hands to your heart and pressing lightly bringing in touch and warmth and comfort. You can explore other ways you can comfort yourself with your hands on your arms, belly, cupping your face, etc. Just take in the warm touch and allow yourself to savor it.
2. Self -Compassion Break
Use this when you are feeling stressed first using soothing touch on your body: Say these 3 steps to yourself:
Step 1: This is Stressful! or This is Painful I’m grieving! (Breathe fully) Then say,
Step 2: I’m just human, everybody has difficulties like this. It’s normal to feel pain when someone dies (leaves) . (Breathe again fully) Then finally say,
Step 3: May I be kind to myself right now. May I love myself right now.
(Then do what feels kind. This may be anything that helps release your stress or pain and settles and calms you. See if you can make a list of what you might do for yourself in stressful moments like this. Being kind to yourself is not always easy, so be gentle with yourself if you can’t do this immediately. It takes practice, but it’s totally worth it)
The message of Loving Kindness or Metta practices is taking in the good and spreading it with goodwill wishes to others and to yourself. This also brings brightness and warmth into our hearts and bodies. We don’t know how to do this very well in our culture and it’s a powerful tool to learn. We can bring in kindness to ourselves simply with good feelings that we allow to stay there and glow in our hearts. Then our hearts are warmed up for the next encounter and that could really be a good way to spread the love we want to spread more easily.
I’m learning so much as I age about how to keep the positive and joyful flame growing inside of me and one way I’ve learned to do this is by savoring and expanding myself when things are going well. I did this above when I took in the darkness of November at the Lantern Festival. What can you savor for yourself right now ? Savoring is being mindful of pleasant things and taking them into our hearts. We experience many losses as a part of being human, so one way to face our challenges is to fill ourselves up with light and goodness as much as possible.
Learning to face our own darkness inside is a process I help women begin as they start down their Midlife Voyage to Transformation. It all begins with learning how to bring in your gratitude, kindness and self-love so you have room for working with the challenges. This season of darkness is the perfect opportunity to practice this! What an adventure when you look at it that way!
Join me for a Self-Compassion class or group in 2018 and learn how to expand yourself with self-compassion so that you can face more of your own challenges head-on and warm up your heart for the rest of your life. If you are ready to learn to grieve and rebirth yourself all at the same time, come to my FREE WORKSHOP on January 9th and meet other women learning these tools of resilience and transformation. The next group is in January and it’s taking you through Stages 3 and 4, where we do the Deep Diving into our Grief. And at the same time, find how we can expand ourselves to allow for this grieving. It’s called Rebirthing the New Authentic You.