Still WaterGrief is a boot camp for the soul. It can be a choice-less and restless interface with death. When we resist the reality of death, as we all do at one moment or many, we also resist being mindful. We are full of fearing that being present with death and grief will be much more painful.
We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us, that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.
- W.B. Yeats
Mindfulness practitioners will offer the insight that resisting our pain deepens our pain.
What can manifest when we resist our pain? There may be emotional riots from within. The inner wisdom that we have been taught to distrust will reliably refuse to back down though we attempt to mame and cripple it. So, inner wisdom shows itself in a crippled fashion, perhaps in the guise of panic attacks, physical malady, sleep disturbance, rage, dissociative behavior, crisis, abusive self-medicating or other insults to the body, mind and spirit. The mind can become tormented – as the Buddhists characterize it – the “monkey mind”.
I want to offer 5 simple mindfulness techniques to grieving people.
I should state that I am not a specialist, I am a peer with you on this journey. These techniques worked well for me early on, and they still reliably aid me today. I need to preface this by saying that when you practice mindfulness, it is best to leave self-judgment behind – there is no “right” way to be mindful. If you start with generosity of spirit toward letting go of results, you will fare better.
1. Color Mindfulness Walk
(If you have any medical history with complications of mobility – consult a physician first.)
Take a 5 minute walk – preferably out of doors, preferably slowly. Before you start walking, stand for a moment in place and feel your feet both firmly planted on the ground. Raise your chest and pull your shoulders back to open yourself to the environment around you. Begin to walk, as as you start to walk, think of your breath as your “home base”. Be aware of air coming in and going out. As you walk, look around you for primary colors. Locate green, red, blue and yellow. Check in with your breathing as you look for the colors. Thank each thing you see for hosting this color. Conclude your walk by noticing your breath.
2. Counting Sensations in Threes
For 5 minutes – listen for 3 sounds, look for 3 things, try to observe 3 smells, touch 3 textures and if you can, taste 3 tastes around you. This will bring you into a present state of attention. Thank each thing you see, touch, smell, taste and hear for hosting this element.
3. Candle Flame Affirmations
Items needed: candle, matches.
In a comfortable supported seat, focus on a candle flame and during an in breath say to yourself, “breathing in, I have arrived, breathing out, I am home” or “breathing in, I calm my body, breathing out, I relax”. Or develop your own sayings. They may be like the following:
I am open right now.
I sense my body right now.
I can notice when I am absent from myself right now.
I love myself right now.
I accept and embrace all experiences right now.
I forget judgments right now.
I am a friend to myself right now.
I sense my breath right now.
I feel my feet on the floor right now.
I am patient right now.
I am here right now.
4. Breath Work
(If you have any medical history with complications of breathing – consult a physician first.)
This technique is from the discipline of Tai Chi.
Sit with both feet firmly planted on the ground and in an upright and alert position that is comfortable.
Take 3 short inhales.
Let go of 1 long exhale.
Repeat this sequence five times.
5. Legs on a Chair Pose (Savasana)
(If you have any medical history with complications of movement – consult a physician first.)
Items needed: Chair, pillows for your comfort, towel or yoga mat if you are on a hard floor surface, eye pillow or scarf.
This is a classic resting yoga position. If you have an eye pillow or a scarf to put across your eyes, it is a nice aid to this pose.
The basics of this position is a posture of laying on the floor, support your lower legs on a chair seat. Sit down on the floor in front of a chair or couch with the seat of the chair/couch towards you. Start to lay back and swing or place your legs up and your body around so your bottom is towards the chair. When you are turned tail to the chair, settle your legs onto the chair's seat, making sure they are completely supported from the backs of the knees down to the feet.
Lay here as long as you are comfortable. Close your eyes, stay centered on your breath, and commit to the posture. When you are ready to come out of the pose, bring awareness back to the body, remove the eye pillow, draw the legs into the body and roll to one side. Linger here for a few breaths then slowly push up on your side.
This improves lymph drainage, venous return, and gives the heart a rest. It’s great for helping to lower blood pressure as well.
Try any of these exercises to start. As well, look for other people – individuals or a mindfulness community - to support you in your practice.