Grounding Yourself Throughout the Impermanence of Life and Death

One of the subjects that I cycle back to repeatedly is that of impermanence. 

It is this reality that, though neglected and resisted, will provide understanding, clarity and insight.

Grief can make you feel like you are in a tipping boat, can you trust the process?

But, then, the "boat" may feel very tippy. I do not want to introduce more turbulent, disorientating, depressing or confusing feelings on top of what you are already experiencing. So, where is the stability? Where is the anchor? How can we ground ourselves?

There is a place for ritual and intentional imagination that provides a
predictable, meaningful, mood stabilizing, brain building, and above all - centering - result.

Rituals for Grief

A number of studies indicate that the brain finds predictability comforting and is averse to the new, creative, and unpredictable. It appears that if we can't have the familiarity and predictability we crave, we can create it ourselves, thanks to rituals.

Rituals can be complex or simple. Since we are discussing ritual for grieving people, my suggestion is to have simple rituals that contain you and do not require much from you.

Here are some suggested beginning rituals for the grieving:
Grief can be made calm by focusing for a while on a small object of hope.

Daily Observation - Spend three to five minutes doing slow, focused and careful observation of your surroundings.  If you can chose a lovely and/or complex environment, that is all the better to immerse yourself in.

Grief can be calmed by a ritual of nurture.

Daily Tea - Prepare, with intention, a cup of herbal tea. Do this slowly. Select a cup with intention, touch the cup and feel it's surface. Select tea and take great care and attention in preparing the tea (even if it is in a tea bag)... smell the odor of the dry tea. Listen to the sound of the water as it pours into the kettle or pot, place your hand 10 inches from the heat source and feel the heat building (careful not to get too close!). Do not do anything but wait and listen and watch as the water slowly gets to a boiling point. Watch the steam. You get the general idea - it is to make tea for yourself as a very slow and intentional act of nurture and being fully present to the process.

Grief can be addressed by ritual and meaning.

Thankful Ritual - Gather together a couple symbols that represent an ending - such as rings, photos, keys, glasses - anything of your choosing that is symbolic. Hold each item in your hand and note its significance to your wisdom. Say something of gratitude for all the lessons you have learned. Wrap all these remembrances of things past in a cloth together. Keep this wrapped package in a prominent place as an affirmation of wisdom and protection of your emerging self. Whenever you view the wrapped cloth parcel, thank the items again. Keep the parcel out as long as you desire.

Imagination for Grief

Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a scientist at the National Institute of Health, studied the brain. He used the piano as an interface to measure human brain activity.

Having people practice five finger piano exercises, he found that the brain's motor maps of the hand more than tripled for those who did goal oriented practice on the piano.

Those who spent the same time just hitting keys randomly with no structure showed little or no brain effects.

The most surprising effect - a third group who practiced five finger piano exercises by imagination.

"They . . . rehearse mentally -- not manually -- while looking at the key board. After five days the brains of these people were identical to those who had manually practiced . . .

The same cell networks involved in executing a task are also involved in imagining it."

Here are some suggested intentional imagination exercises for the grieving: 
Grief can be made manageable by the power of imagination.

Special Surroundings - Select a favorite place. It could be a garden, a waterfall, a room, or anything else. A place where you feel content and safe. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in that favorite place. Walk around slowly and notice the colors and textures around you. Focus on sight, feeling, hearing and smelling. Spend some time exploring each of your senses. And notice how good and relaxed you feel. When you are ready, gently open your eyes and come back to the present moment.

Grief can be soothed by relishing memories.

A Moment Together - Recall a very happy moment you shared with the departed. Do not allow anything to rob you of the sheer pleasure of this memory. Close your eyes and imagine yourself with them and recall all that transpired. Notice the sounds, sights, colors and textures around you. Spend some time exploring each of your senses as you recall what happened and if you forget how something transpired - do not worry. This is about nurturing your memory and more will come back to you the more you pause to exercise your memories. When you are ready, gently open your eyes and come back to the present moment.

Address Stress - Imagine an object, sound or color that represents stress to you. For example, you may choose to imagine the color red, or a rope with knots or a loud startling noise. When you select your image, sound or color, then you take a deep belly breath and hold it for 1 count and then slowly release the breath out of your mouth. Imagine your image slowly transforming into something calming. The color red can slowly fade into a nice soft and gentle color pink. The rope with knots can slowly transform into a smooth and soft silk or velvet fabric. And the loud noise can gradually transform into a soothing sound of ocean waves. Let your muscles relax. If the stress reforms, do not be distressed by the suborn nature of stress but notice it and repeat the above. When you are ready, gently open your eyes and come back to the present moment. If you continue this practice you will eventually have more calm states available to you.
These tried and true techniques may assist you if balancing yourself with the impermance you encounter.