Grief is a lonely place. Even as the world is shrouded in a dark wave of loss and confusion that has affected almost every human on earth, each of us must traverse the treacherous path of grief alone, within ourselves.
I have been there in the dark night of the soul. For over a decade, I lived in a place where I was forced to die a little bit each day, and on some cataclysmic nights I mourned my own death – the death of the life force inside me.
But the very sensitivity and poetry of my heart that made me vulnerable to deep bruises also saved me, because one day it began to sing. Instinctively, I was drawn to heal myself, pulled out of my black hole of misery and into the light by a force of nature.
Then began the next decade of my life – one of healing, metamorphosis and self-love. I tried everything, and the five paths I am listing here have worked for me and continue to be the bedrock of my life’s journey. Take the first step towards healing and try any of them. You cannot eradicate grief but you can transform it into a force for positive change, for yourself and the world.
Heal Through Your Body
The body is a wondrous tool. While cellular memory can be a storehouse of all the blows you have received, the body is also a pathway to unimaginable realms of ecstasy, regeneration and growth. Look at your body – not with your eyes open in the mirror, but with your eyes closed, looking inward. What are the sensations you can feel? What feels good? Where does it hurt?
Vipassana meditation, which is precisely this process of observing your body’s sensations and being with yourself in silence, is a difficult but brilliant tool to become one with your body. Less difficult options are yoga and pranayama.
Pleasurable sex can also elevate you if you immerse yourself and leave your mind out. I also recommend dancing and Sufi whirling for the joy and meditative states they evoke, and any exercise that allows you to savour your body without punishing yourself.
Each day, your body feels different, some days are harder than others. But if you keep at it regularly, one day you will realise that you have come a long way.
Train the Mind
Pain manifests in the body but it begins in the mind. If you allow painful thoughts to dominate your mindspace during the day, they will erupt in health issues, both mental and physical. Like the body, the mind needs exercise, movement and muscle-building.
Cognitive and alternative therapies help. Seek a therapist or guide, someone you trust and respect. I studied all kinds of methods – pranic healing, neuro-linguistic programming, counselling, hypnotherapy, even past-life regression.
Like steps up a ladder, all helped in filling in the gaps in my awareness. They helped me recognise my ‘bad’ thoughts and replace them with ‘good’ ones instantly. With daily practice, it becomes second nature, and you nip the pain in the bud.
Heal with Nature
Nature has potent healing properties, any kind of nature – from puppies to mountains. Besides your own body, spend time with other bodies – animals, plants, ocean, wilderness.
Observe the cycles of the seasons and the work of the elements. Notice how the invisible wind can create visible disturbances, and how the waves become one with the sea after their work is done. See how the tree lives in a state of perpetual ‘giving’, growing silently, finding strength from its roots and constantly reaching for the sky.
Dwell on these messages and signs from nature, soak in its ‘beingness’, and absorb its vital primal energy. When we wake up to the knowledge that we are all one – all part of the same plane of existence, pulsating with the same life force as the sun in the sky and the sand under our feet – then a gentle shift takes place in our consciousness.
Grief becomes yet another tree or wave; it becomes part of the process of life. It exists but without suffering. It is just there.
Tap Your Creative Energy
There is a river that flows through you, and it needs to meet its sea. Your creative energy may manifest in different ways, and how stunning they all can be. Some of us make music, some write, some launch startups with global impact, some cook splendorous meals.
Every single one of us is creative in ways we may not realise. Keep trying different forms of creativity until you find the river that flows inside you, and then allow it to flow to its natural outcome and release itself. If you are builder, build; if your hands make magic, let them.
Creativity is a miraculous tool for recovery for two reasons: one, because you allow divine energy to channel through you each time you create something. Two, because there is always something to show for it, and the sense of achievement – however small it may appear – stacks up happiness bars in the treasure chest of your heart and it grows bigger and bigger, until one day you shine as bright as the sun.
Adopt a Spiritual Practice
There is no greater path to recovery than adopting a spiritual practice, and one that also helps you discover your calling, develop fortitude for future griefs, and give your life a sense of direction. I have never been one for the constraints of organised religion. Instead, I find the freedom and expansiveness of the world’s various spiritual traditions to be liberating and uplifting in several ways.
How do you know if a spiritual path is right for you? Regardless of religion, there are four aspects you could consider.
One, does it require daily practice? Meditation (dhyana), structured movement or yoga (kriya) or chanting (japa) practices activate our intuition and discerning wisdom. If done with a sense of devotion and faith (bhakti), we become unshakeable in the face of life’s vicissitudes.
Two, does it encourage study? Knowledge, gyan, is one of the paths to enlightenment. Study strengthens the intellect and our conviction.
Three, does it include satsang or positive collaborative company? Human connections built on faith, inspiration and motivation are the most precious relationships of all. They increase our life span and add depth and meaning to our existence beyond family ties.
Four, does it encourage the breaking of mental boundaries and aspiration to greater inward growth (atmavichara)? Horizontal or outward or material growth is limited and limiting; vertical or inner growth that takes us deeper and deeper into our beings is the only real path in our control.
Healing can become a part of this inner journey, and when it does, you will look back at your grief with awe. For, from that darkness, came the light.
First published in eShe’s January 2021 issue