I have been seeing a Psychiatrist and a Therapist for the last couple of months and have recently added a visit to a Zen Buddhist Priest into the mix for my journey through grief and depression.
I met with her last week and she had some insight. A little background on her though for reference. Her name is Reverend Meiten and she is 87 years old. http://www.vizs.org/teacher.php here’s a link to her bio… to suffice; she lived a “normal” life as a Clinical Psychologist and mother until she lost her son when he was 17. She then, after much grieving and a many years long depression spent in an ashram dedicated her life to Buddhism and has become what she is now… a resource and mentor…a comfort and guide to people living this life and struggling to find a way through pain and suffering.
Speaking with her brought back the peace and the comfort that I had found with Yoga and Meditation when I was going through my first divorce. During that time I was on full-tilt chaos control and stress management as I dealt with my marriage ending, moving, financial desperation and mothering 3 small children who had seen far too many nights of yelling and hurtful words between their parents. A couple of years before it all came to a head I had started teaching Yoga and Meditation and seriously looking into Buddhism and the eastern practices of body and spirit wellness. I used those principles throughout that life transition and can honestly say that it was what saved my sanity and allowed me to navigate through. As much as that time was tumultuous, I also found that out of that time came an awareness of who I am and what my core values and beliefs are. My moral centre was defined and I finally knew a peace by the clarity that I was living my truths.
Flash forward about 8 years and I was in another marriage that was sliding quickly downhill. Different reasons but the end result was the same. In essence, I had come to a point where I was making concessions and compromises in what I knew were my values and my morals with regards to my family. I was allowing behaviour in my house that hurt me at my core as I watched my children become unhappier and I started to sink into a feeling of failure at seeing my life going in a direction that I didn’t want or believe in. So… I ended it. I put my children and myself through another move and transition but this time with a direct clarity to bring my life and my children’s life back into balance. A few months after the move and the settling I looked around and realized that I was exactly where I was 10 years earlier – and it was 10 years to the month exactly! But not quite exactly the same place… This time I had the benefit of experience and I bounced back much quicker. I saw my kids settle and the mood in our house lifted and there was peace again. I look back on that time as a time of such ease. Similar to the space after my first divorce, I felt a calmness, a sense of self and an awareness of “I am” (satnam in Sanskrit) that translated throughout the family.
Now don’t think it was all flowers and rainbows…we still had struggles and arguments and money was tight and 3 of my kids were teenagers so moods were certainly all over the place but the underlying current was one that our direction was “right”. During this time, my oldest son developed a tumour on his lymph node and we spent 5 months of hell with uncertainty and tests and procedures. Culminating with surgery and a diagnosis of a benign tumour, we were all good again! A family trip to Whistler a few months later and life was good. I was single, surrounded by mi kids and happy – I knew what was important and was living it. I felt I had come full circle and was finally again where I should be. And determined that never again would my path bring me to level of unhappiness that I had, again, experienced in the last 6 months of my second marriage.
That summer (2011) was when things started to slide for Willie. Mental illness progressing steadily darker and deeper for him and ending in his death on Feb 1st 2012. Our lives since then have been an indescribable path of searching for balance and footing and a way to move forward.
For me, I have found a complete lack of peace or calm from the things that have previously brought me that. Yoga and Meditation have not only not given me comfort; I have found them almost impossible to practice. My foundational belief that things happen for a reason has been shaken. What possible reason could come out of this? The feelings that go along with my grief – the guilt, the pain, the questioning and the denial – are insurmountable it seems in trying to find comfort in anything. I look around and don’t recognize my life.
So I find myself searching for a way to reclaim my life again and come out of the depression to be able to grieve Willie and live my life – never like it was – but with my truths and my “self” living how I know I want to. Like Willie said in his goodbye note to me, I have to continue on the journey I had just found again.
So I met with Meiten with a hope that she might be able to offer me some words of comfort but also with a disbelief that anything would come of it. After all, I knew what she would say… nothing I haven’t heard from the Therapists or friends…but still, I went. And was surprised by the words I heard and by their impact on me.
The Buddhist principle of suffering is simple… we suffer, that is life. Suffering is caused predominantly by 2 things…having something in our lives we don’t want (and want to get rid of) or NOT having something in our lives that we want. The common thread there is WANT. To release the desire and the want to have your circumstances different than they are, to accept and be content that what you have and where you are just is (and will change, as life always changes, and not by our control) is to lessen your suffering. A simple message and a hard one to embrace. But one that I will try to bring into my life and live with.
She left me with the following Buddhist saying which captures it perfectly and beautifully….
“All life ends in death, all acquisition ends in dispersion, all greetings end in partings” Buddha