Here we all are, amidst an extraordinary situation. Even as the Covid-19 virus hit China at the end of last year; even as it started to make bigger and bigger headlines in January, I think very few of us would believe we would be in the situation as we are now. For a few days in mid-March, conversations with friends, family and colleagues disclosed the sense of being in a scene from a science fiction film. Surreal, weird, unbelievable. As it became more believable, my own emotional response revved up. My default, when stressed, is to go towards anxiety - as the situation gathered momentum and as we waited to see what happened next, I felt as if a net was tightening; a wave we knew was about to hit the shore yet didn’t know when. I did what I could to prepare, but even then I was aware of my body and mind going in to survival mode: to prepare for my client work, to assist in the preparations at the University to move to online teaching, preparations to prepare my parents and ensure they had everything they needed. Anything other than that felt too much - I could’t read much, I couldn’t keep my mind in my practice, and I didn’t feel a motivation for writing…especially to write about the experience I was going through. Too close, too much. It's interesting how the survival mechanism shuts us down, has us withdraw, blunts creativity. It is our body's wisdom, to remain vigilant in the face of threat.
It might not be a surprise that I have been reflecting on anger given last week’s disclosure of recent losses in my life. Anger is considered a normal reaction to loss and part of the ‘moving through’ process of grief. Anger is a territory that I don’t know well; certainly not like I know the terrain of anxiety and fear. My ongoing reaction to loss is always on the move, changing shape and form: sadness, anger, depression, despondency, resolve, sentimentality, fear…back to sadness again. I wouldn’t say I have a favourite, but there is something about the ‘sadness’ element that feels the cleanest (although incredibly painful).
And as I have explained, the practices of Ngondro seem to be magnifying the effects; and certainly the physical element of the practice is changing how I experience all the emotions in my body. It emphasises the waves, the intensity of each, and how it lands in a particular area of my body and ‘locks’ me. Each time the loss comes back in to my awareness during everyday life, I have been experiencing a “whoosh”, up my spine in to my neck and temples. I don’t see this at all as a bad thing. It feels it is exactly what I need to pay my respects to the experience(s) I am having. Each time I feel the ‘lock’, it gets witnessed, it gets room, it gets the much needed nurturing needed to transmute and move through. Equally, I don’t look forward to my morning alarm call right now - there is a palpable sense of apprehension: because it isn’t nice to feel all these things in such a concentrated way.
I am grateful that I have this practice to support the composting of this emotional experience…
I sit here in the early phase of bereavement. Just hours ago I found out a friend had died. It isn’t a shock - it’s been on the horizon since his cancer diagnosis nearly three years ago, and its turn toward a terminal condition some two years ago. On one level, I had been preparing. But, can we ever prepare for that final happening?
This loss comes soon after the death of my Auntie at Christmas. There have been other experiences of loss too - most of us go through loss on a near daily basis, even if it feels more like ‘change’ than ‘loss’. Changes in relationship, changes at work, changes in friendships. Just last week I also had the news that dear friends are moving away from the UK. More loss. Quite frankly I feel like I am amid a “boot camp” of loss and change.
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