Monday, February 25, 2008

Memories III

In parts one and two of this series, I explained a different approach to looking at the memories of our departed loved one. In our culture of acquiring things, it can be difficult to accept that letting go of memories could be at all beneficial. I am coming more and more to think that this letting go of memories is essential to experiencing real peace, and it is a Grief Recovery Tool no bereaved person should be without.

I'm reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. It gives some good insight into how we should view our thoughts and memories [pg 74]:

We often wonder what to do about negativity or certain troubling emotions. In the spaciousness of meditation, you can view your thoughts and emotions with a totally unbiased attitude. When your attitude changes, then the whole atmosphere of your mind changes, even the very nature of your thoughts and emotions. When you become more agreeable, then they do; if you have no difficulty with them, they will have no difficulty with you either.

So whatever thoughts and emotions arise, allow them to rise and settle, like the waves in the ocean. Whatever you find yourself thinking, let that thought rise and settle, without any constraint. Don't grasp at it, feed it, or indulge it; don't cling to it and don't try to solidify it. Neither follow thoughts nor invite them; be like the ocean looking at its own waves, or the sky gazing down on the clouds that pass through it.

You will soon find that thoughts are like the wind; they come and go. The secret is not to "think" about thoughts, but to allow them to flow through the mind, while keeping your mind free of afterthoughts.

In my case, I experienced this firsthand over the span of 10 days on my Vipassana meditation course. Meditation really helped me to recognize the impermanence of my thoughts and memories. And, knowing of their impermanence, it became easier to let them go.

So, what do Vipassana and Ho'oponopono have in common? They both break the last link in the thought -> feeling -> reaction chain. Once we can arrive at the place where thoughts and memories are accepted as being the ephemeral entities that they are, it then becomes an almost foregone-conclusion to let them go. Once we have let them go, we can begin to experience the deep lasting peace that lies just behind our thoughts and memories.

How can we apply this to our everyday life as widow/ers? A big part of grief, especially that first year, is bringing up all our memories about our dead spouse and re-examining them, thereby changing those memories. However, this can be an exhausting process. We often feel compelled to passively experience these memories over and over, such as the circumstances surrounding a violent or traumatic death. Just as reframing our memories as they play out in the Theater of our mind can greatly reduce our stress, so too can learning how to break the cycle of thought -> feel -> react. Whether you use meditation or ho'oponopono or some other method, I strongly feel that learning how to actively manage our thoughts and memories is the real secret to riding the grief recovery road to its conclusion.

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