Sunday, August 24, 2008

Flap Your Wings

How much of your time during the day is taken up re-hashing the events of your past married life? The good, the bad, and the ugly?

A lot?

Around the time that Deb died, I was listening to an audio lecture called the Joy of Thinking: The Beauty and Power of Classical Mathematical Ideas, and they stressed the following point:

Understand simple things deeply. We can never understand unknown situations without an intense focus on those aspects of the unknown that are familiar. The familiar, in other words, serves as the best guide to the unfamiliar.

So, to become more familiar with what it means to be bereaved, you may find it helpful to actually count the minutes you spend reminiscing about the past. "A lot" means different things if it translates into "165 minutes a day" (2 and 3/4 hours) or "480 minutes a day" (8 hours). Being specific about numbers can help us get real clear about our present circumstances.

In my case, about 9-10 months after Deb had died, I was still re-living the past about 5-6 hours a day, and I was still spending enormous emotional energy going over my past relationship with her. This occurred during the depression part of my grief, and while I knew I wasn't yet healed, I wasn't too sure about how to go about healing. I hadn't yet learned to let go of my story.

Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose talks about this aspect of letting go, and he gives a natural example of two ducks [pages 137-139]:


In The Power of Now, I mentioned my observation that after two ducks get into a fight, which never lasts long, they will separate and float off in opposite directions. Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened.

If the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking, by story-making. This would probably be the duck's story: "I don't believe what he just did. He came to within five inches of me. He thinks he owns this pond. He has no consideration for my private space. I'll never trust him again. Next time he'll try something else just to annoy me. I'm sure he's plotting something already. But I'm not going to stand for this. I'll teach him a lesson he won't forget." And on and on the mind spins its tales, still thinking and talking about it days, months, or years later. As far as the body is concerned, the fight is still continuing, and the energy it generates in response to all those thoughts is emotion, which in turn generates more thinking. This becomes the emotional thinking of the ego. You can see how problematic the duck's life would become if it had a human mind. But this is how most humans live all the time. No situation or event is ever really finished. The mind and the mind-made "me and my story" keep it going.

We are a species that has lost its way. Everything natural, every flower or tree, and every animal have important lessons to teach us if we would only stop, look, and listen. Our duck's lesson is this: Flap your wings — which translates as "let go of the story" — and return to the only place of power: the present moment.

Find a way to let go of your story, and enjoy the deep peace that comes with being who you are right now.


jessica said...
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jessica said...

This post works so well with the one about Honoring Your Wedding Vows. Both are good "food for thought", and I am impressed with your journey (as you have shared it with us), since you had so much more to overcome than some of us who lost our spouses later in our married lives. I believe many women feel that they are dishonoring their relationship with their late husband if they have fun after he is gone, whether that be eating dinner with friends, enjoying a conversation with lots of laughter, or whatever. And your sentiment in the posting which preceded this one, really helps to explain why it should be, CAN be, okay to move ahead without him. I think this moving forward indicates that you enjoyed your marriage enough to want to share your life with someone once again. And that's the greatest honor one can give to a marriage that is no more.

Jen said...

Vic, I've been wanting to let you know how much your blog has helped me. My husband died suddenly 6 months ago of a cardiac arrythmia at 48, leaving me with a 2-year-old daughter. So many of the topics you have addressed have made a meanful difference in my grieving process, and I have read and appreciated several of the books you recommended (A New Earth most recently). Maybe my favorite post was the one about arranging your physical environment with an eye toward peace and comfort. But in just about every post I found some valuable food for thought as I make my way down this difficult and challenging path.

I click almost daily on your blog, looking for new posts. But I can totally appreciate that you've retired, or at least are taking a break, as you settle into your new marriage. I wish you and your wife all the very best! And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the time and effort of compiling and sharing observations and learnings about losing a spouse.