...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter...
June 17, 2003
The Joy Hidden in Sorrow
3. Understanding the Experience of Grief
4. Grief is for Sharing
5. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
The Amaravati Monastery
6. Book Review: Healing Lazarus: A Buddhist's Journey
from Near Death to New Life ...by Lewis Richmond
The Joy Hidden in Sorrow ...Reflections
given by Sister Medhanandi, at the Death and Dying Retreat,
Amaravati Buddhist Monastery
meditation we can go deeply into the mind, to investigate: who
is it that we really are?
dies?... Because what dies is not who we are.
is our teacher, it's through our own experience and ability
to contemplate suffering
we learn the First Noble Truth.
long as we're holding one negative thing in our hearts –
towards ourselves or anyone else– we cannot fully realise
our true nature. We cannot be free.
these days of practice together, we've been reading the names
of many people – our departed loved ones, and also relatives,
family members, friends, who are suffering untold agony and
hardship at this time. There is so much misery all around us
– how do we accept it all? We've heard of suicides, cancer,
aneurysms, motor neurone disease – plucking the life out
of so many young and vibrant people. And old age, sickness,
decay and death snuffing the life out of many elderly people
who still have a lot of living that they want to do. Why does
is all around us in nature. We're coming into the season now
where everything is dying. This is the natural law, it's not
something new. And yet time and again we keep pushing it out
of our lives, trying our best to pretend that we're not going
to die –- that we won't grow old, that we'll be healthy,
wealthy and wise until the last moment.
are constantly identified with our bodies. We think, 'This is
me', or, 'I am my body, I am these thoughts. I am these feelings,
I am these desires, I am this wealth, these beautiful possessions
that I have, this personality.' That's where we go wrong. Through
our ignorance we go chasing after shadows, dwelling in delusion,
unable to face the storms that life brings us. We're not able
to stand like those oak trees along the boundary of the Amaravati
meadow – that stay all winter long and weather every storm
that comes their way. In October, they drop their leaves, so
gracefully. And in the spring, they bloom again. For us too
there are comings and goings, the births and deaths, the seasons
of our lives. When we are ready, and even if we are not ready,
we will die. Even if we never fall sick a day in our lives,
we still die; that's what bodies are meant to do.
we talk about dying before we die, that does not mean that we
should try to commit suicide to avoid suffering; it means that
we should use this practice, this way of contemplation, to understand
our true nature. In meditation we can go deeply into the mind,
to investigate: who is it that we really are? Who dies?... Because
what dies is not who we are.
can be peaceful. A peaceful death is a gift, a blessing to the
world; there is simply the return of the elements to the elements.
But if we have not come to realise our true nature, it can seem
very frightening, and we might resist a lot. But we can prepare
ourselves, by investigating who it is that we really are; we
can live consciously. Then when the time comes, we can die consciously,
totally open, just like the leaves fluttering down, as leaves
are meant to do.
shadows... What is it that we are really looking for in life?
We're looking for happiness, for a safe refuge, for peace. But
where are we looking for these things? We desperately try to
protect ourselves by collecting more and more possessions, having
to have bigger and bigger locks on the door, putting in alarm
systems. We are constantly armouring ourselves against each
other – increasing the sense of separation – by
having more possessions, more control, feeling more self-importance
with our college degrees, our PhD's. We expect more respect,
and we demand immediate solutions; it is a culture of instantaneous
gratification. So we're constantly on the verge of being disappointed
– if our computer seizes up, if we don't make that business
deal, or if we don't get that promotion at work.
is not to put down the material realm. We need material supports,
food, clothing, medicines; we need a shelter and protection,
a place to rest; we also need warmth, friendship. There's a
lot that we need to make this journey. But because of our attachment
to things, and our efforts to fill and fulfil ourselves through
them, we find a residue of hunger, of unsatisfactoriness, because
we are looking in the wrong place. When somebody suddenly gets
ill, loses a leg, has a stroke, is faced with death, gets AIDS
and has to bear unspeakable suffering, what do we do? Where
is our refuge?
the Buddha was still Prince Siddhartha before his enlightenment,
he had everything. He had what most people in the world are
running after, as they push death to the edge of their lives,
as they push the knowledge of their own mortality to the farthest
extreme of consciousness. He was a prince. He had a loving wife
and a child. His father had tried desperately to protect him
from the ills of life, providing him with all the pleasures
of the senses, including a different palace for every season.
But he couldn't hold his son back, and one day the Prince rode
out and saw what he had to see: the Four Heavenly Messengers.
of us might think it's contradictory that a heavenly messenger
could come in the form of a very sick person: 'What's so heavenly
about a very sick person?' But it is a divine messenger, because
suffering is our teacher, it's through our own experience and
ability to contemplate suffering that we learn the First Noble
second and third messengers were a very old man struggling along
the roadside, and a corpse, riddled with maggots and flies,
decaying on the funeral pyre. These were the things the Buddha
saw that opened his eyes to the truth about life and death.
But the fourth heavenly messenger was a samana, a monk; a symbol
of renunciation, of someone who'd given up the world in order
to discover the Truth within himself.
people want to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in
the world, but actually there is a Himalaya in here, within
each of us. I want to climb that Himalaya; to discover that
Truth within myself, to reach the pinnacle of human understanding,
to realise my own true nature. Everything on the material plain,
especially what we seem to invest a lot of our energy hungering
for, seems very small and unimportant in the face of this potential
transformation of consciousness.
that's where these four celestial signs were pointing the young
Siddhartha. They set him on his journey. These are the messengers
that can point us to the Way of Truth and away from the way
of ignorance and selfishness, where we struggle, enmeshed in
wrong view, unable to face our darkness, our confusion, our
pain. As Steven Levine said: The distance from our pain, from
our wounds, from our fear, from our grief, is the distance from
our true nature.'
minds create the abyss – that huge chasm. What will take
us across that gap? How do we get close to who we really are
– how can we realise pure love in itself, that sublime
peace which does not move towards nor reject anything? Can we
hold every sorrow and pain of life in one compassionate embrace,
coming deeply into our hearts with pure awareness, mindfulness
and wise reflection, touching the centre of our being? As we
realise who we are, we learn the difference between pain and
is grief really? It's only natural that when someone we are
close to dies, we grieve. We are attached to that person, we're
attached to their company, we have memories of times spent together.
We've depended on each other for many things – comfort,
intimacy, support, friendship, so we feel loss.
my mother was dying, her breath laboured and the bodily fluids
already beginning to putrefy, she suddenly awoke from a deep
coma, and her eyes met mine with full recognition. From the
depths of Alzheimer's disease that had prevented her from knowing
me for the last ten years, she returned in that moment to be
fully conscious, smiling with an unearthly, resplendent joy.
A radiance fell upon both of us. And then in the next instant
she was gone.
was the illness that had kidnapped her from us for so many years?
In that moment, there was the realisation of the emptiness of
form. She was not this body. There was no Alzheimer's and 'she'
was not dying. There was just this impermanence to be known
through the heart and the falling away, the dissolution of the
elements returning to their source.
knowing the transcendent, knowing who we really are - knowing
the body as body – we come to the realisation that we
are ever-changing and we touch our very essence, that which
is deathless. We learn to rest in pure awareness.
our relationships with each other, with our families, we can
begin to use wisdom as our refuge. That doesn't mean that we
don't love, that we don't grieve for our loved ones. It means
that we're not dependent on our perceptions of our mother and
father, children or close friends. We're not dependent on them
being who we think they are, we no longer believe that our happiness
depends on their love for us, or their not leaving, not dying.
We're able to surrender to the rhythm of life and death, to
the natural law, the Dhamma of birth, ageing, sickness and death.
Marpa, the great Tibetan meditation master and teacher of Milarepa,
lost his son he wept bitterly. One of his pupils came up to
him and asked: 'Master, why are you weeping? You teach us that
death is an illusion.' And Marpa said: 'Death is an illusion.
And the death of a child is an even greater illusion.'
showed his disciple that while he could understand the truth
about the conditioned nature of everything and the emptiness
of forms, he could still be a human being. He could feel what
he was feeling; he could open to his grief. He could be completely
present to feel that loss.
is nothing incongruous about feeling our feelings, touching
our pain, and, at the same time understanding the truth of the
way things are. Pain is pain; grief is grief; loss is loss –
we can accept those things. Suffering is what we add onto them
when we push away, when we say, 'No, I can't.'
while I was reading the names of my grandparents who were murdered,
together with my aunts and uncles and their children, during
World War II – their naked bodies thrown into giant pits
– these images suddenly overwhelmed me with a grief that
I didn't know was there. I felt a choking pressure, unable to
breathe. As the tears ran down my cheeks, I began to recollect,
bringing awareness to the physical experience, and to breathe
into this painful memory, allowing it to be. It's not a failure
to feel these things. It's not a punishment. It is part of life;
it's part of this human journey.
the difference between pain and suffering is the difference
between freedom and bondage. If we're able to be with our pain,
then we can accept, investigate and heal. But if it's not okay
to grieve, to be angry, or to feel frightened or lonely then
it's not okay to look at what we are feeling, and it's not okay
to hold it in our hearts and to find our peace with it. When
we can't feel what must be felt, when we resist or try to run
from life, then we are enslaved. Where we cling is where we
suffer, but when we simply feel the naked pain on its own, our
suffering dies... That's the death we need to die.
ignorance, not understanding who we are, we create so many prisons.
We are unable to be awake, to feel true loving-kindness for
ourselves, or even to love the person sitting next to us. If
we can't open our hearts to the deepest wounds, if we can't
cross the abyss the mind has created through its ignorance,
selfishness, greed, and hatred, then we are incapable of loving,
of realising our true potential. We remain unable to finish
the business of this life.
taking responsibility for what we feel, taking responsibility
for our actions and speech, we build the foundation of the path
to freedom. We know the result that wholesome action brings
– for ourselves and for others. When we speak or act in
an unkind way – when we are dishonest, deceitful, critical
or resentful – then we are the ones that really suffer.
Somewhere within us, there is a residue of that posture of the
mind, that attitude of the heart.
order to release it, to be released from it, we have to come
very close. We have to open to every imperfection – to
acknowledge and fully accept our humanity, our desires, our
limitations; and forgive ourselves. We have to cultivate the
intention not to harm anyone (including ourselves) by body,
speech or even thought. Then if we do harm again, we forgive
ourselves, and start from the beginning, with the right intention.
We understand kamma; how important it is to live heedfully,
to walk the path of compassion and wisdom from moment to moment
– not just when we are on retreat.
is all the time. Meditation is coming into union with our true
nature. The Unconditioned accepts all, is in total peace with
all... total union, total harmony. As long as we're holding
one negative thing in our hearts – towards ourselves or
anyone else – we cannot fully realise our true nature.
We cannot be free.
can we really take responsibility for our actions? By reflecting
on our virtuous, or wholesome actions we are taking responsibility,
and this is a support for the practice in the present moment.
We feel the momentum of our mindfulness, confidence, trust,
the energy of purity of mind, and that helps us to keep going.
Contemplating things that I don't feel good about can perhaps
bring a dark cloud over consciousness. In fact this is very
wholesome; it is the arising of moral shame and moral fear,
hiri-ottappa. We know when we've done something that was not
right, and we feel regret; being completely honest. But then
we forgive ourselves, recollecting that we are human beings,
we make mistakes. Through acknowledging our wrong action, our
limitation, our weakness, we cross the abyss and free our hearts.
Then we begin again.
moral fear engenders a resolve in the mind towards wholesomeness,
towards harmony; there is the intention not to harm. This happens
because we understand that greed conditions more greed, and
hatred conditions more hatred – whereas loving-kindness
is the cause and condition for compassion and unity. Knowing
this, we can live more skilful lives.
when the Buddha was giving a teaching, he held up a flower.
And the Venerable Mahakassapa, one of his great devotees and
disciples, smiled. There's a mystery why the Venerable Mahakassapa
smiled when the Buddha held up the flower.
is it that we see in the flower? In the flower we see the ever-changing
essence of conditioned forms. We see the nature of beauty and
decay. We see the 'suchness' of the flower. And we see the emptiness
of experience. All teachings are contained in that flower; the
teachings on suffering and the path leading to the cessation
of suffering –- on suffering and non-suffering. And if
we bring the teachings to life in each moment of awareness,
it's as if the Buddha is holding up that flower for us.
are we so afraid of death? It's because we have not understood
the law of nature; we have not understood our true nature in
the scheme of things. We have not understood that there's non-suffering.
If there is birth, there is death. If there is the unborn, then
there is that which is deathless: 'The Undying, Uncreated, Love,
the Supreme, the Magnificent, Nibbana.'
pain we burn but, with mindfulness, we use that pain to burn
through to the ending of pain. It's not something negative.
It is sublime. It is complete freedom from every kind of suffering
that arises; because of a realisation – because of wisdom
– not because we have rid ourselves of unpleasant experience,
only holding on to the pleasant, the joyful. We still feel pain,
we still get sick and we die, but we are no longer afraid, we
no longer get shaken.
we are able to come face to face with our own direst fears and
vulnerability, when we can step into the unknown with courage
and openness, we touch near to the mysteries of this traverse
through the human realm to an authentic self-fulfilment. We
touch what we fear the most, we transform it, we see the emptiness
of it. In that emptiness, all things can abide, all things come
to fruition. In this very moment, we can free ourselves.
is not out there in the future; we have to let go of the future,
let go of the past. This doesn't mean we forget our duties and
commitments. We have our jobs and the schedules we have to keep,
we have our families to take care of; but in every single thing
that we do, we pay close attention, we open. We allow life to
come towards us, we don't push it away. We allow this moment
to be all that we have, contemplating and understanding things
the way they really are – not bound by our mental and
emotional habits, by our desires.
candle has a light. That light, one little candle from this
shrine can light so many other candles, without itself being
diminished. In the same way, we are not diminished by tragedy,
by our suffering. If we surrender, if we can be with it, transparent
and unwavering – making peace with the fiercest emotion,
the most unspeakable loss, with death – we can free ourselves.
And in that release, there is a radiance. We are like lights
in the world, and our life becomes a blessing for everyone.
Rumi wrote: 'The most secure place to hide a treasure of gold
is some desolate, unnoticed place. Why would anyone hide treasure
in plain sight? And so it is said: 'Joy is hidden in sorrow.'
illumined master Marpa weeping over his child – does his
experience of the loss of his young child diminish his wisdom?
Or is it just the supreme humility of a great man, a great sage
expressing the wholeness of his being, of his humanity.
want to encourage each one of you to keep investigating, keep
letting go of your fear. Remember that fear of death is the
same as fear of life. What are we afraid of? When we deeply
feel and, at the same time, truly know that experience we can
come to joy. It is still possible to live fully as a human being,
completely accepting our pain; we can grieve and yet still rejoice
at the way things are.
3. Understanding the Experience of Grief ...This article
has been designed to help you and your family through this difficult
time, and covers many aspects of the grieving process.
a person dies suddenly from an accident, murder or suicide,
more often than not an adolescent or young adult is involved.
Such a death is not only completely unexpected, it also violates
our sense of what is right or normal. Death from cancer, stroke
or a debilitating heart condition, by the very nature of these
illnesses, helps us to prepare for what is to come. Typically,
moreover, it is an elderly member of a family who suffers such
an illness. Yet the death of a loved one still comes as a shock
to us even if we have had some forewarning.
intelligent as we human beings are and as much as we know and
are able to control different aspects of our lives, there is
still much that we do not know about human emotions, the working
of the mind or the part that chance plays in our lives. As a
result, we find it almost impossible to explain to a grieving
mother or father why their son or daughter committed suicide
or was killed.
have, however, come to understand the experience of grief. We
do know, for instance, how a survivor will generally react when
informed of the unexpected death of a loved one.
the reaction is one of profound disbelief; the mind rejects
such unacceptable news. The survivor in fact may become so emotionally
numb that a mother, for example, may even be incapable of crying
over the death of her child.
second reaction may be one of anger. Often times survivors express
an unpacifiable anger toward some person who appears to be responsible
for the death: the 'incompetent' doctor; the 'negligent' driver;
or the 'careless' friend. Even God may be blamed for allowing
such a tragedy to occur. At the same time that anger is focused
on the person to punish themselves, even to the point of serious
injury or death.
is a profound and frequently uncontrollable emotion. It may
at times be directed toward the one who has died. Anger is one
of the more difficult aspects of the grief experience for the
third reaction often experienced by a survivor is a feeling
of personal responsibility for the death. Irrational guilt can
sweep over the survivor in relentless waves. A mother, for example,
may feel just as responsible for the death of a son –
that occurred a thousand miles from home and under circumstances
over which she had no control – as a mother whose child
has been poisoned with a household cleanser thoughtlessly left
the case of suicide, especially, feelings such as guilt can
also be accompanied by an overriding sense of shame and embarrassment.
The suicide of a child or spouse can be interpreted as an implicit,
if not explicit, act of rejection. To be compelled to face the
fact that the deceased preferred to take his or her life rather
than to continue living can induce a wrenching sense of shame
in the survivor, and with it the loss of self-esteem.
fifth aspect of grief that has been recognised is the desire
of the survivors – the spouse, the parents, the brother
or sister – to describe and explain in detail the circumstances
surrounding the death. This is an important, although frequently
overlooked and often times resisted, reaction to loss. It is
however, part of the process whereby survivors come to acknowledge
and accept what has occurred.
is also frequently observed in recently bereaved persons is
heightened suggestibility. A widow may impulsively sell her
home on the advice of family or friends and move to another
city. A grieving widower may remarry shortly after the death
of his wife. Such hasty decisions may add to the burdens of
the survivor at a later date. Care should be taken by all concerned
to minimise the difficulties and potential problems associated
with the twin grief reactions of dependency and suggestibility.
aspect of sudden and unexpected loss that can be very disturbing
to the survivor is the experience of vivid dreams and nightmares.
While they may be distressing and indeed on occasion terrifying,
in most cases they will, in time, fade away.
can also be upsetting to the survivor are hallucinations. These
are apparent sights or sounds or a 'sense of presence' of the
deceased. Widows have reported hallucinatory experiences for
up to ten years following the death of their husbands. Many
report, however, that such experiences are a welcome comfort.
Others, on the other hand, unfamiliar with such mental processes
are profoundly disturbed by them, and believe that they may
be losing their minds. Hallucinations however, like vivid dreams
and nightmares, generally disappear over time.
more common, however, are the abrupt changes in behaviour that
can be observed in survivors. Such changes include: inability
to sleep (insomnia); lack of appetite; an increase in smoking
or drinking; repetitive speech or actions; impulsive acts such
as quitting a job or breaking off a long-term friendship; persistent
irritability or emotional outbursts or acts of violence toward
a family member, friend, or even a total stranger. Survivors
should keep in mind the possibility of such behaviours, and
their general 'normalness'. They should, be cautioned that when
such behaviour threatens to become injurious to themselves or
others, professional guidance or assistance should be considered.
in the case of sudden unexpected deaths, particularly those
of a more unusual nature – suicide, homicide, or sudden
infant death (SlDS) – the intrusion of the news media
or public agencies into the lives of the surviving family members
is potentially fraught with trauma and psychic injury. Careful
attention needs to be paid to the survivors' grief and their
privacy and dignity need to be protected. The potentially abrasive
and insensitive behaviour of newspaper reporters, cameramen,
and other media representatives need to be defended against,
lest they aggravate the grief of the survivors. So, too, might
well-meaning public officials whose task it is to investigate
the circumstances surrounding the death, be cautioned. An act
or gesture or even the intonation of a voice that implies negligence
or responsibility for the death on the part of a blameless survivor
can only add to the burden of loss.
can be done when the tragedy of death suddenly strikes? This
is a time when a survivor needs the support of other family
members and friends, the clergy and possibly other members of
the caring professions. This is often the very time when such
comfort and support is most resisted or rejected by the survivor.
The survivor should do everything in his or her power, however,
to overcome the impulse to refuse assistance and to recognise
the value of outside help as well as the need for it. On the
other hand, a relative, friend or caregiver should continue
to stand by the survivor and assist him or her whenever possible,
even in the face of protest and anger. Grief, we have come to
learn, is too profound an emotional experience to be left solely
a private matter.
4. Grief is for Sharing ...A
chance to heal and grow
does the grieving person need to know – and have to be
able to do – in order to successfully work through the
pain and chaotic emotions that accompany the death of someone
begin with, we need to know grief is a normal and natural response
to loss, it is part of the human experience. There is only one
way a person could live without any grief in their lifetime
and that would be to live a life without love or attachment.
Grief represents our humanness as does our love.
death of a loved one is a universal experience, and its occurrence
initiates a painful journey that travels from grief to healing.
It is an unstable process – a lonely journey characterised
by self doubts and intense emotions.
first few weeks
first few weeks and months you may feel you are living your
life in slow motion. You may feel numb, detached from life and
unable to concentrate. Life is happening for others but you
may not feel part of it. You have lost part of yourself. You
feel disorganised and you may cry a lot. The sadness is overwhelming
and we sigh frequently. Others may feel they have to be strong
and fight back the tears. Some people feel if they start to
cry they may never stop.
may be very angry. Angry at God. How could God do this? There
is no God. Angry at the world and those around you. Angry with
yourself and even angry with the person who has died. How dare
they die, leaving you so alone. Loneliness is one of the biggest
problems of grief – one feels abandoned and powerless.
guilt can sweep over you. Some may even feel a personal responsibility
for the death.
find their grief to be exhausting. You feel tired all the time.
Sleep is difficult; either we don't sleep, or sleep is disturbed
by vivid dreams and nightmares. While they may be distressing
and indeed on occasions terrifying, in most cases they will
fade away in time.
may find yourself talking to the dead person as if they were
present. You come home from the supermarket and find you have
bought a bottle of their usual shampoo or favourite fruit juice.
You may think you hear the dead person coming in the door and
call out, "I'm in the kitchen" and realise no-one
is there – and they will never walk through the door again.
are often very disturbed by apparent sights and sounds of the
deceased person which can be very vivid, but like the dreams
and nightmares, they too will fade away in time.
responses and heightened suggestibility are natural. They are
part of the grief process. Let it all happen. Feel the pain.
Don't be afraid to cry or to express your anger. It is important
not to hold the hurt inside.
you swallow your grief, that proverbial lump in the throat will
only surface later in the physical symptoms of insomnia, diarrhoea
and headaches, or gastro-intestinal problems.
friends and even family may not come to visit after the funeral
– they can often feel uncomfortable with your tears and
intense emotions and perhaps they don't know what to say. Others
erroneously believe that their job is to distract you from your
grieving people need to speak about their feelings of grief,
the loneliness, sadness and depression and 'tell their story'
to make living more tolerable. Talking about your loss in reality
will help you to heal and work through the process of grief,
so try to find people who will listen to you and help you feel
understood and not so alone. (For friends and neighbours who
would want to be supportive but feel they don't know what to
say, the Outstretched Hand Foundation's leaflet "Tell me
all about it" offers helpful advice.)
discussing grief it is important for each of us to remember
we accumulate our losses. Every loss we have ever encountered
and suffered in our lives, if they have not been dealt with,
are still with us, we are still carrying them. It was beautifully
described to me by someone who said it was like having a row
of bells across your chest, large bells, medium sized bells
and small bells. Every time we suffer a loss in our life, one
of these bells is going to ring.
does not heal in itself
is what you do with it, and it is important to remember that
the length of the course of grief is not a sign of weakness.
Each person will be unique in their time of grieving.
full sense of the loss of someone loved never occurs all at
once. The birthdays, wedding anniversaries and the first anniversary
of the death often makes you realise how much your life has
been changed by the loss. You have every right to have feelings
of emptiness, sadness, despair, even guilt and anger. You may
be frightened by the depth of emotion felt at these times.
many people surrounding you may try to take these feelings away.
Friends, even family, erroneously believe that their job is
to distract you from your grief. Most grieving people need to
speak about their feelings, the emptiness, sadness and depression
and 'tell their story', to make living more tolerable. Talking
about your loss in reality will help you to heal and work through
the process of grief so try to find people who will listen to
you and help you feel understood and not so alone.
point to remember in dealing with grief is to be gentle with
yourself. The emotional energy expended just coping will probably
leave you feeling fatigued, so respect what is being said by
your mind and body.
unnecessary stresses. You will already feel stressed so there
is no point in over-extending or over-committing yourself. While
you don't want to isolate yourself, part of keeping your stress
levels in check is to understand and respect your need to have
time for yourself. Some people may try to 'keep you busy' in
an effort to distract you from your grief. Experience suggests
that 'keeping busy' really only increases stress and serves
to postpone the need to talk out thoughts and feelings related
to your grief.
with people you find comforting and supporting, who allow you
to be yourself, not those who expect you to put on a happy face
for their sake.
to see the good intention of those who came to you with the
strong cliches such as 'you must be strong for the children'
– or 'God never gives you more than you can handle.' Other
instructions to 'try and forget it' or worse, 'try to be happy'
can only minimise the profound loss you have experienced.
about the person who has died. If people around you sense you
are able to talk about your loss it may help them recognise
your need to remember the joy of having loved this person who
was an important part of your life.
do we help children deal with grief? Children suffer greatly,
they go through the same process as adults but their grief is
more intense and of a shorter period. Their actions and reactions
are not always appropriate. They often tend to act out their
grief and I think we have to be very tolerant if their reactions
are not quite what we consider to be appropriate. Children need
to be included in the family grief. Children know that something
is wrong. They need to be held, to be loved, to be reassured,
they need to participate. If further information is needed on
this subject, please see 'Talking to Children about Death'.
people who have been blessed with the capacity to give and receive
love, we are forever changed by the experience of grief in our
lives. We, as human beings, do not 'get over' our grief but
work to reconcile ourselves to living with it. We hope eventually
to find some meaning for these sad happenings in our lives,
to heal and to grow.
is not fair. Life is a series of tragic losses but we cannot
lose something unless we have first had it so the magnitude
of each loss becomes the measure of life's gifts.
made in love can never be taken away from you. If your memories
bring laughter, let yourself smile, if memories bring sadness,
let yourself cry. If your faith is important to you, express
it, and remember to love yourself.
to deal with your grief – a summary
points highlight a few important matters to consider during
bereavement. Each person is different, so beware of ready-made
solutions. The following are suggestions to consider; they may
or may not fit your situation.
Everyone needs some help – don't be afraid to accept it.
While you may feel pressured to put on a brave front it is important
to make your needs known by expressing your feelings to those
Often numbness sees us through the first few days or weeks.
Don't be too surprised if a let-down comes later.
Many people are more emotionally upset during bereavement than
at any other time in their lives and are frightened by this.
Be aware that severe upset is not unusual and, if you are alarmed,
seek a professional opinion.
Whether you feel you need to be alone or accompanied –
make it known. Needing company is common and does not mean you
will always be dependent on it.
There is no set time limit for grieving. The period will vary
from person to person.
It is easy to neglect yourself because you don't much care at
a time of grief.
You are under great stress and may be more susceptible to disease.
It is especially important not to neglect your health. Try to
eat reasonably even if there is no enjoyment in it.
Although sleep may be disturbed, try to get adequate rest. And
please, no grog or sedatives.
If you have symptoms, get a doctor to check them out.
If people urge you to see your doctor, do so, even if it doesn't
make sense to you at the time.
Friends and family are often most available early in bereavement
and less so later. It is important to be able to reach out to
them when you need to. Don't wait for them to guess your needs.
They will often guess incorrectly and too late.
During a period of grief it can be difficult to judge new relationships.
Don't be afraid of them, yet it is usually wise not to rush
into them. It is hard to see new relationships objectively if
you are still actively grieving, and this kind of solution may
only lead to other problems.
No-one will substitute for your loss. Try to enjoy people as
they are. Do not avoid social contacts because of the imperfections
in those you meet. Someone who is not close to you but who is
willing to listen may be particularly helpful.
Avoid hasty decisions. Try not to make major life decisions
within the first year unless absolutely necessary.
In general, most people find it best to remain settled in familiar
surroundings until they can consider their future calmly.
Don't be afraid to seek good advice. Usually it is wise to get
more than one opinion before making decisions.
Don't make any major financial decisions without talking them
over with experts.
Having a job or doing voluntary work in the community can be
helpful when you are ready, but it is important not to over-extend
Relationships with family and friends should not be sacrificed
in an effort to keep busy.
Personal faith is frequently a major source of comfort during
For some, however, maintaining faith may be difficult during
this period of loss.
Either reaction may occur and both are consistent with later
say unto you: a man must have chaos yet within him to be able
to give birth to a dancing star. ... F. Nietzsche
5. The Amaravati Monastery
is a monastery in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism and a
centre of teaching and practice.
heart is a resident community of monks and nuns, whose life
of meditation and work is open for visitors to share, as a living
example of the Buddhist path.
means "Deathless Realm" in the Buddhist scriptural
language, Pali, a verbal reminder of the highest spiritual aspiration.
great variety of forms of religious practice are associated
with the word 'Buddhism'.
source is the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gotama, who lived
and taught in northern India over 2,500 years ago.
monastic order he founded and personally guided is still flourishing
today, the living reflection of his wisdom.
the centuries, the Buddha Dhamma* has spread from India throughout
the world, adapting to local cultures.
there are three main schools: Theravada, 'The teaching of the
elders', which thrives in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand.
'The great vehicle', which embraces the various traditions within
China, Korea, and Japan.
diamond vehicle', which is associated primarily with Tibet.
essence of the Buddha's Teaching is contained in the Four Noble
Truths that lead to the end of suffering. This is the true meaning
of taking refuge in the Triple Gem.
origin of Amaravati
is blessed with a number of widely respected Buddhist Masters,
one of whom is Luang Por Chah, a renowned teacher from the Forest
the invitation of the English Sangha Trust, a charitable organisation
founded in 1956 for the purpose of supporting a Buddhist monastic
order in Britain, Luang Por Chah came to Britain in 1977.
brought with him his senior Western disciple, Ajahn Sumedho,
a bhikkhu who had trained under his guidance for over ten years.
seen that there was much interest in Dhamma in the West, he
allowed Ajahn Sumedho and three other bhikkhus to take up residence
at the English Sangha Trust's house in Hampstead, London, and
make the teaching available for those who were interested.
soon became apparent that the time had come to search for a
place to establish a proper monastery. In the summer of 1978,
a generous benefactor offered 108 acres of woodland, Hammer
Wood, located in West Sussex. In 1979, Chithurst House - less
than half a mile away from the forest - came up for sale with
its outbuildings and land. The Trust sold the Hampstead Vihara
and purchased it immediately.
benefactor purchased a small cottage adjacent to Hammer Wood
as residence for the nuns, allowing training for women to be
established in England for the first time.
became Cittaviveka, Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, the first
Forest Monastery in Britain.
monastic community has continued to grow steadily over the years
and by mid-1983, the limitations of Cittaviveka became clear.
The English Sangha Trust therefore purchased a former school
near Hemel Hempstead which became Amaravati.
spacious site with many buildings and extensive grounds offers
greater opportunities for both monastic training and the participation
and instruction of lay people. It has become possible to set
up permanent retreat facilities where meditation courses can
be taught, to offer more accomodation for visitors, to hold
regular meditation classes and family events and to host large
gatherings on Buddhist festival days.
6. Healing Lazarus: A Buddhist's Journey from Near Death to
New Life ...by Lewis Richmond
Publishers Weekly- Richmond had it all: loving wife,
great address in the San Francisco Bay area and a successful
multifaceted career as software designer, Buddhist teacher,
musician and author. He'd even beaten cancer once. Then viral
encephalitis a rare disease attacked his brain and sent him
into a coma for 10 days. While recovering, he experienced an
acute neuropsychiatric complication from a therapeutic drug
that posed a second life-threatening challenge. This page-turning
account of his slow and spotty recovery is a vivid, affecting
and painfully honest Buddhist dharma (teaching) story. This
overachieving California-style corporate executive and former
Buddhist priest whose previous book was Work as a Spiritual
Practice: A Practical Buddhist Approach to Inner Growth and
Satisfaction on the Job here learns that the central Buddhist
teaching of life as suffering and impermanence has literal as
well as spiritual meaning. Providing additional depth to his
archetypal story of near-death and recovery, the author portrays
the deeply rooted fears and anxieties that became his companions
on the healing journey. The book may make a more valuable contribution
to the literature about brain injury than to the well-stocked
shelf of Buddhist titles; little non-technical or narrative
writing is available on the medical frontier of brain trauma
and the light it sheds on the relationship between body and
mind. Richmond made a descent to the inner underworld, and returned
a sadder, wiser man. His psychic excavations will enrich all
who read this gripping account.
Reviewer: Daniel M. Kaplan from San Francisco, California
USA... This new work by Lewis Richmond is moving, touching beyond
measure as the chronicle of his journey from a relatively healthy
buddhist teacher turned businessman to falling deathly ill with
a rare disease, to his slow, but sure recovery, not just of
body, but of spirit and mind. I cried unashamedly as I read
of his psychic pain and suffering, his rediscovered love for
and by his wife, the openning of his heart. This is an inspiring
story of the redemption of a psyche. The power of his experiences
and the beauty and honesty with which he conveys them will have
you crying, laughing, and moved beyond words. It did for me!
Reviewer: Wendy L Station from North Vancouver, BC Canada...
Lewis uses the words, "...permanently transformed by the
experience..." "...must endure against formidable
odds." In this book, Lewis has told his story in a manner
which will warm the hearts of survivors, AND help loved ones
and caregivers understand. I will very highly recommend this
book to my survivor friends. A remarkable autobiography!
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