The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE

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{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

How does a Buddhist Deal with Grief

This discourse came to me at Monday night meditation sangha. Seemed something that should be shared like a good pot of tea ~


The Writing of Takuin Minamoto: “How does a Buddhist deal with the process of Grief and loss?”

Why should it matter that a Buddhist needs to deal with grief? In what way is that different from the needs of a Catholic? Or an Atheist? The system one adheres to is not a significant factor, as grief may be a reality with or without a system What matters is the grief; not YOUR grief, and not the Buddhist’s grief. Just grief.

There may be stages to this grief, or steps or processes, but all of that is after the fact analyzation. If you are a ‘Buddhist dealing with loss,’ you are already fighting through a system hoping to cope with grief; you don’t need to add to that by expecting a particular unfolding of events.

Of course, it may end up unfurling precisely in the way other’s have explained, but that is none of our concern. How it unfolds after the fact, is important only to the analyzer hoping to use it as a tool in the future. We’ll leave that to them.

I’m not sure that it is a matter of “dealing with” grief. This does not mean that it is not there. If it is there, it is there.

Takuin can remember — in the past –he would use grief as a way of feeling close to the person that had passed. It wasn’t a necessarily a conscious thought, but the need to be close fueled the grief and kept him attached to both it and the person.

Whenever Takuin would deal with grief, it was always HE and GRIEF, as if it were something apart from the self, or something that suddenly attacked without warning (there is always a warning). But now if there is grief, it is pure and free of attachment. There is nothing that solidifies it into an experience, and nothing that wishes for its continuation.

Grief without attachment is miraculous. When the felling comes and is allowed to be as it is, there is great beauty there.  There is no wasted energy trying to resist, and nothing to tell you things should be different for what they are. It is that grief — pure grief — that holds an unimaginable beauty. It is without the dirty fingers of the controller, and is a full spectrum of feeling untouched by our thoughts and desires. Untouched grief is beautiful.

Takuin asks you this: What have YOU lost?

Someone has died. Physically, they are no longer a apart of this world. (at least, not in the way we wish for them to be). They’ll never again call you on the phone. They’ll never again meet you for lunch. They’ll never again hold you in their arms.

Again: What have YOU lost? (Takuin in not saying you have, or have not lost anything.)

Think of what you had while they lived, and what you now have. Tell me the difference. This is nothing to do with what you want or what you feel  you should have done.  Just look at it and tell me what you have now. You may be able to rattle off one hundred different things you feel YOU have lost.

But again: What have YOU lost? I want to know.

How? Whenever you ask this question, you give away you power to find out for yourself. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as all you want to do is program your VCR. (Do people still own VCR’s?). But why on earth, if one is serious about liberation, would anyone ever ask someone else to give it to them? I can not see the value in this.

Questions and their answers can not be separated. The answers are the questions.

Never ask how to deal with grief. Grief is there to teach you how.

Filed under: Education, Uncategorized

The Bell

There hangs a bell at the Yoga Path.  Suspended toward the back of the studio on a separate section of wall in front of the kitchen door. This section of wall stands apart from all other walls at the school and joins the room only at the floor and ceiling. This isolation was the unintentional result of building movable walls that would open or close the studio, partitioning it to either two rooms or allowing for one great room. The wall has come to be known, at least by some, as the Bell Tower, because on it up about six feet, resides the heavy bell that is rung at the end of each class. At least by some.

the Yoga Path bell

Not all the teachers choose to ring the bell. A while back my teacher, Margaret Hahn, consented to teach at the Path. This was a great honor for me as owner of the new yoga school. Margaret had taught me at numerous locations during my many years with her. At three studios, a couple of YMCAs, four different churches, and her home. She had founded the Omaha Yoga School and from it taught me in yoga, and trained me in the teaching of it. I had been on her faculty for a number of years during that time, studying a host of yogic concepts and authors and in the course of the this long and fruitful tutelage. But in all this time, there had never been – a bell!

Margaret was always more of a drumming  teacher. If you’ve ever been to her class, you know that she starts off with a circumambulation and the Prayer to Mount Kailash:

With unchanging mind I have faith,
I prostrate in homage and do circumambulation.
Bless us, so we have power to do limitless good to all being.
Bless us,so we are bound to act for the supreme liberation of all being.
Bless us, so we accomplish both our own and others good.

After prostrating and saying this pray, we walk mindfully with the teacher pounding the drum, slowly in time with our steps. One beat — you step into the present, bringing all of you awareness to the earth you standing on, at that moment. The next beat — you lift the back foot and shake off the dust of the past. Drum/ step …………drum/step……….drum/ step……. around the circle, around a likeness of Mount Kailash. In the years that Margaret has done this we’ve carried drums into schools, classrooms, libraries, and temples. When traveling I’ve seen her carry cumbersome instruments over meadows, through cornfields, across streams, into forests, up mountains, and even into earthen lodges. Even in situations where there was no drum, students would go off to gather contrivances like sticks or rocks to pound together as we circled.
And so when I was showing Margaret, with some pride, the layout of the Yoga Path, she naturally asked toward the end of the tour, where do you keep your drums? It was as though the mallet had struck the timpani of my head. Sheepishly I looked at my teacher and confessed, “I don’t have a drum Margaret.” “What do you use to teach class?” she asked quizzically, as though asking, what do you do for air? I tried to boldly put forth that I ring the bell. Then went back to the bell tower and invited the sound of the bell. As its rich resonance faded into silence she just steadfastly smiled at me with expression of “where did I go wrong with you?”
To my knowledge, Margaret Hahn has never rang the bell.

~to be continued~


Filed under: Stories

Wake Up, Wake Up

There has been a poem of Rumi’s that I’ve had around for quite awhile. In fact it’s taped on the bathroom mirror to be reflected on every groggy morning. The scotch tape holding just above eye level has grown yellow and cracked with age, but still I read some part of it every morning while trying to mindfully brushing my teeth. Don’t even know where it came from or who did the translation, but it has haunted my personal philosophy since it’s discovery. Whenever anyone asks me “… what’s Yoga” this quote is what I want to give them , but never do because I’m afraid they’ll think me a jester and not Yoga teacher. Nevertheless I hear these lines as something of an anathema to our sleepy lives. If we could just embrace these words, I think people would know why they should want to practice Yoga:

wake up, wake up
this night is gone
wake up

abandon abandon
even your dear self
abandon

there is an idiot
in our market place
selling a precious soul

if you doubt my word
get up this moment
and head to the market now

don’t listen to trickery
don’t listen to the witches
don’t wash blood with blood

first turn yourself upside down
empty yourself like a cup of wine
then fill to the brim with the essence

a voice descending
from the heavens
a healer is coming

if you desire healing
let yourself fall ill
let yourself fall ill

Filed under: Education, Words of Wisdom

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