Becoming Mindful of Golden Key Memories

When we are unsure of ourselves, lost or grieving, we can get trapped in past memories. When we allow them to be through mindfulness, we find that buried in a memory is a golden key; a hidden message that can trigger a shift in consciousness for healing.

I’d like to share one such memory.

It was an ordinary evening before my husband died. He had gone into the study after dinner while I sat in the living room alone. A profound feeling of sadness came over me and I got up and went to the study. I leaned up against the door and watched him stare into the computer screen. When he looked up, I remember thinking his cheeks were pale and his eyes weary. We had been married for 25 years and we considered ourselves warriors.

 “You can go,” I announced. “You’re so tired and you deserve to be happy.” The words just poured out of my mouth.

Under ordinary circumstances, that kind of remark would have seemed out of place, but in that moment he didn’t blink. He just looked at me and I looked at him and it was as if we were remembering our entire relationship. There was love and care in that moment and I wanted to cry, but I kept calm.

“You don’t have to worry about me anymore,” I continued. “And our kids? They are amazing. They’re grown up now and it’s okay. I just want you to know it’s okay, if you go. You deserve to be happy.”

My husband’s eyes closed and opened in slow motion. He was tired and kind. “What are you talking about?” He asked gently but somehow the question felt rehearsed. “Where do you want me to go?”

“You’ve been taking care of us for so long and you don’t have to worry any more. I’m strong now and time is passing so quickly and you’re so tired. You don’t have to take care of me anymore,” I said, getting emotional now. “You can be free. You can leave.”

He cocked his head to one side and a lightness of being spread over his face like when we were twenty something. “Where do you want me to go?” he repeated.

I just looked at him as if he’d forgotten.

Then, my lip quivered. “Home,” I said.

I remember feeling possessed with the thought that I had to give him permission to leave me, leave us. That he would not be happy if he stayed because it was obligation when his spirit wanted to be free. I imagined him running off to the country of his birth and living by the sea. How much he loved it there! Mostly, I imagined him at peace and carefree. His happiness was the most important thing.

“How am I supposed to leave without you and the kids?” He asked and then chuckled softly, gently.  

The moment filled with compassion.

Then, he turned away and after a moment, I walked away.

Back in the living room, I sat. I felt tender, sad and powerless but then the moment passed and I began to feel a little silly and confused like, what was that all about?

A few months after, my husband died. Later, when I tossed his ashes into the deep blue sea of his country, I thought he was finally home and his spirit was free. He had found the courage to go home and be free without me. At least that’s what I thought then.

Now, it’s been a year and I think, yes, he’s home and he’s free and even though we are not together, we are gentle kindred spirits with deep compassion for each other. What happened then and what’s happening now are simply part of our destiny. Becoming open and caring and mindful of these golden key memories have been part of my journey. That one, in particular, taught me how souls speak to one another and there are moments in life that transcend all reasoning. There is a language of the spirit and in death, in loss, in grief– we can open this window to reveal hidden truths about who we are and who we’re meant to be.

What is Bardo?

Bardo is a Tibetan word that means in-between. It’s sometimes translated as intermediate state. Chögyam Trungpa, author of The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation Through Hearing In The Bardo, says Bardo means gap. It’s not only the interval of suspension after we die but also the interval of suspension in the living situation. In other words, we can experience a ritualistic death while living.

After the loss of my husband, I’ve come to know Bardo. In many ways, I’m still in the in-between stage. After a year though, I’m more aware and observing, less agonizing. A greater consciousness is emerging. Something about it feels good suddenly. It’s like a rock that hits water and sinks but rings of consciousness emanate out from it. I’m observing what was and simultaneously observing what will be. In this present state, time appears to collapse entirely.

There is still tenderness about it and anticipation.

A person who loses a loved one transforms in mind, body and spirit. If you were unaware of this, know it’s a ritualistic death– a Bardo. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, know it will happen one day because everybody dies eventually. I think it’s good to understand this because maybe we might fear death less. We might suffer less. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel pain. It means we change our perception of the pain and that makes a difference.

In the Bardo, I discovered a bridge. I think now that where there is a gap, there’s always a bridge. The bridge of Bardo is our access to the infinite.

I know that when we lose a loved one, we can expand our consciousness. We can become aware of our capacity to move through life with more love and tenderness. We come to realize that the love of our beloved is infinite and can be an eternal source of energy for us, an energy that we can absorb and recycle as we move into the next stage of our lives.

Over the last few months, I began to visualize how I can help others navigate this time. It took me a while and I depended on others to be there for me and I’d like to do the same. I’d like to share some strategies that were essential for me, essential nutrients so to speak.

Starting this January, I’m facilitating a mindfulness meditation support and learning group. For more information about joining this group, please go to my Mindful Bardō page.

Coping with Grief and Fear

I lost my husband in November after 25 years of marriage. I’ve joined a bereavement group on line and realize that there are so many people suffering. Grief and fear have always been part of the human experience but now with the virus, we are facing these emotions globally. I’m learning that emotions like grief and fear can transform into compassion with the practice of mindfulness. It is slow and painful but necessary.

Grief and fear go hand in hand. When we lose somebody, we grieve the loss of love and we also face an unknown future. Death forces us to remember our immortality and the temporary nature of all things.

Screen Shot 2020-04-17 at 10.00.00 AM
Albert Gyorgy, ‘El vacío del alma’

When your whole identity breaks apart, you feel like you no longer fit in or even trust your skin. Conversations and events seem inconsequential and we find ourselves half in and half out of the real world we live in. What can we hold on to when everything is unstable and transitory?

We’re wired to believe that life is rational and love everlasting. Our perception of our life with a spouse, however imperfect, just makes sense. There’s a reasonable sequence of events, a social function, a shared commitment. When a person dies, or there’s a traumatic event, our perception of a fixed life shatters and we feel betrayed and empty. How can this be after having invested so much time and energy? We experience the truth of the temporal nature of all things and our immortality. We begin to see that underneath the routine of the material world, there’s a powerful energy that alters our reality, that forces us to evolve. It is infinitely organic, ineffable and seemingly indiscriminate.

My husband used to say, No somos nadie, which means, We are nobody. He was right.

There is no way around death, except to go through it. Each person copes with grief and fear differently but I think everyone should expect to feel sick and crazy. It is normal to lose our moral and physical strength and sensibility. There are feelings and behaviors that people don’t like to confess, but death encourages all sorts of things like excess, escapism, unpredictability, anxiety, saying bizarre things, breaking things including people’s feelings, listlessness and selfishness.

When we embrace these adverse experiences as normal, without judgment or labels, we realize that we are simply human and that somehow out of pain and suffering, out of confronting nothingness, we are part of the universe. When we accept that we are no longer our self, that we are in fact different, we begin to give ourselves time to become reacquainted. To become balanced and compassionate.

Meditation helps. Sitting and doing just that, being with oneself in acceptance. In this case, meditation can take on the role of forgiveness. It communicates to yourself that in spite of your anger, your sickness and your craziness—you deserve to be loved and to sit in dignity and have peace.  In spite of all the ugliness and darkness, there is light and goodness in your heart and in your being. There is unconditional love and you are deserving.

I also do light yoga and running. I think we underestimate the impact our body has on our mindset and emotions. It really helps to get blood flowing, to insert air into our spine and joints, to feed our heart oxygen. Our heart requires a lot of nourishment when it’s broken.

Recently, I’ve been thinking that death leads to reincarnation for the deceased and for us, the living,  the opportunity for rebirth after all the suffering. Part of the suffering is facing heavy memories, digging up old skeletons and getting angry.  Part of letting go is forgiving ourselves and our love ones for all transgressions and recalling the loving, sentimental moments. To say, It’s okay and I’m so sorry.

I’m thinking this is a form of redemption and a transition to new life.