song in my dreams
December 25, 2013 § Leave a comment
in my dream, the title of a song that rachel from glee listens to, which her two gay dads played for her when she was little: “sometimes, sometimes you get crazy and sad. that’s okay, just let it be. that’s science.”
the science part refers to non-identification with one’s suffering. an awakened holding self capable of allowing grief. i dreamed this because i was resisting/trying to escape sadness/fear last night by watching glee. then i had to give in and was completely overcome with grief and panic. i had strong urges to contact g and check to see if he was okay, if we were okay, to get him to reassure me. but instead of doing that and instead of fighting my urge i heard this voice inside me (in tara brach‘s voice): the comfort and reassurance you want so desperately from him (and before him from your mom/dad), is it possible to give yourself? is it possible that there is a presence beyond your suffering big enough to hold you, allowing you to just stay with it, to just let it be, to not push it away?
so first i turned to a scene that i originally wrote into the novel but which i keep returning to mentally when i meditate or when i sit with strong/difficult emotions. it is a scene of sitting on the banks of yanaguana and seeing the sediment of time peel back to reveal the riparian landscape as it was before colonial and industrial destruction. the river is healthy and strong and swift, and there are trees on the banks. it is night and all kinds of critters are stirring: i can hear them but not see them. i am sitting on the banks and giving over my sadness to the river and the trees and the animals, because these things are big and powerful enough that the grief i feel does not even make a dent. she is big and powerful enough to just receive it and say to me:
yes, i know. it’s okay. i’m sorry. i love you.
i care about your suffering.
i must imagine the river like this because one time i did sit on the banks when i was very very sad, tho closer to downtown and further upstream from the scene i imagine (which is just south of blue star). and somehow it was like the river understood or was a sympathetic presence. at that time i had known i needed to walk to the river.
so i started off imagining the river and all of nature saying these things to me: i’m sorry. i love you. i care about your suffering.
but then, i got to something else that brach recommends for grief (because that is what it is even if the loss involved seems minor or peculiar. that is how i react, for i think very deep seated or archaic reasons from my childhood), which is:
may this suffering awaken compassion.
may this suffering awaken compassion.
and at first it didn’t feel quite right saying it, like i didn’t understand or couldn’t identify precisely in the immediacy of suffering or the contracting of self into pain/experience. may this suffering make me a kinder person? i don’t get it.
but then i realized that the compassion i prayed to awaken was simply my own, for myself. may this suffering be received by my own kindness and attention/presence. may i not reject or invalidate my own experience. may i give to myself in my suffering the kindness i would offer to any other creature. so that the first set of ideas that seemed to come from an outside being big enough to hold my pain and allow me to stay with it rather than scramble to get rid of it (i’m sorry. i love you.) were revealed to be effectively the same set of ideas as the second (may this suffering awaken compassion). that is, the big and powerful holding presence beyond my own pain was me waking up out of total identification with suffering, to be able to hold myself and offer the comfort/reassurance i need. and this in turn allows me to just stay with my experience, to lay down the burden of fighting it or seeking to control it with solutions or reactivity. there is nothing to do. meditation is a relief in that it is like the only time in my life that i let go of hope or striving, the only time i’m not trying to control experience. it helps in this situation in particular because i “know,” intellectually, that my panic/grief is out of proportion to or mismatched with what is going on. reacting to assumed nonresponse with the grief of an unbearable loss or abandonment, the shame of an unbearable rejection compounded by the shame of reacting in such an extreme way. in these situations, i “know,” intellectually, that the best thing to do is to make no assumptions, to be patient, to give things time and space and air. but in nonresponse my grief/panic is triggered instead and completely overcomes me, driving me to desperately seek connection and reassurance. it helps to know that i can gain even a little space of nonidentification with this suffering, enough that i can offer myself the holding/comfort i need to just let things be and not react. not call, not email, not project. this is how kindness to self becomes a position of being able to feel compassion and understanding for his position as well.
*update: later that morning, after writing these things, g emailed back saying he would respond but hadn’t bc overwhelmed/overworked. this is fine. i am relieved. i am glad i did not try to get from him the reassurance and kindness i can only give myself. i am glad i was able to allow grief/panic without trying to do anything about it.