Day 2—Being with Grief
The first full day focused on mindfulness. Hearing, feeling, smelling, experiencing. We mindlessly go through the motions of our day. We were to hear the crunch of gravel as we walked. Notice the breeze, and the sun, on our face. Acknowledge the thoughts that came into our head. And the emotions. That they are fleeting. Even the dark ones we think will consume us and never leave, and we are afraid to face. Tears give way to laughter, and so on and so on.
If you know me, you know that getting up at 5:30 in the morning for an optional meditation is a big deal. But I was only at the retreat four days, and was going to get the most of it, gosh darn it. And incorporating more meditation and mindfulness in my life is a personal goal of mine.
As soon as we settled for meditation, the gong strike signaled the start, and all was still…the tears came. I made it to the retreat. I walked the pink sunrise walk to Earth Hall. It was the start of the first full day. And why was I even there? Why had I made so many arrangements, and traveled across the country? Because Kade died. The gong sounded. And I wanted Kade there with me at Mago Retreat Center. Not to be there by myself because of his death.
Later in the morning, our small group’s facilitator, Karla, led our group of around 10 to a tiny island in a picturesque lake. In the middle was a huge weeping willow shading the entire island. There was a small waterfall that I can hear flowing now.
We were to close our eyes. Ground/root ourselves to the earth. Give our grief a form. An object, animal, anything. We were to talk to it. Bring it closer. Send it away.
Mine took the form of a big black rock with a jagged edge. I told my grief to stay away. I asked it why it had to pick me. Why it had to exist. Why there had to be this flip side to love. I wanted to kick it away, but knew that wouldn’t work. I cussed it out.
It was very interesting doing this exercise, and hearing others share the forms of their grief. I think this exercise was to illustrate that when you really stop and face your grief, it loses some of its power. And you gain some of yours when you can engage with it. What do you think?
In the afternoon the whole group walked a large labyrinth. We were to take our time and be mindful of each step, of what we saw, heard, and felt. You may get tired of me saying this, but it, too, was a powerful exercise. I saw teeny purple flowers peeking through the fine gravel. I was alone on the journey, taking it at my own pace—but yet surrounded by so many others. There were countless grief analogies on that labyrinth walk. And in that painting-like setting, it took on a mystical, sacred feel.
At dusk we circumambulated the lake. New term for me! It means to walk around something sacred together. We were to do this at our own pace in silence. It was recommended we go barefoot, to help us be ever-present and mindful. I didn’t, for a silly reason like I had lace-up hiking shoes and didn’t want to be bothered, or something like that. But I’d like to try it sometime.
The walk began with plenty of evening light, and ended with stars and a glowing moon in a blue-black sky. I remember looking up at the moon on my walk through the leaves of a tree. I went off the beaten path, like someone I know would have, and was rewarded with a huge owl gliding low and silent.
After that final group activity of the day, I had some priceless chance experiences that I hope to always remember. Three of us: Karla, Tami, and I, meandered back toward our casitas together in the dark. Karla led us to a higher part of the property that we hadn’t seen yet, to show us the pool and hot tub. Up there she told us about the Sedona vortexes, and that there was one on the premises at the site of an old gnarly twisted juniper tree. Atop the high plateau, the nearly full moon lit everything with blue light. Karla was thrilled to stumble upon two new labyrinths up there. She took off her shoes and immediately started walking them. Tami and I took a trail to find the nearby vortex tree. I think we spotted it, but couldn’t walk up to it at night with so many cacti around.
There was a large formation of puffy clouds and jet contrails encircling the moon. Not just a round-ish shape of clouds over it, but a ring encircling it. It took up half the sky. I wanted to lay on a rock and gaze at it, and at the stars. None of us wanted to leave that quiet wild desert and thrill and mystery of the vortex so close. But tomorrow was another early morning and full day. So back to the casitas the two of us made our way, while Karla finished her moonlit labyrinth walk. Barefoot.
Stay tuned for day three!