Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grief-Fest IV, The Final Frontier

Morning Prayers
Sunday morning I woke early, went to the Shrine Room, where indeed, some people had spent the night. Nobody was currently engaged in grieving, but clearly there were Followers present if they were needed.  The place was beautiful in the morning darkness.  I tip-toed over to a meditation cushion, nodded, Hello, I'm fine, thanks, to a sleeping volunteer who raised his head inquisitively, and sat down to meditate.  This chant filled my head and I sang it quietly under my breath:

Namah Shivaya Gurave
I offer myself to the Light, the Auspicious One,
Who is the True Teacher within and without,
Saccidananda Murtaye
Who assumes the forms of Reality, Consciousness and Bliss,
Nisprapancaya Shantaya
Who is never absent and is full of peace,
Niralambaya Tejase
Independent in existence, the vital essence of illumination.
Gradually the room started to stir to life around me.  Others came to pray or meditate.  I left the Shrine Room and found my way to the Spiral Baths.  Surprisingly-- and as was always the case while I was at Breitenbush-- even though there were maybe a hundred people on the property, there were only two to four other people at any hot spring site I visited.  The atmosphere of "sanctuary and respect" promised in the literature really does hold true.  
The song ringing in my head that morning was Leonard Cohen's:
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in,
That's how the light gets in.
When The Student is Ready...
What is important to tell you about this last day?  About the gestalt of my time at Grief-Fest?  Maybe this:  I felt so oddly, unexpectedly but perfectly prepared for this event:
1)  I have a long history of theatre training, which leaves me unafraid of emotion-- my own and others'.  I understand that although we fear powerful waves of emotion will overtake us, will crush or destroy us, they will not.  Holding them back is exhausting and terrifying, but if we allow them to ride through us, they will shift and move on.  They will shake us, no doubt, but they will not kill us.  The only way to overcome that fear is to ride an emotion through and discover you are still alive when you come out the other end.  Fearlessness does not mean that you do not experience fear, but that you are willing to step into your fear. 
2)  I know an awful lot about grief and suffering.  Suffering is something I have studied for a very long time even before I found the profound guidance and more formal ways of contemplating it offered by Buddhism.  Grief and I became more intimately acquainted during this last bout with cancer when I truly came face-to-face with the absolute, doubtless, undeniable truth of my own mortality.  
3)  My own emotional squirm-fest-roller-coaster (anger-depression-despair-numbness-and-then-a-peep-at-equanimity-compassion-and-joy, rinse and repeat) has become so consciously familiar to me through developing the witness perspective in my yoga practice over the last FOUR YEARS(!!)--  I know this territory:  I am like a pig in shit, an otter in the water.  I don't get disoriented in this terrain.  I know exactly where I am.  I am in groundlessness.  I get it.  

What I Got
Here is my take away from Grief-Fest:  It was a force like a river, it moved everything in its path.  Depending on where you were and what you were made of, it moved you a lot or it moved you a little.  But everyone was moved forward.
I got a new understanding of my ancestors.  Frankly, I had always figured there were some of them sons-n-daughters-a-bitches that I wanted nowhere near anything I held sacred.  Sure, I am willing to call on Shakespeare to help me out, but my grandmother Mummu?  No, thank you.  
Sobonfu's take on this is that while in this "meat-suit" of human life our ancestors may have behaved blindly, but now that they are free to see beyond their small ego-bound human selfs, the dead are still responsible for their actions.  They can now see the error of their ways and it is their job to set things right-- but they must be asked, they must be held accountable by us, the living.  We call on them and hand back to them the responsibility for the grief they caused in their lives on earth.
I cannot tell you how freeing it was to call on Mummu to clean up the nasty-ass mess she left in her wake!  To say to my father, yeah, you climbed some mountains in your day, big boy, and that's a damn good thing 'cause you got some big ol' mountains ahead of you now! You better work! (I admit that part of the fun is just how satisfying it is to go all RuPaul on my Finnish progenitors, but where's the harm in that?)
Because you see these ancestors of ours are not just responsible for the individual scars they left on the lives of those around them, they are also part of the long line of Ancestors responsible collectively for the culture we inherited-- for the way the world is out of all the possible ways the world could be.  So when Sobonfu says we can grieve how our boss at work does not see our gifts, how the world does not make proper use of us, she is not suggesting we blame our boss or the world, but that we grieve our lack of being seen and used, and we hand that grief over -- we do not hold onto it as our own personal tragedy.  I think this is brilliant because it allows us to stay in intention and not jump to the outcome.  And as every actor/philosopher worth their training knows:  You cannot control the outcome, you can only control your intention.
So, when at the Grief Shrine I slipped into judging my neighbors for (in my mind) putting on a show about who grieves the loudest and mistaking volume for authenticity, I could immediately release that judgment and instead grieve myself for my culture that cannot make that distinction, that mistakes the show for the thing itself and thereby robs us all of authenticate experience.  I can grieve for the lack of wisdom in my culture, and for my own propensity to defend myself with judgment of others.  I grieve ignorance and my lack of tolerance for ignorance. And the best part is I can walk away with clean hands, without the burden of righting the wrongs the world resting solely on my shoulders.
This is not to say there is not work to do.  But part of that work is the work of grief, the work that allows us to stay responsive to our  world and not close down, despair or grow permanently numb.  I came away from the weekend feeling buoyant.  Feeling like maybe the skills I have can be of service to this world.  I do not know how yet, but I am trying to stay open to the possibilities that might arise.  

Grief-Fest let me experience first-hand that all grief is the same grief.  It is funny how we have a tendency to measure out our compassion as if there is a limited supply.  We pick and choose who and what we find worthy.  Some people or situations just don't meet our standards.  Grief-Fest blew this idea out of the water.  I held space for Grievers I knew well, and for those I did not know at all, for those whom I would have liked to get to know and for those in whom I was totally uninterested.  I held and rocked and listened to total strangers wail and sob and sniffle and moan.  And I let them do the same for me.  

All grief is the same grief.  The stories differ, the grief is the same.  At one point I looked up from the Griever I was attending and tuned into the grief all around me in that room.  How much grief there is in the world!  Just think:  How much grief there is in this room, and we are only 66 people-- you'd have to multiply that by how many billions to account for all the people on earth?  That is a lot of grief, my friend.  And that is only the grief of human beings.

So, What Happened?
Maybe you want to know how the ritual ends.  There is drumming and chanting.  The shrine room,  particularly the exits and three volunteers are smudged with smoke.  The volunteers pick up the black cloth which was  under the Grief Shrine-- it is attached to two long sturdy sticks and it is now made into one large bundle and carried by out of the room.  The volunteers will bury it.  Once they are gone, the shrines must be disassembled and the room returned to a neutral state before the Buriers return.  

The Grief Shrine is taken apart, the branches and boughs brought to a truck that will recycle them.  Every one reclaims their objects from the shrines.  We are told that we need to soak any candles used at the Grief Shrine for 72 hours in salt water before we use them again.  Our clothes, our hair, our bodies, any cloth used in any shrine, should be washed with salt water.  Before the Buriers return, they must wash in salt water and change into fresh clothing, and when they return it is important that we welcome them back into our village, and thank them for the burden they bore for us all.  The Buriers enter one by one and each home-coming is sweet and heart-felt.

Sobonfu wishes us a safe journey.  She reminds us that our bodies, minds, and spirits will be processing this event for some time to come: Drink plenty of water, get lots of rest, be gentle with yourself.  She encourages us to make space for an altar in our homes.  (No Grief Shrines in the bedroom or the kitchen!)  She thanks us for showing up to do this work, which she assures us is of great benefit every living thing including the planet itself.  When we get home, she tells us, we should ask that who-ever it is that comprises our village, welcome us.  We are back from a great journey and we have been changed in ways we may not even recognize yet.  We deserve to be welcomed back into the village we call home.

A side note of possible interest to those who know my smart-ass nature:  From the time we arrive at Breitenbush, I am immediately of two minds:  Half of me feels completely at home with this kind of hippie-rustic, spiritually-inclined, communal living;  the other half can barely keep from spouting off an endless supply of smarty-pants remarks.  This internal struggle does not quiet down until the real meat, as it were, of the Grief Ritual is underway, when- poof!-- it is gone, leaving nothing but wide openness in its place.  Huh.  Imagine that.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Would I Say?

A dear friend just contacted me to ask if I would talk with a dear friend of her friend about her recent Stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis.   Of course I said yes.  And then I thought, What do I say?

My own first diagnosis was almost 14 years ago.  I did a LOT of research-- and this was pre-internet, y'all!  (Thankfully, I was not alone in this quest and I acknowledge Amy Zenger, first among others, for her efforts on my behalf.)  I amassed a small library of books about breast cancer from various points of view which I have loaned out to people over the years.  But the last time I lent them, I was aware that this information could hardly be considered current.  Breast cancer is a hot topic for research and surely things have changed since I started digging around.

Well, at least I hope so.

One of the not-so-well-publicized facts I discovered back in 1997 was that the number of women who die from breast cancer  each year had not changed much in the past 50 years or so. There were more women diagnosed with breast cancer and more "survivors," but mortality rate, the percentage of women who die from the disease-- even with all our medical advances-- remained about the same.  

Why do some people go through the whole AMA-approved medical tamale-- surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone treatment--  and emerge scott-free, or at least never threatened with breast cancer again, while others have it return again and again?  Maybe it is the nature or tendency of some breast cancer (and it would seem, unfortunately, particularly the kinds that strike women under the age of 40),  to be more virulent, more aggressive, more resilient then others.  It is possible that the less-aggressive, slower-growing breast cancers --which appear more responsive to standard treatment -- might never have been aggressive enough to cause the death of the body they occupy.  At least not before some other disease, accident or mishap beats them to it.

The course of each and every cancer is unique--  as is the life and body of each person who has cancer.  We can make generalizations about how each of these unique entities is likely to behave, but those are educated guesses, not pre-ordined truths.  These educated guesses-- backed up with rigorous and expensive research and trials--  are what treatments are based on.  I won't veer here into how skewed I think our present system is in terms of what kind of research gets funded, and what happens if you follow the money, just a gentle reminder that the whole edifice is built on and then supports a particular view of reality.

Each of us produces cancer cells that our immune system routinely sloughs off as part of its day-to-day job.  Cancer cells, I assume you know, are by definition rogue cells:  rather then doing the job they were created for in the body, they party down on your vital resources (blood, protein, etc), reproduce like proverbially bunnies and refuse to die.   Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this disease that threatens to kill you is caused by your own cells' refusal to die.  Now that's ironic, no?

All this I discovered 14 years ago.  (I still find it arresting that the disease that strikes such a huge bolt of fear of death into modern Americans is a disease whose very malfunction is a refusal to die.  So much so that I am willing to state it twice nearly in a row.)

So.  What would I say to someone now?

1)  The single most important thing that I discovered survivors of all kinds of terminal diseases had in common is that they acted in accordance with their beliefs-- whether they prayed and took beet juice or left everything in the hands of a medical professional they trusted.  If you do not know what your beliefs are, there will never be a better opportunity to find out.

2)  Find some allies.  Reach out to your loved ones, or find comfort in strangers united by this one common thread.  Do whatever feels right to you, but do what you can to not isolate yourself.  The disease will do plenty of that on its own, you don't need to help it.

3) Put together your team.  Do not let anyone, including those wearing white coats, bully you.  This is your body, your life, and your decisions to make.  As exhausting and overwhelming as it can be (get some allies from above to go with you), keep going to doctors until you find one who feels like a good fit.  He and/or she is out there and you deserve no less.  And don't stop there.  Some of the most important members of my team(s) over the years have been naturopaths, Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors, acupuncturists, Tai chi, Qi Gong, Buddhist and yoga teachers, friends and family who volunteered to be my designated healthcare advocates, handle my insurance/medical billing issues, clean my house, walk my dog, make me food, arrange for flowers to show up at my door step on chemo days, and keep me company even when I consistently fell asleep while watching Netflix.

4)  Life is precious.  Life is ephemeral.  If you are alive right now, there is so much more going right in your body than going wrong.  And you are in the perfect place to recognize that there is so much more to you than your body.  None of us knows what tomorrow will bring-- certainty is an illusion.  You are just in a position to see that better than most people.  Everything that lives will die.  Death is not failure and death is not the enemy. Live and Love and Be Here Now.

5)  Some good sources of information online: (hate-the-name-love-the-service-- Y-Me's In Your Shoes Program can hook you up with a trained peer counselor who has been thru exactly what you are facing),  Dr Susan Love's Foundation, there are others, but you will find links to them on these pages.

I wish you well, and it goes without saying that all this is only my opinion, and I am not a doctor, merely a fellow being who has been there and has a story to share.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Grief Fest III

Building The Shrines
We are instructed on how to build two alters on opposite sides of the room.  In each case we start with silent prayer to set our individual and group intentions, then invoke out loud the specific spirit, or power, or force of nature we want to help and guide us in our endeavors.

The Ancestral Shrine is on the east side of the room, and is all in reds. Red cloths, red candles, red, pink, orange flowers, photos of people who have passed, images of our ancestors --members of your personal family, or of any lineage to which you lay claim.  I brought a tiny buddha in a bird's nest, a Ganesh (the Hindu elephant god known as the Remover of Obstacles), a book of Chekhov, a replica of Shakespeare's crest, and a ceramic winged cupid that someone gave me mom in honor of my Valentine's Day birth.

On the west side was the Shrine of Forgiveness, all in blue, with bowls of water, blue, white, purple candles and flowers, images of those people, situations, events you wish to forgive or from which you wish forgiveness, along with any other images or objects which bring to mind the power and the act of forgiveness.  I brought some personal photos, a small statue of K'wan Yin ("She Who hears the Cries of the World," the female embodiment of Avilokiteshvara, the buddhisattva of compassion), a little white rock shaped like a heart.

In the center, against the north wall, we built the Grief Shrine.  Long branches were shaped into an arch, anchored at both ends with twine to a sturdy branch 12- 15 feet long running horizontally against the floor.  This arch was supported with more upright branches, so the resulting shape was kind of like half a tipi or a shallow cave.  Branches were woven thru the vertical supports, the outside was covered with bundles of evergreen boughs secured with twine, and finally blue, black and green cloth was included so there were no visible holes in the container formed by this altar.  There was a large black cloth on the floor inside the shrine.  The opening was lined with white candles.  Once this shrine was dedicated no-one was to pass beyond the boundary formed by this candle line and nothing that passed into that space could be retrieved.  Ever.

It Begins

We were then sent outside to pray.  We had been asked to bring things from home to represent the griefs we wanted to release, and now we were warned again that nothing that we placed on this particular altar would be returned to us-- anything we placed here would be taken away, that was kinda the whole point.  We were told that no photos of living beings should be included, for instance.  If you have a grief you wish to release with a living being you must find something to represent the grief, not the person.  We were encouraged to find objects in nature to represent these griefs-- something prickly for a prickly situation, something slimy for a slimy situation-- and to also include an object dedicated to griefs we were not conscious of or had not named yet.

Each of us, outside and on our own, were to pray, clarify our intentions, find any objects needed, name out loud the grief each object represented and then spit on the object to seal the grief to it.  Then we were to wrap our collection of objects with twine to make it into a single bundle.

When we were all assembled in the Shrine Room again,  we were taught a simple chant, the drumming started and in our small groups of five we approached the Grief Shrine and tossed our bundles gently over the candle line.  Once everyone had done this and returned to the southern half of the room behind the line of drummers, an area now referred to as The Village, individuals were welcome to go to either the Ancestor Shrine or the Forgiveness Shrine for prayer and meditation.  Two people volunteered to be Gate-Keepers standing at east and west corners in front of the Grief Shrine to make sure no one crossed the line and to keep a helpful eye out for the grievers. The Grief Shrine is now open for business.

Whenever any one approched the Grief Shrine they were followed by someone from the Village to support and/or "hold space" for the Griever.  You indicated you were a Follower rather then a Griever by raising a hand as you followed the person forward.  You might then stand behind them, touch them or support them-- checking in with them visually, verbally, intuitively to see what might be helpful or needful and not intrusive.

The Follower's job is not to enter the other person's grief or to comfort or solve or fix or take away their grief.  Your job is to witness, to support the Griever.   All grief energy is directed to the shrine.  Sobonfu's people believe that while grief is toxic for living beings, it is food and fuel for the ancestors.  You honor them with your grief.  Every tear, they say, is a prayer.  In a sense, it does not belong to you, it belongs to them.  We cannot carry it.  It is not our job to do so.

Sobonfu stressed that grieving is not a performance-- it is not for anyone else's benefit, it does not have to look any particular way:  it can be noisy or silent; angry or sad or even jubilant;  it might be still or full of movement-- it is whatever you need it to be to release the grief you are currently holding somewhere in your mind, body, spirit and hand it over to the shrine.  When you are done, you return to The Village, and your Follower will check in with you, maybe give you welcome back embrace --or not, it is up to you-- and then you both carry on with your own journey as members of this Village--singing, dancing, drumming, praying, meditating at one of the shrines.  You can go to the Grief Shrine as often as you like and stay as long as you want.

A Follower might need to be relieved either because their own grief gets triggered, or because they get weary and less able to be fully present in some way.  They then raise their hand with one finger if they need to be replaced as a Follower, or with two fingers if they need to be replaced and need to grieve themselves-- in which case two new Followers come forward to support both Grievers.  The Gate-Keepers also keep an eye out to make sure these transitions happen seamlessly.

This went on all afternoon.  When the dinner bell rang, Sobonfu told us we were welcome to break for dinner, but to be mindful about how we ate -- it is easily used as a distraction to interfere with or prevent grief.  She reminded us once again to drink plenty of water, the more the better, to keep things moving and flowing within us and to help flush out any toxins arising in our bodies connected to the release of grief.  We were due back in an hour.

Some of us choose to stay in the Shrine Room, which was to be open and occupied by volunteers thru dinner and indeed through out the night.  In Sobonfu's village the Grief Ritual goes on non-stop for 72 hours, I believe she said.  But she understands this does not work for westerners-- we need our meal-times and sleep-times, we have a different need for schedules.   When everyone had returned from dinner break, we went back to the ritual. We all had the hang of the thing by now.  We went until 9:30 or 10 p.m. and then broke for the night.

My girls and I went back to our cabin, full of stories.  It was raining and quite cold.  We considered another dark walk to the thermal baths, but opted for a trip to the bath/shower house instead where we could douse our physical beings with some much welcome bio-approved cleanser.  Then we tucked in for the night, the stories dwindled, and we slept.

One More Day To Come...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More on Grief-Fest 2011

Okay.  I said it was mind blowing-- check.  Did I say that I felt cracked open like an egg?  That Breitenbush is an incredible place?  Remote, beautiful, clean, well-run, a kind of temple dedicated to the healing powers of hot water specifically and living close to nature generally?  No?  Well: check, check, and check.

Now, about Sobonfu Some:  I'd never heard of her before, but when I asked my friend Kim Scanlon-- a fantastic singer/teacher in Seattle who has co-taught some grief workshops with a man named Francis Weller (Wisdom Bridge), she said wonderful things about her experience with Sobonfu.  Even with those accolades and the bits of information sent to us before the workshop --("Please bring your grief, a few items from your home altar, some colored cloth, candles, flowers, and some things that you will NOT bring home to represent your loss, sadness, anger, resentment, etc..."  "Bring your own bedding, flashlight, source of caffeine.  Leave all intoxicants and glass containers at home...")-- I had little to no idea what to expect.

Friday we arrived just as it was getting dark-- about 5:30.  Found our way to the office, then our cabin, then the lodge for dinner.  We had a short orientation for us BB newbies, then we met our fellow Ritual Grief Workshop-pers.   Sobonfu--as you can tell if you look up any of her videos on Youtube-- is engaging, fresh and deep.  She told us that her wisdom comes from her village, and that we were to be the village for one another for this weekend.  We went around the large circle (66 of us!) and said our names (to which Sobonfu and every one else replied enthusiastically,"Welcome, Your Name Here!"  It sounds kinda 12 step-y but felt so much more , uh, welcoming then that.  Boy, I hope this whole post doesn''t turn into one of those you-had-to-be-there kind of things...) We each gave a short sentence or two about what brought us to this workshop.  We had everything from "a life unlived," to the suicide of a wife and mother, to a sense of disconnectedness to, yes, me and my Stage Four cancer.

Sobonfu speaks to us about her village's understanding of grief.  (She comes from the  Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso in West Africa.)  She said that while in the west we have the concept of personal grief, her village understands that all grief is communal grief.  Griefs can be simple (something just happened to you, a loss, or hurt, or failure of some kind-- it is fresh and direct, you know the cause) or complex (any grief that has sat unattended or of which you do not know the cause).  All grief is communal grief, because all grief is too heavy for one person to carry alone.  And any untended grief will eventually cause problems for the whole community. Doing the work of grieving is part of being a good citizen-- just like we expect our neighbors to handle their garbage properly so that it does not pollute the whole neighborhood.

Her village sees anger as a form of grief.  They believe that unattended grief manifests in many, many forms:  depression is grief, apathy is grief, despair is grief, numbness is grief, lack of compassion and joy is grief, violence is grief, crime is grief, war is grief.  She says that unreleased grief is toxic.  Eventually a person who does not or cannot grieve will become masochist-- causing themselves pain, even committing suicide.  Left unattended grief can make some become sadistic:  Grief must be expressed, if you cannot find a way to release it yourself, you might need to act it out on another person-- basically experiencing grief by causing pain to somebody who can feel it.

And there are also many categories of grief:

  • Ancestral  Grief-- grief handed down from generations who could not/did not handle grief in their own lifetimes.  This can include grief for the actions our ancestors perpetrated on others as well as things that happened to them.
  • Cultural Grief--  I see this as two-fold:  Grief for the culture or village we do NOT have or have lost, for our gifts that are not seen, appreciated or needed in our culture;  and grief for the culture we DO have, and for the grief it causes now and has caused historically.
  • Planetary Grief--  Again this seems two fold to me: Our grief for the damage we have done here to the earth that sustains us--which is grief for our own actions; and direct grief because we see/hear/experience the pain of the planet itself.
That's a lotta grief, y'all...  And a brand new way of looking at it for me.  

We Grief-ers called it a night. My little band of three searched out our cabin, put on our robes and armed with only one flashlight and a nearly impenetrable map sought some comfort in the chilly darkness.  The route was circuitous  and pitchy-black, but the rewards of a pool of hot mineral water lined with river rocks in a meadow with a view of the stars was well worth it.

The next day, we split into small groups-- many people who arrived together, my band included, choose to split apart, so most groups are made up of five complete strangers.  We have about an hour to tell our individual stories in more detail. My group includes a hospice nurse who was physically abused as a child; a woman who grew up feeling unlovable because she was adopted, who then put her own baby daughter up for adoption 24 years ago; a man whose loss of his father brought him to a grief workshop a year or more ago, but whose life is now spiraling out of control and who is back for another dose: a woman who just lost the very center of her life's warmth and joy-- her mother, who died at 90-something.  And then there is me.  

This morning Sobonfu spoke about how difficult it is for some spirits to come into bodily form here on earth-- to put on what she sometimes refers to as "the meat-suit."  Coming from a place of pure spirit, squeezing into these limited bodies can be painful.  She says you can see this is some babies who seem inconsolable to be here-- they have not yet forgotten what it is like to be in the other world, the world with out the meat-suit.  She also says that at this stage if some trauma happens to the infant, it is easy for the spirit to split from the body.  Sometimes this causes death.  Sometimes it results in the kind of person of whom her village says, "Their spirit walks at some distance from their body."  (Gosh, haven't we all seen people of whom we might say that?)

If this split happens, the child's body and spirit can not inhabit the same space again unless the conditions change, and whatever gave rise to the trauma which threatened the spirit of the child is resolved.  I asked if this could be the arrival of another child, who could then take the trauma on themselves.  Sobonfu said yes, of course.  Something huge shifted gears in my consciousness, and something else fell into place like a hand in glove.

I am wrote out for today.  To Be Continued...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grief-Fest 2011!

Surrendering to your sorrow has the power to heal the deepest of wounds.                                                                                                   -- Sobonfu Somé 

The Grief Ritual Workshop I participated in last weekend with Sobonfu  Some at Breitenbush is reverberating in me like a bell that has been rung.  And you know what they say about UNRINGING  a bell...

I have a lot more to say about this weekend, but if you want to know more right now about what the heck this is, please check out the following article:   Embracing Grief  There you will find links to Sobonfu's own website, as well.

I am so grateful for this experience and for the dear friends and fellow travelers who brought it to my attention, went there with me, and dubbed it "Grief Fest 2011!"  

Friday, February 4, 2011

And All Shall Be Well

"And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well..." 
 Julian of Norwich (c. November 8, 1342 – c. 1416) is thought of as one of the greatest English mystics. She is venerated in the Anglican and Lutheran churches, but has never been canonized, or officially beatified, by the Catholic Church.  This quote is from her major work,  Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love (circa 1393), believed to be the first book written in the English language by a woman.

I have no memory of ever hearing about this woman, but her words have echoed through my mind for as long as I can remember.  I  had no idea of the source --although I vaguely remembered a bit of it being tucked into TS Eliot's Four Quartets, which I read in college.  So, modern seeker that I am, I googled and copied the above info from Wikipedia.

It is one of the earliest prayers I remember ever offering up of my own accord.  I just read that this is what God said to Julian during a vision to she had on what she thought was her death bed when she was thirty years old.  

Most recently it popped into my head while I was being taught some Reiki healing work.  Seems like the perfect mantra for such occasions, or anytime you wish to be with and bless any kind of predicament.  A great reminder that everything changes, and that -- in the largest sense of the word-- all is well.