Have you ever experienced a loss so devastating that it felt as if you’d lost your very self?
I’ve never met anyone of a certain age who hasn’t.
Whether it’s the end of a relationship, a health crisis, the loss of a job or the death of a loved one, everyone experiences traumatic loss and the grief that follows it, eventually.
Unfortunately, I know enough about the subject from experience to be somewhat of an expert. In fact, I could probably write a book entitled, “When the Worst Case Scenario Happens,” or the catchier and more succinct, “Smithereens.”
Perhaps you can tell that some time has elapsed since these events occurred, creating enough emotional distance for me to reflect on them with thoughtfulness and even levity.
It wasn’t always this way.
Grief has its own timetable and releases its hold on us in due course, and not before. There is no pill for heartsickness.
It may surprise us, as practitioners of a spiritual discipline, that we should be so susceptible to sorrow. We might think that our years of meditation and prayer have insulated us from its effects; that we should be the picture of serenity and non-attachment in every circumstance.
After all, a true yogi should see divinity in everything and always be joyful. Right?
Yes and no.
A yogi sees divinity in everything, yes. And while the constitutional nature of soul is ananda (bliss), the mind may not always concur.
As long as we remain in the material world, there will be janma-mrityu-jara-vyadhi, –birth, death, old age and disease, to which even saints are vulnerable.
Grief, then, is simply a disease of the subtle body. It results from perceived separation from an object of our affection, despite the fact that we are never truly separated.
We may know this. Well.
But still, we weep.
Even after hearing Krishna himself speak Bhagavad-gita, in person, the great Arjuna broke down in tears when his son was killed on the same battlefield, only days later.
What makes us think, then, that we are immune?
The difference is simply that a yogi knows, while grieving, that he is not his grief.
It, too, shall pass like the appearance and disappearance of the winter and summer seasons –sitosna-sukha-dukha-dah (Bg 2.14).
So he watches the rain fall and waits patiently for the clouds to part.