In a letter of reference, a former teacher wrote that “at times he is too emotional.” Can’t be sure what was meant by that, nor what the anonymous reader will make of it. I do know that I react with emotion to everyday events. That’s why I do so well when listening to someone’s personal story, why I can empathise and listen from the heart. At other times, being ’emotional’ can cloud my judgment and interfere with taking things in stride. In terms of Zen practice, I’m called to welcome ‘what is’ and see what it can teach me. But I resist such welcoming as if something else must come first …
It’s been three weeks since my hospice job ended and I continue to feel its absence. “Loss is the absence of something we were once attached to,” writes Stephen Levine,”grief is the rope burns left behind, when that which is held is pulled beyond our grasp.” Days go by as if in a fog. My eating habits have gotten worse, my sleeping pattern erratic. I do a bit of this and some of that. I am adrift in a sea of not-knowing. What can I hold on to, laments the voice within. Throughout the spiritual literature, and certainly in Buddhism, we’re told that clinging leads to suffering, holding on generates pain, dis-ease, and unhappiness.
Before I can loosen my grip on what used to be and move to learning from the experience (and similar lofty aims) I need to extend compassion to my/self. In attending to our sorrow, Levine says, “we must first cultivate mercy for ourselves.”
source: Levine, S. (2005). Unattended sorrow: recovering from loss and reviving the heart. Rodale, p. 15.