All day long I’ve kept a low profile. When no-one showed up for morning meditation, I sat just long enough for the incense to burn (about half an hour) before going back to bed, fully clothed, to sleep for an hour. Found an email from someone in another city who I’ve been accompanying towards death; his platelet count is down, fear is up — nothing I can do about it. A co-worker shared pain about marital tension– wish I could make it go away.
As they day unfolds I give a name to this mind state: sadness. Naming things is the minds way of trying to pin down that which defies articulation. It’s problematic in that it leads to mind-games: if “sad,” then “sad about what?” or “why sad?” and off goes the mind looking for causes and explanations. How about “just sad” and admit that I don’t know why. But sad is the word that came up to describe a weight on the chest, a crowding my heart space, and a light pressure below and behind my eyes.
To kickstart the exploration, I check the etymology of the word: from Latin for sufficient and Sanskrit for insatiable to mean “heavy” and “weary” to “unhappy;” also, according to the dictionary, “steadfast,” “serious,” and “grave.” Do any of these words ring a bell? Weary and grave, yes; unhappy less so.
Lying on the floor, I focus on heaviness in the chest and teariness behind the eyes: away from thinking mind. Relying on the body’s ability to know, I dive into the pool of not-knowing. Throat restricted, limbs heavy, tears. Still no explanation per se, but a gradual lifting of heaviness and loneliness — as the body (the soul?) is finally being heard and cared for.
So it is when I’m with someone who’s “tired of dying” or another whose heart is aching and I realize that there’s nothing I can to do to ameliorate their pain … except to offer whole-hearted attending and non-judging listening.