Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why Do I Grieve?

Grief is a part of the human experience, some times more so than others. Grief can take many forms. It can be long, drawn out, sudden, anticipatory, shared, lifelong . . . Grief is painful, and we don't like it. It is also one of the most powerful ways I know to have one's heart opening wide. Past the anger, the path is clear for healing tears to melt into love. 

These past few weeks have presented me with an opportunity to experience grief in its many forms. And I got to reflect on the nature of grief, and  'why do I grieve? why do we grieve?'

Often, I think of the Buddha's admonition to Ananda to not grieve. I take it as an invitation, not to not feel the grief, but to uproot it with mindfulness, investigation, and wisdom. Grief is an ultimate protest from the heart about the inevitability of impermanence, and death, and separation. Our mind cannot reconcile with the truth of the fourth remembrance, uttered by the Buddha during his last moments of life, that 'All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.' 

Grief is also an attempt to work through the necessary letting go of what can no longer be had. The finality of death is our most profound teacher. It is there around us at all times. Not a day goes by without the news of some kind of death touching us in some ways. If we listen, we can become more reconciled with the nature of life that can be taken away at any moment. 

Last, grief is also linked with our conventional way of experiencing the self as a thought out, linear construct. If we are truly present and not identified with solid 'I' or 'mine' thoughts, grief disappears:

Wrong view of self is the root of all pain, grief, and lamentation. 
~ Ayya Khema, in Be an Island ~


  1. Can it be a simple as craving a feeling of aliveness? We find grief gives a feeling that is powerful enough to feel like a shot of espresso. Equanimity can feel bland when compared.

  2. Not so sure. I will take equanimity over grief, any time . . . Rather, I see grief as a manifestation of ultimate clinging and delusion about reality of constructed self.