Tuesday, June 9, 2015


I received an email from my friend Ken McLeod, whose books I have reviewed both here, in The Buddha Diaries and, some years ago, for the Los Angeles Times; and who has been for me personally the source of much wisdom over the years.  You'll find news of his activities and an archive of his writing at his website, Unfettered Mind.

Regarding my sister's death and the confusion of feelings that surround it, he wrote this:
Grief comes in waves, and the pain of bereavement is the unravelling of the web of connection that builds up in close relationships and long-term relationships. From a practice perspective, this is completely natural and one lets the feelings come and go (again like waves). In this way, our whole organism gradually adjusts to what has happened. Ancient cultures seemed to understand this more clearly than our culture does and created rituals that supported the person in their bereavement. I hope you have such support available to you.
I have felt those waves.  I thought that I was past the weepy stage, and was surprised a couple of days ago, sitting with a friend in our living room, when it came over me again.  But as time moves on, the mind becomes distracted with other things and life, as they say, goes on.

Ken's description of the pain of bereavement speaks to me in a very physical way, though what he describes as an "unravelling" of the web of connection feels to me more like a wrenching, a tearing, a ripping apart of the fabric of experience.  And I also feel, in a physical way, the slow process of adjustment as the organism re-establishes its equilibrium.  I find it comforting to know that my years of meditation practice have brought me to a place where I am able to stand aside, at moments, and watch the process happening.  It puts me in mind of another phrase of Ken's that I keep coming back to: "resting in attention."

If you've followed my entries in The Buddha Diaries since Flora died, you'll know about the image of a beautiful, radiant baby boy that first came to me in meditation as I reflected on the idea of her transition from life to death--or to some new adventure in some different form.  That baby boy has kept returning, and keeps occupying more and more of the space that I devote to this process every day.

If you've been following The Buddha Diaries for a longer period, you'll also know that I have struggled with the notion of rebirth.  The skeptical mind that was educated into me resists the idea of life after death.  Is it wishful thinking, now, to believe that the baby boy who insists on visiting me is in fact the persistence of some spiritual part of my sister--the part she worked on so assiduously in her latter years?  Could it be that he's out there, somewhere in the world, preparing to become the healer and the teacher that revealed itself only in glimpses in her former life?

I love the quote from the poet Rumi that I found on the Unfettered Mind website this morning: "Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment."

1 comment:

kate sidwell said...

Peter I am so sorry I had not had a moment to read this. I wish anything you didn't have to go through this pain. though I know it is part of the process. I am sending compassion and love your way from Cape Cod. I sent you an email hopefully you got it.
I think these times exhaust our human resources to a critical point. It is so poignant to read all you have been through and how it looks looking back
This human thing with its constant threat of deep loss is hard to wrap your mind around. I think I can only observe myself and say oh my god this is a deep pain.
The only refuse is that it makes us more aware of how loved we are, how fragile life is and our precious time is. I hope you find the strength for it all, our thoughts and prayers are with you. Give Ellie our love and we will envision a time in the future when we can all sit in the garden and enjoy the birds, the flowers and friendship. Travel safe and we will be thinking of you. I hope my email comes through to you. take care and love from Cape Cod Kate and Steve