This winter break I had the opportunity to sit on a beach. It was too windy to do most water activities, so sitting on the beach it was. Then I caught the crud that’s going around…the beach was a great place to be while my lungs cleared.

The truth is, I have not had the opportunity to slow down in quite some time. Every break has been taking care of family members. Every break has been filled with tough decisions. Every break has brought me further and further from myself.

At the sea there are often warnings for a strong undertow. The ocean looks the same, but there is a current that will quickly pull a person under and take them out to sea. It is a mighty force that cannot be readily seen from shore.

2018 pulled me out to sea. It was unnoticeable even to me until I sat on the beach for a week in stillness. I knew the year would be tough – I knew my father would die at some point in the year. I shored up my mindfulness practices. I galvanized what I know of grief (too much), and I spent as much time with him as I could.

But once he was gone, the undertow pulled me out. It was so subtle I didn’t even notice it. I was so busy just surviving: filling myself with “meaningful” things at work, creating time spent with others, using physicality to work the pain and grief through my body.

But now I know. All of this was the undertow – I have been pulled out to sea. I have been unmoored and now must begin the long swim back to shore.

The swim for me will involve taking stock of what is really necessary, letting go of some things, some people. It will involve tapping back in to my own vitality and self study to gain better clarity about my dharma so I can make more integrated decisions about what fills my cup. And most importantly, it will involve spending lots of time with my family.

Tar Balls

Grief in my body feels like black sludge that bubbles and expands in my intestines. I feel it most in that area between the solar plexus and my pubic bone. It swells, it bubbles, it stinks and it is thick like tar.

It is like those oil balls that would come up the coast in the Gulf when the Deepwater Horizon blew up off the coast of Louisiana back in 2010. Those oil balls that no one knew what to do about because there was nothing that would dissipate them. Detergent would ruin the flora and fauna, and to leave them would for sure cause more destruction to the natural habitat.

This is what grief feels like in my body. The stench then moves to my brain and creates what my friend has termed “grief brain”. It sucks.

But as cheesy and new age-y as I’m about to sound, I’m going to say it any way. Feeling grief in the body is a really important part of the healing process. I am not sure I realized this until my latest bout with grief. My daughter and I were sitting last weekend, crying, and working at just feeling the process. She asked me what it felt like for me on the inside. She told me hers just feels like a big dark hole that she can’t fill.

The next day in my yoga class I could really feel my black tar start to move. It became active as I focused on that part of my body, on that chakra center. I felt the energy begin to swirl. I felt lighter at the end of class as I usually do after yoga, but something had shifted. In my body I felt that it was going to be okay. I felt the big tar ball begin to get thinner.

The next day my lungs were a little congested. But I knew why. It is the grief and the despair working its way out. It is the knowledge that while I miss Brother Grandad more than I can express – everything is going to be okay.