Sam has been suffering greatly from the passing of his beloved wife Jane.
He tells me he cries often when thinking of her. It has been several months since her death and, in truth, none of us can possibly know how we will react under similar circumstances. Time it is said is always a healer and in Sam's case I believe that time will be helpful to him. But there are many whose feelings of loss don't diminish over time. Such emotions never disappear but can they be "healed" in a manner which allows life to go on?
I ask myself, "is it possible to facilitate Sam's bereavement process, his healing, through the use of mindfulness meditation?"
In this form of meditation our attention is drawn to the breath entering and exiting our nostrils. But there is an underlying metaphysical assumption based on Buddhist teaching which is extremely useful here—our higher spiritual Self is the witness, the observer of our thoughts and feelings.
This is clearly an unusual concept for most of us to grasp. We live in our minds. We have no experience distinct from our thoughts and feelings.
But the mindfulness meditation offers us a fascinating insight into the way the mind can work. We focus attention on the breath and then allow the intrusion of thoughts /feelings (inevitable for us all) to float into consciousness.
When we realize that we are thinking/feeling and not paying attention to our breath, we gently return to the breath. We must be careful not to get frustrated or annoyed with our inability to stay focused on the breath. How difficult could that be? Very!
In this new concept our mind is to be conceived of as clear and without content. It is like a cloudless blue sky. Thoughts slip across our mind like white puffs of clouds. We notice them. We do not judge them. We acknowledge their presence and quickly bring our attention back to our breath.
Feelings follow thoughts. Depending upon the thought itself the emotional content might be so minimal we would deny there is any emotional element whatsoever. But this is not the case. For instance if we think about where we are going to eat dinner, there might be very little emotional substance to it–unless we were invited to a relative's home we find quite annoying . Not so simple. Consider the intensity of feelings that flood our minds with the thought of a deceased loved one.
The Buddhist concept of non attachment has some relevance here. We learn to dissociate the thought from its emotional content. We are less attached to the feeling, never detached. This is not an attempt to blunt emotion, deny our feelings, suppress them or bury them. We need to accept a different concept of mind, of who we are. We have thoughts and emotions, we are not them.
Will mindfulness meditation allow Sam to process his thoughts of his wife in a healing way? Will the strong emotions that can incapacitate him diminish as he begins to see himself as the witness of his thoughts and feelings?
I don't have the answer at this point. I am about to introduce this concept to him. I am not sure he will even try. But I hope he will.
It may provide us both with a tool for healing.