Archive | February, 2018

Finding the Courage to Grieve (Workshop – May 5)

Posted on 14 February 2018 by Douglas Merrow

Tips for Facing the Challenges of Loss

by Deborah Rodney

Grief is a part of life. It can come like a thunderbolt or we can stumble into it in a hundred different ways. It accompanies the losses of illness and aging. It collides with heartbreaking world events  and our neighbor’s burdens. If we’re not grieving, we’re not paying attention.

Grief is a traveling companion. Though unwelcome, it is important to acknowledge her because, denied or ignored, grief can land in the body or the psyche as illness and debility. She can be a formidable enemy, so it’s safer to greet grief as a friend who takes us to a deep intimacy with life.

In order to face grief with courage, it’s important to confidently know that beauty, tranquility, delight and love are also companions. Keeping them close can help us land safely when we fall.

In our culture, resilience isn’t easy because grieving is a lonely struggle. In many indigenous cultures, the tribe holds part of every member’s grief. It is accompanied by ranting, keening, tearing hair and slashing clothes. For us, it is often faced alone in bed with blankets over our heads. Often during funerals, a family is sequestered away so their grief can be held privately. Even the ritual of a ‘life celebration’ can deny the expression of ceremonial grief.

Finding the courage to grieve doesn’t happen naturally or because some of us are stronger than others. It doesn’t often come with the support of community or even friends. Most people don’t know how to hold grief by being a witness. Their impulse is to fix it, make it somehow more comfortable and hurry it to an end. Grief doesn’t come to a resolution. It accompanies life.

So how do we make friends with grief? Most of us fear grief because we don’t know how to find resilience. Yet, we can create reliable safety nets so we can go deeper and deeper into our grief with the confidence that we will not get lost in it. These are some practices for moving grief into resilience:

Trust Beauty and Sensuality
Choose a symbolic touchstone; something of beauty that will remind you that life has many facets and that you can feel joy and awe again. Keep it nearby. Let it call you up from the murky depths of your grief. And find an easily accessible place that nurtures you. It can be a museum or art gallery, a park, a forest or pond. It can be your backyard garden. When you’ve cried your fill, coax yourself out into a place you love. Let its beauty wash over you. No matter what happens on the planet, beauty remains steady.

Hold Your Grief
Choose those among your friends who can hold your grief without trying to fix it. Notice who listens and who can love you no matter what. Find someone who can hold you while you cry and rage. Practice holding other’s grief. Learn to listen deeply without attachment to a result.

See the Magic
Attune yourself to the ‘magic’ around you. There’s a lot going on under the surface of life. Develop your intuition. Learn to recognize synchronicity. Pay attention to the messages in your dreams. They show you that there is some kind of mysterious symmetry in a world that feels chaotic and frightening.

Practice Feeling Loved
Love yourself no matter what. You are a spiritual being having human experiences. Recognize that love is a force nudging you into wholeness and giving you the strength to grieve and find resilience. Feeling loved will give you courage.

Begin the Healing 
Find and welcome healing support that nourishes you. Some healing practices like reiki, yoga and acupuncture offer you strength without judgement. Don’t wait until you are grieving to find them. Cultivate these resources so they are there when you are ready to move from grief to resilience, or from resilience back into grief. Welcome Tenderness It’s okay to be tender. Find space in your
busy and stressful life for tenderness and for you to practice tenderness with others.

Don’t Push Grief Away
Give it space and time. Feel it deeply. Take time to cry and rage. Know that grief is only part of the experience of life and that beauty, awe, hope and love will beckon you toward resilience if you
pay attention.

Find Balance
Leap into grief with courage, knowing that you can also leap into beauty and the sensuality of living. Welcome all life’s experiences with balance. Balance grief and beauty. Fear and safety. Tenderness and boldness. Heartbreak is a part of life. It is possible to hold a little grief all the time. Just like you can hold a little beauty all the time.

Grief and Resilience Workshop – May 5

An important step in developing a healthy relationship with grief so it doesn’t get stuck somewhere in our bodies and psyches is to develop practices that support us. In a workshop developed by Deborah Rodney, participants will learn simple techniques for finding resilience. Using her book of poetry, Promise To Kiss Me, and honing the skills of emotional literacy, visualization,
active imagination and compassion, participants will take away an array of practical exercises and reminders that provide safety nets for the exploration of a new relationship with grief.

“Deborah’s themes and poetry gave new shape to our shared reflections on both personal and collective grief, highlighting the tools of resilience we all need.” ~Sophia

“This workshop provided a safe and open forum for thinking about grief in personal ways and, more broadly, as an essential and natural part of the human condition.” ~Margaret

The next workshop will be held on Saturday, May 5 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Flanders House (2926 NE Flanders Street, Portland). $40-$50 sliding scale. If a money exchange is challenging, a trade can be negotiated. Email for more information and to register. 

Deborah Rodney is a writer, living in Portland, Oregon. She has worked as a Communications Specialist on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, has been a Reiki Master for 26 years and studied Non-violent Communication in the early 80s with Marshall Rosenberg and others. Connect with Deborah at


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Meditation That Works

Posted on 12 February 2018 by Douglas Merrow

Tips for Finding the Right Practice
by April Thompson

More Americans than ever before are seeking the benefits of meditation, which notably improves mental, physical and spiritual health. Choosing from its many styles and traditions can be daunting for a new meditator, as is figuring out how to incorporate such a practice into a busy life.

Universal Appeal
“Meditation is for people of all spiritual backgrounds. As a tool to develop awareness, it can enhance what you already believe and practice,” assures Diana Lang, the Los Angeles author of Opening to Meditation: A Gentle, Guided Approach and a spiritual counselor who has taught meditation for 37 years. For Jackie Trottmann, a Christian author from St. Louis, Missouri, there is no contradiction between a meditation practice and her faith; rather, they complement one another. For her, “Prayer is like talking to God, whereas meditation is listening to God. Before I came to meditation, I had been doing all the talking.” She came to meditation during a trying period working in sales and marketing. “When a friend gave me a meditation CD, I popped it in after a stressful conference call and felt instantly calmed. Ten years later, meditation has gone beyond quieting the mind; it’s sunk into my heart and spirit,” says Trottmann, who went on to publish her own CDs at “I came to meditation tired of habitual suffering and stress, and wanting to be happier,” says Bill Scheinman, a coach in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which he refers to as “mindfulness practice without the Buddhist jargon.” The Oakland, California, instructor has taught mindfulness in settings ranging from corporations to prisons, drawing from a range of meditative disciplines and 23 years of intensive practice.

Begin Modestly
“Millions are seeking more mindfulness through meditation, but don’t know how to go about it,” says Sean Fargo, a Berkeley, California, meditation instructor and former Buddhist monk. “The key is to take baby steps, like going to the gym for the first time. Start by practicing a few minutes a day; just pay attention to something such as the sensations of breathing, without judgment.” “Having taught meditation to tens of thousands of people, I would say the most common issue is that beginning meditators don’t think they’re doing it right. It’s important not to judge yourself or have loaded expectations about the experience,” notes Lang. She suggests starting wherever we are right now, adding, “Whatever book, class or teacher you first stumble upon is a clue.” But that doesn’t call for rigidly adhering to a particular type of meditation forever.

Assess Benefits
“Shop around and try different things, but at some point, you will begin to discover what works for you,” advises Scheinman. In trying to decide which meditation practice is right for us, “Go with what feels juicy,” says Fargo, who founded, offering 1,500 free mindfulness meditations, worksheets and talks. “You’re more likely to do what feels alive and enlivening.” The act of meditating can be uncomfortable, but the challenges are part of its power. Scheinman remarks. “If you establish a daily practice, eventually, you will become more
clear-headed, kinder and happier. That’s how you know your practice is working—not how you feel during meditation itself.” Consistency is key. It’s not effective to only meditate when you
feel good, he says.

Overview of Options
Mindfulness practices go by many names, from vipassana to MBSR, and can be done sitting or walking, but all are focused on cultivating moment-to-moment awareness. “Mindfulness is about being aware: deliberately paying attention to body sensations, thoughts and emotions. Focused attention is on the body, heart and mind,” explains Scheinman. Guided visualization differs from most forms of meditation in that the meditator is intentionally creating a mental image, typically one of a peaceful, beautiful place. Typically, the goal of a guided visualization is deep relaxation and stress reduction. Mantra meditations involve continuous repetition of a word, phrase or sound, drawing spiritual power from the sound’s vibration, as well as its meaning. Many mantras are uttered in a tradition’s native language, such as shanti, meaning peace in Sanskrit. Teachers like Lang prefer to use mantras in English that meditators can more easily grasp, such as, “Love is the way.”

Breathing meditation.
Meditation experts say our everpresent breath is a sound foundation for a meditation practice, as well as an easy place to start. “Tapping into the power of our breath is vital; it cleanses our system,” says Trottmann.

Connect with April Thompson, in Washington, D.C., at

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