Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Learning To Trust Grief

Tears do not come easily to me. I'd shed very few since my father died two months ago. He was in such anguish for so long and so wanted to go, I think it felt disloyal to grieve his passing. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready.

Last Sunday I went walking with a friend through the tree covered ravines of Toronto. We were both thinking of our fathers- hers had passed ten years ago on Father's Day. We took tobacco to offer to the earth with our prayers.

I want to tell you that magnificently eloquent words uncovering deep spiritual insights and offering solace for all our losses spilled effortlessly from my lips.

But that's not what happened.

As I held some tobacco and sat on the grass by a towering a balsam fir tree (my father taught me the names of different evergreens) the only words that came over and over like a mantra were, "I hate that you're gone."

And I began to weep.

A breeze rippled through the tops of the trees. . . .and I heard a voice within that said, "I’m here."

And through my tears I murmured, "I know. But I still hate that you're gone."

"Hate" is  not a word I use very often,but it's the word that came. I could feel it in my gut, a knot silently insisting, "No, no, no, no. . . ." Denial and anger all wrapped up in each other over the soft core of a long low wail, an ache that anchored me in the beauty and limitations of being human.

Later I spoke with my eldest son, Brendan. Telling him the words that had come, feeling embarrassed, I said, "It feels so. . . young. . . to hate that he's gone. I'm glad he's free from the suffering, and I know that there is no life without death,and I don't fear what comes next . . . but still I hate that he's not here. It makes no sense."

And Brendan said quietly, "It makes sense to me, mom."

And again I started to cry. Brendan's response allowed me to get that grief is just what it is, and all our ideas and beliefs, all our experience of something larger holding us, and all our understanding of the inevitable cycle of death and birth . . . .well, they may give us some comfort, but they do not dull the sharp edge of the pain that comes when we lose someone we love.

I'm learning to trust the grief, to trust it will come at the right time, in the form that will keep me connected to what is true within me. As Anne Lamott once wrote, "The only way through grief is by grieving."

I am so deeply grateful for all of the people who shared their stories of loss on last Friday's Facebook post, all those who sent me cards and gifts (to my surprise) after my father died. The soft hand-knit shawl was like getting a hug in the mail. This is one of the many aspects of what it means to be part of the human family- we all suffer loss, and move through grief in our own way. How grateful I am to feel held on so many levels, to be able to feel the loss, to be able to let the tears come.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015 (Photo from Karen Davis at I love the mix of darkness and light in this one.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

My Dad's Passing

Have felt a deepening sadness as the week progressed. Today, it dawned on me: this Sunday is Father’s Day. It will be two months since my father died. Perhaps because there was so much relief in his release from suffering (he had advanced Alzheimer’s,) it has taken awhile for grief to visit. Or perhaps it is just the natural process of the time required to take in that someone we have known and loved our entire lives is no longer on the planet.

I want to share a story of my father’s passing that brings me great comfort.

In the shamanic tradition in which I am trained I have been taught to accompany and assist those who are dying to leave this realm and move on to what comes next. Often I ask family members if there are loved ones who have already passed so I can call on their spirits to assist the person who is dying.

Several times, in the container of sacred ceremony, I attempted to do this for my father, but he did not seem comforted by the possibility of seeing or being guided by those I knew he had loved.

Forty-eight hours before my father died, although I’d seen him the week before, I had the overwhelming desire to undertake the five hours of driving to see him again. It was clear when I arrived that he was in the process of leaving, lying in bed and moving in and out of the crack between the worlds. I stroked his face and spoke to him softly. I sat at his bedside and used what I know to leave my body and journey out with him into that inbetween place we call the dream.

What I saw surprised me: there were two dogs waiting for my father. I laughed out loud- it made perfect sense. My father was a deeply embodied, instinctually-guided man. He trusted animals far more than he trusted human beings. Understandable really – his childhood had been brutally violent. Growing up, his closest companion had been a collie, a dog he called Lassie. The only time I ever saw my father cry uncontrollably was when Lassie was killed by a car on the highway in front of my grandmother’s house.

In the waking dream I focused on the collie, told my father that she would help him across. He nodded and eagerly went with the dog. Excited to see this old trusted friend of my father’s, I didn’t pay much attention to the other dog that followed along

Less than forty-eight hours later, my father passed away. I was comforted to think that his journey may have been less fearful with his spirit companion, Lassie.

And then someone told me that not that long before my father died, the dog he had had for the last 18 years, Paddy, had also died. That was, of course, the second dog in the dream. In the early years of Dad's Alzheimer’s Paddy had been my father’s constant companion as he’d lost the ability to converse with other human beings.

I have very few beliefs about death. I step into the shamanic tradition and work with its tools when someone is dying because it seems to offer comfort and ease the passing. I don’t know what happens after we die- and honestly, I’m okay with not knowing. But I do have a strong sense that whatever happens. . . . . it’s okay, truly not something to fear. And I delight in the sense that my father was accompanied by the spirit of two being he deeply trusted and loved, two beings that had given him much comfort in his life.

So on this Father’s Day I smile to think of my Dad walking with his two canine companions to whatever comes next.

I miss you Dad. I love you.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What Ripples Out

What ripples out from us
Is what lives within us.
I stop trying to manipulate my breath
Stop hoping to get it “right”
Letting the breath be natural, gentle
Feeling how it calms the nervous system
Quiets the mind, nourishes the body
Unhooks me from overstimulation
Immobility is not what it’s about
Moving from this centre I am guided to act
Out of love for my small life
And all that is alive
Let’s try it together now:
For just one inhale, one exhale
Let the breath be gentle
Let the nervous system quiet
Allow action to arise from this center of being.
What ripples out from here
Is what feeds the soul of the world
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer
(Inspired in part by this beautiful photo- another one from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


New moon today: A sliver of hope
I want to learn to truly receive.
I was trained for giving.
I want to receive the way the sun-parched earth
Allows itself to be saturated by early morning rain,
The way a summer kiss, slow and deep,
Ignites my body with liquid fire,
Makes my back arch and my blood moan.
Everyday the Beloved offers all that I need.
I want to learn to truly receive.
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (Photo from Karen Davis Open Door Dreaming)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Grace and Gravity

Every morning
Swimming up out of dreams
I surrender to being here
I let go into gravity
Into the way the sweet earth pulls me to her
Head, hip, arm, leg . . . . with each exhale I drop further
Into cool white sheets, firm mattress, bedframe, 
floor, walls, earth, earth, earth. . . .
It takes practice
To give up habitual holding on, holding in, holding back
Every morning I open myself
And invite grace to have its way with me
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (Deep thanks to Karen Davis for her wonderful sunrise photo at Open Door Dreaming)

Thursday, June 11, 2015


She stopped offering excuses, justifications, explanations.
She said yes or no with her whole being,
Letting her heart and gut guide her
Knowing neither were infallible
Claiming her right to change her choice 
When new information- inner or outer- arose.
There were consequences.
There always are.
She let herself learn, flourish,
Blaze like the sun,
And rest in the sweet, cool darkness.
She offered what she could to her people,
She followed the blood red thread of her own life.
(Deep thanks for this photo of the blazing morning sun to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Chance To Begin Again

This morning I sat on my small balcony, in the light of the rising sun to do my practices of meditation,contemplation and prayer. The freshness of the morning reminds me of how I am given the opportunity to begin again and again with my intention to be here fully, to get out of my own way (a real challenge that one, particularly when anxiety arises, and sometimes it does) and experience directly that which fills and holds us with a tenderness beyond comprehension.

The phrase, "self-emptying" arises and I feel how letting go of the need to preserve me, my, mine in every moment (it's really the tightening around this that causes difficulties- emptying is not about neglecting care for this life) can crowd out this awareness. I feel so clear. . .. so spacious and calm. . .

And then a neighbour powers up the electric saw and begins cutting tiles. and I feel my whole being recoil.

I laugh out loud at how easy it is to lose momentary equanimity and get snarly about the other who is, without even knowing it, effecting Me, My quiet, and the awareness I want to be Mine. Ah, a good dose of humility in the morning mix. The laughter dissolves reactivity, and I practice sitting in stillness accompanied by the music of the power saw another is using to create home for himself and his family.

I begin again. ~Oriah

(Another spectacular morning photo from Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming​.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


A feeling of homecoming,
Of stepping over the threshold, 
Out of the chilled darkness of night
Into a circle of soft warm light.
How long has she been out-of-touch, 
Caught up in doing what it seemed needed to be done?
Too busy to notice
How she longed for her own company.
Surprised and delighted now
She sits in silence, smiling
As the darkness inside and out
Yields to the growing light.
~ Oriah

(Photo from Karen Davis Open Door Dreaming)