These days I often find myself called up and pulled out of the workaday world, suddenly shaken from the simplicity and superficiality of going about my regular chores or watching TV or driving down the road. From thinking about what to add to my grocery list or whether I should take the interstate or a side street to get to my destination, I will suddenly be caught up in a whirlwind that I can neither resist nor direct. The intense emotion that the whirlwind sets off will be overwhelming, and something that is commonly held in abeyance in the very depths of my being will rush out and expand up and cover everything I know. But whether this whirlwind will carry me to a bright recognition of the oneness and wonder of all that is or to the dark of a fathomless grief is always the question.
I know this fathomless grief well. I know the sorrow of walking through the world without the one person who helped me feel steady and whole. I know the anguish of realizing that if I could see inside all the houses in my own neighborhood I would see abuse and isolation and despair. I know the agony of not being able to escape from the sense that the world holds more brokenness than beauty, more hurting than healing. I have lived inside this grief for days and weeks on end, and been unable to escape its dark clutches. I have even welcomed it, and made it my friend, and recognized that I can no more run away from it than I can leave behind my arms or legs. I don't live within it every minute now, but at the oddest moments it still claims its right to hold me.
I felt the deluge of this grief yesterday as I lay in the deep relaxation pose sivasana in a yoga class. From the calm and peace of enjoying my well-won rest, I was suddenly shot through with sorrow, wrenching heartache echoing through my body. I could only lay there with it, allowing it be, waiting for it to pass. It did not leave as quickly as it came on; it never does.
This sense of being transfixed by something welling up from the center of my being - it comes both in this grief and in that unitive experience where the boundaries of self and other disappear. Are they related? Has the long-time experience of one been a preparation for the other? Maybe the overwhelming sorrow is a clearing out and burning away of fear and longing; maybe I will plunge into the fathomless grief until I truly understand that it is not fathomless, that beneath and beyond it lies the oneness I have also come to know. Maybe both are grace pouring down upon me, neither warranted nor attained, and I simply need to accept them.