Non-duality and Grief


"The darker the night, the brighter the stars. The deeper the grief the closer to God." --Dostoyevsky

With so much suffering in the world, exploring non-duality seems like a topic to consider, particularly as it relates to grieving.


It feels impossible to turn away from the humanitarian disaster continuing to unfold in Ukraine. I find the raw horror and injustice to be overwhelming at times. The escalation of gun violence and general global unrest has invited a collective sense of loss; even the planet seems to be grieving.


Rupert Spira, spiritual writer describes non-duality as the recognition that underlying the multiplicity and diversity of experience there is a single, infinite and indivisible reality, whose nature is pure consciousness, from which all objects and selves derive their apparently independent existence.


At first glance, you might think that non-duality as it relates to grief is cold or unfeeling; that if you learn to look the other way things will be fine. Most in the west have been conditioned to believe that negative emotions are best to be avoided simply by not feeling them. Non-duality means that grief can be held in a greater embrace.


In my experience, loss and grief can serve as a catalyst to the realization of impermanence and the groundless nature of reality. The barrier to this realization is often fear of the process. (What happens if I feel pain?) Denial of feelings is often an important part of the journey but can stall the pathway to growth.


The recognition that grief can be held with love allows integration of the self; inviting wholeness and coherence.


It's human nature to fear the grieving process. Many addictions and psychological disorders are the result of unprocessed grief. We have very little training or cultural tolerance for vulnerability which may be why we find ourselves stuck in one of the five stages of grief, (denial, anger, bargaining, depression) unable to fully integrate loss with the last stage of acceptance.


Tara Brach, author, psychologist and teacher says that we spend a lot of time in vulnerability management. "When we don't face our grief and sorrow we split off from our aliveness and go into trance."


From a non-dual perspective, grief is not bad or good. It simply arises. In his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow, psychotherapist Francis Weller invites us to become an apprentice to sorrow. As we become intimate with the nature of grief and non-duality the soul deepens. He writes, "The work...is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them."


Together we can practice of holding grief with love as we face this challenging time.


"The best way out is always through." --Robert Frost

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