"Nothing is more natural than grief, no emotion more common to our daily experience.
It's an innate response to loss in a world where everything is impermanent."
-- Stephen Levine, Unattended Sorrow
"The problem, therefore, lies not with our pain for the world, but in our repression of it."
-- Joanna Macy, Coming Back to Life
Five years ago, on January 17, 2016. poet, author, and Spiritual Teacher, Stephen Levine died at home after a long illness. I was fortunate enough to attend a Conscious Living, Conscious Dying retreat with Stephen and his wife Ondrea years ago. There,, I experienced, first-hand, his ability to create a Community of Healing over the course of 5 days.
About three hundred of were gathered there at Mount Madonna Center. About one third of those attending were terminally-ill. Another third were their loved ones. I was a member of the final third, people involved with the emerging hospice movement.
What I experienced during that retreat was astounding. Levine's talent of crafting and delivering guided meditations and interactive experiences allowed me, and many other folks, to access the Open Heart of Awareness. With Levine's passing, the world lost a Master Guide.
I wrote the following post two years before his passing. It also highlights the work of another gifted Teacher, Joanna Macy that I had the privilege to practice with along this long and winding trail of Practice. She, too, continues to be a guiding light for me. I'm sure that Stephen won't mind sharing the limelight here. In my experience his light, and hers, are inseparable from the Boundless Light!
*Originally Published, November 21, 2014.
the events of the past month, the emergence of grief in my life seems
to be a reoccurring theme. I awoke in tears from a lucid dream a few
minutes ago. As I transitioned from dreaming to the waking state, I
felt my heart open through grief into the boundless spaciousness of the
One Love. I came fully awake feeling energized, grateful -- and at
peace. I was ready to face the day.
I'm no expert practitioner, but it seems that my
renewed focus on Dream Yoga is working. Extending Practice into the borderland of mind states that emerge in and out of dreams has been rewarding. It's nice to be able to sleep
on the job.
the recent dreams I've had of levitation and flying have been a lot
more "fun", I'm deeply grateful to have had this dream emerge from the
cradle of an afternoon nap. At age 68, I've found Napping Practice to
be quite wonderful.
The dream gave me an opportunity to further
process the losses that have incurred in my life, and to move through
personal grief to connect more deeply with the genuine heart of sadness
that is part of our shared human condition. I've found that tears are
often the key that unlocks the Gateless Gate to the One Love. A good cry
can be the portal to boundless beauty, joy and gratitude. As Jesus
proclaimed long ago, "Blessed be those who mourn, for they shall be
In the Dream State, I did -- and I was.
Grief is rarely that
easy, but thankfully, it's become easier over the years. I've had lots
of help. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to attend retreats
with two contemporary American Buddhist masters of a "good cry": Stephen Levine and Joanna Macy.
Although the focus of their work is different (Levine serves in the field of death and dying. Macy empowers ecological activists.), each of these gifted
Teachers gets to the Heart of the Matter with incredible grace, insight
and skill. Through periods of silent meditation, guided mediations, talks, and experiential exercises, they each have the ability to skillfully guide their retreat participants
toward an experience of the Open Heart of Awareness. True spiritual elders (Macy
is 85. Levine, 77), they each are able to bring the essence of the Teachings out of the
Sutra books and to real, lived experiences. Through their being and the gatherings they create, they each bring the limitless energy of love, compassion and
forgiveness to Life.