So, in the past I have mentioned using Byron Katie's process, called "the work", to question and explore my thoughts. I would like to be more clear that the kind of thoughts I am currently questioning are the thoughts that bring me pain. I don't mean every thought that comes to my head - that's just more than I could possibly handle right now. I working on noticing which background, nearly subconscious thoughts bring me what I've learned to call dirty pain. Dirty pain, for me, is the kind of pain that comes from believing untrue thoughts. Believing lies, in my life at least, equates with dirty pain.
I'd like to give an example. This is a very deep and personal example, so I ask that you please by gentle in your comments about this.
I've been noticing that I am feeling a lot of sorrow today. Some of that is very clean sorrow/pain - it is the pain of remembering that my Mom is no longer here in the flesh. The pain of her not being here - outside of any thought of what her not being here means - feels like a very true, clean pain. The grief in me was stirred up by a very sweet and joyous occasion. Yesterday, three of my very dear friends came to my house for some brunch, deep conversation, and tarot. One of these friends, who has not seen me for several months, noted how much softer my face looked and remarked that the tension in my forehead has released (at least to an extent!). I believe this is a product of my letting go. My dear friend mentioned that the overall effect of this softening was that I looked "10 years younger" (so, late twenties instead of thirties). I remarked how this was just my genetic legacy and showed them a picture of Mom at about 62 or so - she looks about 45 or 50. Part of this is just how young baby boomers look in general (at least in comparison to our cultural story about what certain ages look like), and some of this is just a peasant combination of English peasant/pioneer hardiness and Danish regularness of features.
Anyway, I kept a picture of Mom on the table while I read cards for my friends. Mom in the flesh would not be comfortable with tarot cards, no matter how feminist and empowering (and they are). However, I get the strong feeling that Mom in the Spirit was just fine with my friends and I using the images on the cards to make connections and find ideas to make our lives richer and more meaningful. One of my friends noted several copies of Dialogue sitting out and asked me if I had been Mormon at one time. I indicated that I had and this was a great surprise to her (and here I thought my heritage was obvious). I told her it was a long story - but it was a long story I never ended up telling (and I will tell another day, I think).
Later last night, while I was in the bath, I started telling my friend my story in head (I talk to people in my head a lot). And while telling the story to myself (in the guise of telling my friend) I had some realizations about my parents that I hadn't had before. I felt faintly Mom's presence and she asked me if I was glad that she had passed away. I said yes and no. I am so deeply grateful that she is so much happier now on the other side. Everytime I feel her presence she feels so much more joyful and peaceful. If death was necessary for her to feel that peace, then I believe her death was a good thing. On the other hand, I miss feeling her earthly, physical presence. And I relayed to Mom the experience of dressing and preparing her body for burial. The cancer had so ravaged her body that it was almost unrecognizable to me - it was as if I was dressing a stranger. And then I smoothed her hair. Mom's hair had an unmistakable softness and silkiness - like a newborn baby's - and that texture in my fingers confirmed for me that this body was really her body, that her body had really stopped working completely - had given up her ghost/spirit/soul. I called my sister over and she stroked Mom's hair, too. And we both just cried and cried. I told Mom that I missed stroking her hair, I missed rubbing her feet and her rock-solid shoulders, I missed feeling her hug me in simultaneously hesitant and ferocious embrace. I told her how much I regretted that our relationship when she was embodied was not as good as it is currently. She seemed to be there, hearing me and acknowledging my words. And then she was gone.
So, all of today, there has been this deep sorrow in my heart. Good enough. I am trying to learn how to "let myself feel" instead of "making myself feel better" as a dear long-lost high-school friend and a current much-beloved counselor have encouraged me to do. I've felt compelled to bring my hand to my heart all day to support the sorrow I feel. This is all good, all clean and real.
But I also notice a creeping tension - as my mind tries to fill in all kinds of reasons and justifications for the sorrow I feel. For example, I notice nonverbal thoughts that carry the meaning of: "I'm feeling this pain because I haven't accomplished what I needed to today" and "I'm feeling this pain because I forgot I was doing laundry and the wet clothes just sat there for hours while I fussed with files" and "I'm feeling this pain because I didn't fuss with the files long enough and there's still an entire box left to sort through and the house is filled with dust and dog fur and even though my dear friends said they loved being in my house and experienced it as a joyful home they were lying to protect me because they were really disgusted by the clutter and the dirt and the yuckiness of it all." Etc., etc., etc.
My dearest readers, these are the thoughts I am working so hard to unpack, to tidy up, to dust off, to clean up, to challenge and to discard/compost/let go of. It is not my home that needs clearing, it is my mind. And so I write this post, I write down these stupid, awful, painful thoughts. I don't want to be void of thought, I want to challenge these false ideas that give me dirty pain. These false ideas that my brain so helpfully supplies me to explain why I am feeling pain or sorrow at any given moment. When, in truth, when I examine reality and inquire as to what is, I'm really feeling pain because I am feeling pain. There doesn't have to be a cause for how I feel (though I have a sense that the sorry I've felt today is part of my grief breaking loose and working itself out). There doesn't have to be a reason or a rhyme for of the "this" that I experience moment to moment. There is just me, in this moment, feeling some pain. And also some hope. And love. And contentment. And discomfort. And even joy. There is just me in this moment, be-ing. The more I question my thoughts and my mind, the better able I am to be here now, alive, whole, holy. What else is there, really, to do with this one precious life?