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This Mourning...

An Ethiopian 'mourning ritual' practiced among women

An Ethiopian 'mourning ritual' practiced among women

I live five feet from the Bear Creek bike path - the one that takes people all the way from Louisville and Lafayette to the downtown Boulder area. It gets a high volume of traffic all day and night. Sitting out on my patio I hear the conversations of the people moving by. If I had to generalize I would say that typically, men discuss financial matters and women discuss relationship issues. And yet, sometimes, in between the lines of the perfunctory and  expected, something else entirely happens. Sometimes they're in tears. Sometimes they're angry. Sometimes they are lost in a sense of hopelessness or despair. Sometimes they are animated and made larger than themselves with pure excitement or joy. The bike path seems a liminal place (a place neither here nor there, an in between place of 'no longer this' and 'not yet that') where the rules of behavior that govern so much of how we relate and behave are not enforced or expected. It is beautiful to witness this.

A few weeks ago as I stood looking out my window with my younger son, Simon, I watched as a young man came toward the house on the path, pushing himself in a wheel chair. If you're traveling 'outbound' on the path you come up an almost imperceptible hill just as you pass my patio. It was a hot day and after he reached the top of this almost imperceptible hill he let himself coast the ten feet to the bottom until his wheelchair stopped on its own, on the path. There he sat. His hands moving back and forth on his tires as if he were acquainting himself with a new set of legs, his human legs lying inert beneath him. He put his face in his hands, allowing himself to crumple into them. His body rocked back and forth very gently. He remained there for a minute or so. I put my hands to my own face and felt my tears streaming down. I remembered I was standing next to another young man, my own son, who had just come in from running through the bushes dressed in camouflage, who was sweaty and red-faced from playing.

I want to celebrate both these beautiful young men, celebrate them for what is each their unique and extraordinary experience. Thanks to the shaman/teacher/story teller Martin Prechtel, I have been paying attention to the intimate relationship between Grief and Praise. Without one the other cannot survive. We cannot grieve something that we do not praise. And in praising something fully we must also allow for the grief of it's passing - because all things pass. One way or another, all things pass. More and more, I have become aware that the process of being human is a process of grieving and praising, constantly navigating our heart-break and joy, our celebration for what is while actively mourning what is passing or has passed. In these times, as the volume of things to grieve (as a result of human behavior) tear through us on a daily basis, it feels as if the work of grieving and praising has become the work for our species.

And yet I see, daily in my private practice, what has become a cultural phenomenon; we have forgotten how to grieve and we have forgotten how to praise. The process of Re-Wilding requires that we immerse ourselves in these two things as daily practices, as actions that occur almost without the mind involved; loosing the heart so it has a chance to run wild, singing and sobbing its insatiable and vicarious appreciation for everything that is beautiful, terrifying, brilliant, unacceptable, catastrophic, exquisite. Our Grief and our Praise are elegant ways in which we humans can say, "I am paying attention. I am here. I am alive. And, I see you." And it is also one of the most powerful ways we humans can offer our gratitude for what it means to be alive, regardless of the circumstances of our lives.

Living on the Bear Creek bike path I am offered the opportunity - day and night - to grieve and to praise, to say "I am paying attention" and to offer my gratitude, often through tears that are not clearly one thing or another...just tears for the unfathomable mystery involved in the process of Life.