Today I settled into my homework as assigned by David Whyte, a time and place to be vulnerable as I delve into grief. 

He didn’t give a time table so I set my alarm for 20 minutes.  I began to sink into grief around hunger in the world.  I saw the earth from space, knowing there is enough food for all, food and shelter for all.  We can save the rainforests and have transport and coffee when we balance on knowing enough. 

With that,  I felt my occiput, the space at the back and bottom of my skull soften and open.  Thoughts dropped like balls, billiard balls.

Falling, they turned into bubbles and floating, they popped.  

I felt my head emptying as thoughts dropped like bombs but without destroying, instead dissipating without harm.

Even so, there was still pressure on the lower left side of my skull.  I stayed with that, massaged the area with my hand and fingers and recognized the universal is personal, and I have my own aches and pains.  

I grieved the pain in the tissues around my knee, and stayed with this pressure around the lower side of my head.  Was there a bottom, a place to stand, a horizon that’s new?

I saw a place that was white and flat, a place where I could plant and grow what I need and believe.

Thoughts wandered to a spider I watched today as he or she walked across the kitchen floor.  I thought of placing a piece of paper on the ground and carrying  the spider outside but it seemed fine in its journey and didn’t appear to be asking for or needing help.  It was a rather squat spider, and I admired its eight sturdy, black legs. I  thought of Charlotte in the beloved book, Charlotte’s Web, an observation of life and death and love.

Then my timer went off.  What did I learn?  I can’t separate my personal grief from universal grief, but I can learn to release.  For some reason, I’m experiencing more physical pain these days, and that may be related to stress around what’s going on but I can allow thoughts to release and more fully breathe.  I don’t need to hold on.  

I had an expectation of some great revelation where my heart would break and crack, and maybe 20 minutes wasn’t long enough for that, or maybe putting judgment and expectation aside, it was long enough to know that thoughts can bind and imprison.

I can’t know what another suffers.  I can touch into my own pain, my own agony over the suffering of others, and in that realize we all are one and compassion extends like the many hands and arms of the Goddess Durga, also known as Shatki or Devi, mother of the Hindu universe.  

I can extend my heart when I let my thoughts pop and cleanse old forms.

So I’m sitting here debating whether to post this when a friend sends me a short video on the difference between sympathy and empathy, and I realize I can give empathy to myself.

I don’t have to say all the ways my life is fine even though it is, but I can note that sometimes I have pain and sorrow, and being with it, allows it to dissipate or not, no judgment at all.  

“Empathy fuels connection.”   Empathetic, I fuel connection with myself, and partnered, I plant new ways to be, and when I stand, the tissue around my knee doesn’t hurt as it did before, and both sides of my head are moving like wings, soft and free.

Gratitude waves many hands and claps with ease.

Empathy vs. Sympathy

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