It has taken me a while to digest the news of the Roseburg, Oregon killings at the Umpqua Community College on Oct. 1. One week later, on Oct. 7, this waft of horror rippled out to my safe and insulated town of Ashland, Oregon with an unconfirmed bomb threat at Southern Oregon University. It is an odd feeling when the possibility of danger enters a town. For a few days, I noticed that I was more "on guard" yet still carrying an initial shock from the Roseburg killings.
In this quickly moving world, where what is news one day is history the next, it can be fairly easy to stay frozen in our grief and remain numbed out to these injustices and horrors in the world. The horrors that are prevalent bombard us from every corner of the world. They blast through the media on a daily basis. Yet, it seems that for many of us, unless they touch our lives or communities directly, they remain as a noisy clutter in the background of our lives.
Is there a point in bringing horrors forward from the background to the foreground? What is our role and responsibility for bringing beauty to this broken world?
On Sunday, I gathered together for a few hours with a group of friends and facilitated a small group grief ritual with a focus on soul centered grief writing exercises. I learned these from one of my mentors, Francis Weller. These writing exercises coax out our grief from their hidden corners in our inner worlds. Gathering together in a circle of mutual support, we have the opportunity to break free from some of our cultural blockages around grief.
In the Dagara tribe in Africa, they gather together as a community a few times a week to participate in grief ritual to help tend to the health of the community through grieving the losses that occur daily in our lives. In our Western culture, we are privatized grievers, if we ever grieve at all.
The first grief ritual I attended was with Sobonfu Some, an African woman from the Dagara Tribe of Burkina Faso who is bringing ancient indigenous African wisdom to our Western culture. She said, "In the West, you think that your grief is individual. So, you keep it locked away as if it is only yours. In Africa, we know there is truly no individual grief. Whatever individual grief there is, it is always felt in the community and held in the Earth."
When grief gets shoved down, it begins to fester in distorted forms which can often result in internal or external violence. When we don't grieve our losses, we may close and detach from life. We may become afraid to open, afraid of being hurt, rejected, and betrayed. There is an incredible life-affirming beauty in grief when we welcome it out of from shame's closed door.
On Sunday, as each of us gathered together in that room, sharing our writings and vulnerably exposing the grief of our losses, I experienced the outrageous and courageous beauty that it takes to keep opening our hearts and finding our YES to life in the midst of all of our hardships, losses and challenges. When we open, our hardships become heart-ships where our grief can carry us on the shores of its sea to the secret dock in our hearts.
After our Sunday gathering, I have found my YES again. I pray my YES will continue to strip away the garments of protection and indifference that have kept me living small and pretending that life doesn't matter. I pray that will continuously be able to open to my soul blazing path of messy glory. I pray my tears, my joy and all of my actions, both large and small, can leave a mark of intimate significance to show how much I truly care about this world.
I know I can't do this alone. The burdens in our own lives and those in the world are not meant for us to carry alone. It takes a tribe. It takes a community. In this, we can know what it feels like in our bones that what we carry is not solely our own. Can we gather together during this time to share our most precious hearts? Can we find a trusted friend, a small group to gather with, so we can share our grief and experience the alchemy of transformation contained within our teardrops? What transformation wants to come through the chaos of our times? What beauty wants to shine through our broken open hearts?
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