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A Year into the Pandemic – No Safe Distance from Sorrow

A Year into the Pandemic – No Safe Distance from Sorrow

The article Learning Resilience from Hospital Chaplaincy arrived in my email inbox just moments after I posted my own post, Vulner-ability – A Path through Compassion to Resilience, last Thursday morning.  (Thank you Carole Pertofsky, current coordinator of our NeuroDharma group.)

I was so struck by the closing words of the article:

There is no keeping sorrow at a safe distance, because loss touches loss.  Resilience is choosing to participate in heartbreak rather than closing yourself off….A year into the pandemic, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions of jobs lost, letting ourselves know each other’s sorrow is exactly what we need to do to begin healing from the deep losses that have touched us all.

– Nancy Chu, hospital chaplain

I had learned just a few days before that February 6, 2020, was the one-year anniversary of the first known death in the United States from the coronavirus, Patricia Dowd of San Jose, CA.  As of this posting, the number of known deaths from coronavirus in the United States has exceeded 473,000. Loss touches loss, and none of us is at a safe distance from the sorrow of such losses.

In last Thursday’s post, Vulner-ability – A Path through Compassion to Resilience I suggested that compassion in the face of loss and vulnerability is one of the most powerful practices we have to help us find our resilience as we face deep loss and universal vulnerability. The practice of deep compassion includes:

Radical acceptance of whatever is happening – mindful awareness making space for and be-friending our experience and ourselves as the experiencer.

Resonant engagement with the feelings – mindful empathy for the anger, grief, fear, shame so that feelings are felt, not glossed over.

Re-sourcing with the people and support we need to be with and move through the hard times and very real anguish.

(Thank you Chris Germer, co-developer of the Mindful Self-Compassion protocol, for those 3 R’s.)

I have taught mindful self-compassion in workshops and small groups for the last 5 years, and written about conscious, compassionate connection as a foundational resourcing for moving through disappointment, difficulty, and even disaster for more than a decade:

Mindfulness and Empathy Create Conscious, Compassionate Connection 

Equanimity: the Invisible Fulcrum of Conscious, Compassionate Connection 

Deep Listening Leads to Conscious, Compassionate Connection

Consciousness and Compassionate Connection Lead to Self-Acceptance 

To deepen our practice of conscious, compassionate connection now, in these days of continued lock-down even as things are truly beginning to look up, try this practice…

Priming the Flow of Compassion

1. Bring to mind a moment when someone else’s heartache or sorrow caused your own heart to ache, too, in an immediate resonant response. For me, this week, it was hearing from a friend, “Rent is due tomorrow and my husband hasn’t had any work for the last 15 days.”

2. In that moment, or in your memory now, notice and stay with the feelings arising in you in response to the other person’s pain or sorrow, simply noticing, allowing, acknowledging, making space for, being with.

3. Acknowledge out loud, “This is so hard. This is so hard. And I’m here. I hear you, and I care.”

4. Notice any warmth, concern, and goodwill arising in your own heart as you feel your feelings in response to their experience, their feelings, their needs. Feel the empathy, compassion, and goodwill flowing from your body, your heart to theirs.

[Note: this can be a completely non-verbal offering; your facial expressions, body language, tone of voice in Hmmm or a sigh can convey the compassion and the connection.  A gentle hand on the shoulder, if that feels safe to do, can convey the compassion and the connection.]

5. The conscious, compassionate connection between the two of you, or in your memory, may lead to an inquiry of what is needed or an offer of whatever might be helpful. What’s important is that the action arises from the shared resonance and presence of compassion in connection.

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