A life dedicated to service...

Week 22: Attending to sorrows

Returning from 3 weeks of visiting family, I’m filled with feelings of sadness about the extend of pain in people’s hearts.

Much of that pain, I’m sure, comes from losses experienced while growing up during the years following WWII, brought on by lack of decent food, disrupted family structures, living hand-to-mouth, and unkind treatment at home and school. A Kind of heartache Stephen Levine calls “unattended sorrows.”*

What struck me most was people’s abiding anger and bitterness, a feeling trapped in quiet agony, waiting for something or someone to make it all better.

John O’Donohue** writes that —

Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief

Cast in the role of trusted outsider I was told about words said and things done in anger …  and of longing for sins to be forgiven and peace restored. What would it take, I asked? Can you see yourself reaching out, take that first step?

Listen to Rumi —

Out beyond the ideas of wrong-doing
and right-doing
there is a field
I’ll meet you there.

And you, does any of this speak to your aching heart? Is there someone who did you wrong, or you them, not sure how it all got complicated?

Think of it as part of your meditation practice: extending loving kindness toward yourself and others. How could you extend the olive branch? And do so without conditions or expectations. 

Keep it simple. May you be blessed with humility and generosity.

* Stephen Levine. Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart. Rodale, 2007.
** John O’Donohue. To bless the Sace Between Us. Dubleday, 2008, p. 118.
Image credit: http://arunaszilys.com/

About the Author
Peter lives in Victoria, BC, where he volunteers in health-care. teaches mindfulness meditation, and offers end-of-life care.
  1. Rosemary Reply

    This resonated with me, Peter.
    A visit with relatives also brought to light much hurt in that persons’s heart which is being manifested by anger and unkind words. I think reflective listening
    Is the most compassionate approach.
    Thank you for your wisdom

  2. Paulette Reply

    Perfect Solution Peter…loving kindness! Grateful for your Loving Kindness Practice Meditation CD. Wish everyone had a copy and used it. Just returned from a 2 week visit with family & friends also and this posting was perfect for me. Namaste

  3. Cathleen Hart Reply

    This post struck a chord with me also.

    I love this from John O’Donohue …

    Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
    More than you, it knows its way
    And will find the right time
    To pull and pull the rope of grief

    Thank you for your wise writing Peter, it never fails to leave a message for me.


  4. Ellen & Jonathan Reply

    We look forward to meditating with you in your Loving Kindness course at Monterey in August.
    Jack Kornfield’s advice always comes back to me when I find myself clenching:
    “Let go, let go, let go.”

  5. Arnie Porter Reply

    Beautifully written. 🙏❤️🕉👍🔑👁

  6. Betsy Reply

    Good tears. Thanks so much

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