“Mommy, what is that stuff coming out of your nose?”
“Nasya oil, sweetie. It’s to help me relax and calm down.”
“Oh, well it looks funny.”
“I suppose it does, but it makes me feel so good…just like being with you.”
It was just a year ago that I was lying in bed, just as I am now, with my feet oiled, flannel jammies on, and nasya (nose) oil running down my nose and onto my upper lip. Except now I’m writing you, reflecting on the past year of events in my life, and am relieved and overjoyed that I’ve made it through. Like many people, a year ago, I found myself in the throes of divorce. After trying everything I knew of in my arsenal of yoga and Ayurveda to make my marriage work, I was still lost and confused, sad and angry. So I sat and really listened, and with the love and guidance of my friends and teachers, I finally just surrendered and heard that it was time to move on and create a new life for myself, and my young son.
When I look back now, I realize what kept me from hearing it before was the fear of grief. I couldn’t believe my family was breaking up. I was shocked that I had to envision a new plan. Grieving the loss of my “dream” and fear of the future set into motion a perfect storm of feelings and experiences that showed up for me as anxiety, sleeplessness, weight loss, and scattered thinking, to name a few… And then the pain really began.
But I was in it and with it, and luckily had the training, practice and knowledge of Ayurveda to help with coping. But nobody was going to do it for me. So I made a deal with myself and made a firm vow, or sankalpa, to “always show up for myself and honor, nourish, and love myself daily.” It took courage to be with all that grief, and I had to build my reserves, or ojas, to deal with it.
In Ayurveda, our heart is what is connected to grieving, and literally feels pain as a method for helping us take action to move out the heavy, sharp, dense feelings of loss. I felt dark. I wanted to leave the dirty dishes. I didn’t want to cook dinner, yet I had a seven year old son who needed care. Despite my feelings of loss and grief, I asked my higher self to guide me toward balance and established a firm routine of dinacharya (Ayurvedic daily self care) to help move out these feelings with purpose, love, and compassion.
So yes, now a year later, I am free. I see why my marriage had to dissolve. I am stronger and more enriched in my body, mind, and spirit. I remember the exact moment I “landed” back in my body last summer and really felt safe…and relieved. Probably the most important attribute I earned by allowing the process of grief to unfold – with compassion – was trust in myself and really having the visceral experience that I was always going to be ok. Here’s how I did it:
Tips for Self Care While Grieving
- Just stop, and rest. Breathe. Cry. Ayurveda tells us that ANY and EVERY bodily function that wants to be expressed SHOULD be expressed. For example, repressing belching keeps the gases INSIDE instead of taking those wastes outside. We are a perfectly designed machine to rid ourselves of excess doshas, yet we often feel shame or guilt in showing it. Grief is one of those emotions that we aren’t schooled on how to deal with it in our culture very well. Thus we keep it in. I know for me, when I was mourning the loss of my “family” and my husband, it was if ALL the band-aids of my other grieving incidents were pulled off at the same time… losing my cousin from Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 30, past loves, putting my cat down in the midst of my divorce, etc. So stop. Lay there. Rest. Take a moment and just let the emotion rise up. Be brave and allow yourself to show up for yourself. Let the waves rise to the surface and give yourself the gift to just pause, to just feel, to just cry. Then… Dry. Rinse. Repeat.
- Abhyanga = love yourself up! Every AM and PM I gave myself an “oil bath” in the self-massage practice of Abhyanga. I found that whatever emotion was hidden “under my skin” would show itself in this practice. For example, some days when I felt a lot of anger, I would vigorously rub the oil onto my skin. But the witness in me realized I was further injuring myself in these moments. What wanted to come through was all that sadness. I often found myself accepting the pain – not easily sometimes! – allowing the tears to come. As I sat in that sadness and grief, the Abhyanga practice became something else entirely…a way to coax the feelings to move down and out. To empty. To rest. To love myself in that puddle, and allow it to be ok.
- Yoga Nidra. When grief is so profound, and the mind is so active with emotion, sleep seems like a lost cause. I literally played Rod Stryker’s Relax Into Greatness Yoga Nidra CD off my iPod almost nightly when I woke at 3 or 4am. It would relax me enough to 1) keep my mind from entering the chaos of the grief, and 2) guide me back to sleep. To this day, I feel that this practice literally saved my life. It allowed me the rest I needed to face the grief and sadness when I was more rested and able to channel it in an appropriate way.
- Nasya (nose) Oil 2x/day. The oiling of the nose is a common Ayurvedic practice to calm the senses, keep the nasal tissues lubricated, and help reduce the overall effect of vata (air + ether) dosha. For me, I added in the “anointing” of my crown and heart centers daily to help me stay connected to my sankalpa. This was especially important for me as I worked toward forgiveness towards my ex as well as myself, and made me reverent in the practice to allow the grief a seat at the heart of my life.
- Use a Mantra daily for protection, guidance and strength. The mantra SO-HUM helps you stay connected to the divine, as well as help you keep your feet on the ground. Think of it as a “link up” to the Universal Consciousness, or your own personal idea of divinity, to help you experience that all is in its perfect order. As I walked or practiced yoga, I inhaled and internally heard the sound “SO.” During exhale I heard the sound “HUM.” This practice helped me stay in tune with something auspicious and protective when my grieving mind wanted to pull me into derangement. To use as a daily practice, feel the mantra’s intention as stated above and internally repeat the mantra with a mala (rosary-like necklace) and do one round of 108 repetitions daily, as well as use during asana, or anytime you need it!
So yes it’s a year later. I’m still grieving, and know that more is coming. However, I’m no longer hesitant to feel the pain. In the pain I found myself. In myself, I found joy. Grieving is a normal process of life. Be skillful in your actions and welcome the opportunity to clear the emotion and make space for life to be lived through you. Remember that you, too, are a child of the divine, that everything is in its right place, and that you are loved. Hari Om Tat Sat