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Lions Roar : January 2003
Loving friends are good. Grief counselors are good. Grief isn’t an illness. Usually it does not need either therapy or medication. It needs time. Meditations that are comforting might be helpful. Silent meditation retreats, I’ve discov- ered, are helpful for some people and not for others. Someone I know came to Spirit Rock Meditation Center a week after the death of his teenage son some time ago. Now he comes every year, for that same week. The silence and seclu- sion allow him to feel safe enough to cry. For others, the sense of isolation and the absence of stimuli seem to magnify the pain. The insight of impermanence, the deep down sense that everything, including current grief, mercifully passes, is comforting. It doesn’t erase sadness. It supports the ability to be sad. It is unwise, though, I think, to remind grieving people of impermanence. They feel unheard. The insight arises by itself, as part of the natural mourning process, in its own time. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a relatively new term in the psychology lexicon. People used to call it Wintertime Blues. It’s a good thing that scientists have named it, and figured out that the absence of daylight is a probable cause. Maybe it is that. Legitimizing Seasonal Affective Disorder makes it possible for people to talk about it, and not feel they need to hide it. It also gives people courage to wait it out. It will pass, soon, after the solstice. And maybe we also experience Seasonal Affective Disorder because this is a time of end- ings, and there is a melancholy about endings, especially if some hope for what might have been has not been fulfilled. Perhaps it’s a good thing to let ourselves be sad, at least enough to recognize the losses in our lives that we’ve avoided seeing. Perhaps these days of less sunlight are opportuni- ties for more contemplative time, more looking deeply to see what perhaps can only be seen in the dark. As we move toward the solstice, and the return of the light, blessings for the new year. ♦ SYLVIA BOORSTEIN isafoundingteacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. Her new book is Pay Attention, For Goodness’ Sake: Practicing the Perfections of the Heart, The Buddhist Practice of Kindness. SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2003 21