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Grief: A Barrier to Personal Growth



In my own practice of Zen and recovery from addiction, and an awkward childhood surrounded by people who weren't very transformationally available but rather transactional, I've observed that when people truly take their seats and engage in meditation or take their place in a fellowship of recovery beyond what I call "fashion show" recovery or Zen, they encounter a profound depth of grief.


This experience can be startling, shocking, disappointing, and overwhelming... all at the same time. Why? Because we're usually thinking and feeling aspects of the grief process: denial, guilt, shame, bargaining, depression, anger, loneliness, and acceptance... bringing forward sensations and feelings drastically changing moment to moment to moment, that can be disorienting and frankly jarring and scary. Whether it's a meditation practitioner or a person recovering from addiction, it's not uncommon for people to keep their running shoes on, trying to escape a noisy mind that they take with them.


Have you ever been in a meeting where someone was sharing where they were crying and can't catch their breath, laughing, kind of detached... And a motivational speaker all in the same share? I have and I've been that person too. That's what grief can look like sometimes, especially when we're on the front end of change. We're often not getting the relief... spirituality... sense of well-being... or our version of "freedom" at the velocity that the transactional mind would prefer.


Unfortunately, this experience can be so intense that it pushes some people away from their meditation and/or recovery practice and back into numbness and meaninglessness. They may feel discouraged from facing what their minds convince them they're not ready for. As a result, their meditation and/or recovery practice remains inconsistent and perhaps not at depth and stuck on the surface, unable to bring about genuine progress and awakening.


This is why community is so vitally important. Often our sponsors, mentors, and teachers can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves. In a particularly difficult situation I was grappling with and particularly helpless to improve the scenario, my sponsor literally told me "You're experiencing yourself the way the transactional mind is saying rather than the transformational Recovery mind... stop! pause! breathe! just watch! just notice where you really are! It's not in your head!"


My sponsor... what in Buddhism is sometimes referred to as "The benefactor" because we are the beneficiary of their experience, strength and practice of recovery, doesn't fix or solve our problems so much as supports us in our grief process, so that we are functional enough to crawl, walk, or run into our healing. That's my experience.


一We Are the Practice Itself

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