Gaia and Grief

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Quotes of the Day

In the lush green forests, minds are born.
And for every mind ... there is a story!

― SolSeed Sabbath Ritual for the Sophos season

“Letting off steam makes people angrier, not calmer. Pennebaker discovered that it’s not about steam; it’s about sense making. The people in his studies who used their writing time to vent got no benefit. The people who showed deep insight into the causes and consequences of the event on their first day of writing got no benefit, either: They had already made sense of things. It was the people who made progress across the four days, who showed increasing insight; they were the ones whose health improved over the next year.” ― Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

Thought for the Day

Today's contemplation is for those days when you are suffering in grief or frustration. When you are hurting so strongly that to extend your circle of care beyond yourself seems a Herculean task. It is probably more useful to skip today, if you aren't feeling that way and come back to today's contemplation on a day when you are hurting that badly.

Contemplation for the Day

Let us imagine

You are on the back of your elephant. Your elephant is trumpeting loudly in pain. You have a crop in your hand and you are lashing your elephant as you too scream in pain. Your elephant is charging across a field, stomping down the grass. In its pain, it feels satisfaction at trampling the grass into a muddy ragged mess. At the edge of the field, forest begins. Your elephant and you hit the edge of the forest like a bulldozer, crushing saplings and young trees with your headlong charge. Your elephant puts its head down and veers into a sizeable tree. You feel its whole body shudder as it head-butts the tree but the tree snaps off like a match stick. Your anger and grief is so powerful that nothing can stand in your way. The collisions with the trees are painful but you feel like the pain is cathartic. Your grief makes you want to die anyway so why avoid the pain.

Why are you in so much pain? Was it that a mate abandoned you? Was it that a loved one died? Was it that a method of livelihood that you had placed a great deal of hope in has been denied you? It doesn't matter anymore. The reason for the grief and anger is no longer important. The grief and anger themselves are palpable things that will not be ignored or let go. You continue crashing through the forest inflicting all the damage that you can. If a beautiful mammal or bird appeared before you right now, you would impale it with your tusk. You want only to destroy and kill. You want others to burn in your grief and anger. You would set fire to the forest if only you had the means.

Suddenly, exhaustion takes you and you can no longer charge forward. You slow, the branches and vines of the forest tangling around you. You come to the base of a huge tree and try to ram it but really all you do is push your head against its trunk for a moment and then collapse in a heap at its feet. You sob and it feels like the tears will never stop, like they are a geiser of pain that is spraying from your eyes and draining your of your very life. But you sob and you keep sobbing. You will be glad when your very life has left you and you can die and stop feeling this pain.

Gaia, in the form of a motherly woman, appears at your side. She caresses you gently on the temples and forehead and kisses you lightly on the nose. Her tenderness is meant to calm you, you know this, but your anger is so hot that you feel like she is trying to interrupt your expression of pain. You turn away from her saying, "Leave me alone." But she is there before you again, caressing, calming. You turn away from her again, feeling a burning sensation where she touches you. You crawl into the space under a nearby fallen log trying to get away from her.

But she is there, under the log, waiting for you. You feel her touch in the moss growing there. You are too exhausted to turn away again. You bury your face in the moss and sob into it. Slowly the pain ebbs enough that you find you no longer need to sob. But the release from the pain and the caress of Gaia feel so good that you don't want to stop. So you try to force yourself to keep sobbing. After all, the betrayal that caused the pain has not been reversed. Why would the pain be gone? Why would the need to sob and destroy be gone?

After a few moments of forced sobbing, you find that you feel foolish. It just isn't in you to cry anymore. You and your elephant are lying in a deep bed of soft moss under the protective cover of underbrush and the fallen log. You sleep for a while.

When you awake, you feel the odd sensation of being both refreshed and sore and achy. You feel purged of your anger and grief but also know that the reasons for it are still there. You will feel it again. While you slept Gaia has arranged you comfortably on the forest floor, with a blanket of moss over you and your head on her lap as she sits on the forest floor, with her back against another log. She is caressing your temple again.

Without moving, you ask, "Gaia, what do I do, the grief will return again?"

Gaia laughs, "Of course, it will; Life is filled with disappointments because Life is always striving to get more. Desire drives you and grief is how your kind reacts to disappointment."

You aren't ready to accept that, "So what do I do?"

Gaia laughs again at your perseverance, "Little one, you will grieve again. That is what you will do. But you do have a choice. You can grieve the way you just did, with fire in your heart, seeking a place of violence to scream out your pain. If you do, you will become practiced at that response. You will get better and better at it until you can scream louder than anyone else and do worse kinds of violence. Or you can choose a different path. As long as you are good at the fiery screaming expression of pain, you will want to continue to use it. It will be its own reward for you. But if you try, you will be able to take another route; one of experiencing the pain and grief as something that washes over you without asking for action. On that path, you will learn to let go of the pain and grief rather than trying to push it out. The first path increases the pain, for your actions in response to the pain, actually inflict more pain on yourself. The second path reduces the pain, by gently helping it to fade faster. It is your choice, little one. I cannot tell you which choice to make but I think the better choice stands out clearly, does it not."

Thinking on her words, and feeling her love, you drift back off to sleep.

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