Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D., is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and pioneer in the field of end-of-life care. In this guided meditation, she shares nourishing wisdom as we face suffering in the world, helping us to find the inner resources to carry our own grief and sadness and that of others.
"I would like to invite you to put down whatever might be in your hand. And to find a position that’s comfortable and also that supports you. And listen to my words. And if they are resonant for you, if they are helpful really let them enter into your experience. And also bring your own experience in your own language to what is being pointed to as we touch into this meditation on grief.
Beginning with remembering really why you’re here. Bring your attention to the breath for just a moment. And let the breath sweep your mind and notice whether it’s a deep breath or shallow. Recall for a moment now a loss or losses that have really touched you, or the anticipation of loss.
I’ll offer some simple phrases that we can touch into around the truth of grief. May I be open to the pain of grief.
Notice whatever comes up, not rejecting it, not clinging to it.
May I be open to the sorrow, to the pain of grief. May I find the inner resources to really be present for my sorrow. May I find the inner resources to really be present for my sorrow. And notice any judgement or resistance that arises. It’ll pass. May I accept my sadness knowing that I am not my sadness. May I accept my sadness knowing that I am not my sadness. And if you’ve cared for someone and felt like it wasn’t always so easy, reflect on this phrase: May I forgive myself for not meeting my loved one’s needs. May I forgive myself for not always being able to meet my loved one’s needs. And may I forgive myself for mistakes made and things left undone. So true of all of our life.
May I forgive myself for mistakes made and things left undone. May to be open with others and with myself about my experience of loss. May I be open to receive the kindness of others as they support me in this journey of grief. And completing this brief exploration of grief, may I and all beings learn from and transform sorrow.
May I and all beings learn from and transform sorrow. Again, noticing whatever is arising for you, whatever thoughts are present, not clinging to them.
Whatever you’re feeling in your heart, how the body feels as you consider the possibility that grief can be a profoundly humanizing experience and bring greater depth into our lives."
This meditation originally appeared in the On Being episode “Joan Halifax — Buoyancy Rather Than Burnout In Our Lives.”
Roshi Joan Halifax is the founding abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She’s also the director of the project Being with Dying and the author of Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death.