Working with doubt and grief
As a young nun I remember vividly Ajahn Sumedho exhorting us to questions what motivated us. He would say that as a young monk himself he had thought, “If Ajahn Chah disrobes, if His Holiness the Dalai Lama runs away with a 16 year old American girl, would I still want to be a monk?”
It is an important question; what motivates us to do what we do and what sustains us in our efforts? Certainly any long-standing commitment to anything evokes similar questions.
I just saw on Facebook that Ajahn Kovida is leaving the community in November. I have known for a while that Ajahn Thitamedha is disrobing tomorrow. We were sisters in the same community for a very long time. In the last two years 5 senior nuns have either left the community or disrobed, 6 other monks and nuns from this community have expressed to me doubts about their ability to sustain the life within the community, particularly following the events of the past 2 years.
This recent news hit hard, opening to a river of grief that has been taking a while to subside. Rather than go over the details and circumstances why so many are so disheartened, and what may be a way forward, I thought to explore ways of dealing with so much grief and doubt.
Doubt cannot be disallowed. It has to be allowed. If doubt is allowed, it can come into awareness, be known felt and seen for what it is. Once doubt is seen, then I can question if this doubt is a momentary arising related to the events around me, or is it if it is related to questions or concerns of more fundamental nature. When I ask questions like this, it requires having a relaxed attention on body awareness from which the answers can emerge. It requires bringing discernment to the process of doubt itself that examines the causes and the conditions that have given rise to doubt. This process of discernment allows me to reexamine my motive without being invested in outcome. In order to sustain attention in this way, one has to be able to tolerate uncertainty. One has to be willing to let go of any identification or attachment with identity and see what emerges in the present as if for the first time.
Greif; there are moments of sadness, moments of tears and sometimes torrents. Again, it has to be allowed. There is the fear when one opens up to a river of grief that it will never end, that the tears will never stop. The fear that it “will never stop” is a fear that is based on the future. One has to remember that the present, what is, is worthy of attention. If there is fear, it needs to be accepted and allowed its place until it dissolves. Resistance is the greatest contributor to suffering. Pure pain has a cleanliness to it that is different from the torment of the suffering that we add on top of it. Torrents of grief require a relaxed body and connection with ease and abiding goodness to allow it to flow through. For me I go to the Rocks, ancient and magnificent Red Rocks that are 250,000,000 years old. Surrounded and held by something vast, grounded and responsive, the support is felt and from that letting go occurs. Grief moves through, body opens and relaxes and what needs to be felt is felt. Without resistance, and with time, healing occurs.
So my dear sisters, who move on, go well with your beautiful courageous hearts. May each of us in our own ways live with heart, with integrity and true to what is arising in the present moment. May this be the container for awakening.