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The Tao of Grieving

Updated on January 14, 2012
Quirinus profile image

"Every artist dips his brush into his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures." - Henry Ward Beecher, 1813-87, Writer/Reformer

Empty to Fill, Lose to Gain, Die to Live

These simple but very profound words tie up closely with the lyrics “Die every day to be free” of the song “Light and Shade”.

I cannot but bow in awe of the sensitivity of the artists who put these thoughts into words, helping me articulate the darkness of the grief that I’m feeling over the loss of a best friend, Angel.Angel is my beloved pet dog of eight years who shared an empty house with me while I was living alone.

Empty to Fill

The workday ends and with it my busy thoughts.The pain of grief comes visiting.I somehow seemed to involuntarily empty to fill and find myself flooded with a joyful presence.I don’t know how this involuntary emptying happens.How does being found happen?

I don’t know how this joyful presence begins, briefly after the sensation of grief, and whence it ends.

I try to intellectualize saying that Angel’s spirit is paying me a visit.That he is here right beside me all along, more so after his physical form has passed away.

It is only at the moment that I choose awareness that his presence becomes perceptible.

Attachment to Physical Forms

I recall the lesson I wrote about being gentle with myself ( I dedicate the next moment to reflecting on it and resolving to apply it to the experience of grief, respecting it as a manifestation of my humanity.I will let the grief wax and wane of its own accord, not forcing it away.For it is only in riding on this pain that its lesson can be learned.

The physical self stays attached to physical forms.

I used to wish Jesus were physically around.I would then only need to touch the end of his robe and I would be a changed person (I wonder though what manner of change that exactly means---more joyful, peaceful, serene and loving perhaps?).I now wish Angel were still physically beside me.I sense his presence, yes.But I plead: I’m a physical being, longing for physical touch and comfort.I guess accepting this needing side of my physical self is part of the lesson to be learned:

The physical self will always need.The transcendent self dwells beyond light and shadow.

The physical self will always need.It is like a little child that we need to understand and accept, to treat with wonder, curiosity, openness, nurturing and attentiveness.Only then can the transcendent make itself manifest.

Your Will Be Done On Earth as In Heaven and “Empty to Fill, Lose to Gain, Die to Live”

Shortly after Angel’s passing away, I felt I just had to get away from it all.It was an urge to flee from the pain.

There’s so much attachment to unlearn when one takes on the physical, human form.We grow attached to our possessions, our health, our youth, our loved ones, our work, our stature, others’ approval, …And since there isn’t anything permanent in this life, we lose some, hopefully not all, of them at some point in our life.We’re all set up to experience so much pain.What is the point in all this pain?

Whatever enthrals you enslaves you.

Maybe all of life’s pain was meant to teach us how to be free from pain.

Mechanics.I have come across some mechanics that sages share through the ages for dealing with strong feelings, including grief, at the moment of pain or perception.These represent words that suggest the mental attitude one must take while experiencing the feeling:

1. Christian: Accept, Offer to God, then Let Go.

2. Eastern: Recognize, Refrain, Relax, Resolve

(I have made a short mention in my previous article about this:

Principles.These mechanics may work better if understood from a spiritual perspective.

1. Christian: “Your will be done on earth as in heaven”.This verse from the Lord’s Prayer, if put into conscious practice, is about surrender and trust in God’s Almighty divine providence.

2. Taoist, as mentioned: “Empty to fill.Lose to gain.Die to live.”The less and less controlling or wilful we become as an individual, the more we are able to let the Tao express its beneficence to and through us.

As to what I am using to move from pain to joy, as I ride this experience of grieving, I can’t really say.I don’t remember consciously choosing any particular mechanic at that point when I noticed my perception of the transition of feelings.How does being found happen?The only thing I remember that I did---was not-doing: Just noticing.I now recall that only my awareness was present, e.g. at the end of the workday, to the appearance of the grief flowing into joy.Grief flowing into joy!

How can my limited mind understand the stirrings of the soul?It may have been joy all along, simply shedding its cloak of grief.

How does being found happen?

Fra Lippo Lippi
Light And Shade lyrics

He will paint the light and shades
The colours and the trees
He will climb the steepest hill
Believing what he sees
He will lay down on the ground
Beneath the old oak tree
He will sleep forever
If you try to set him free
[ Lyrics from: ]
Sail on the wings of a cloud
Where to, well nobody knows
And cry, cry if you want them to see
Die every day to be free
Be proud to wear the colours that you call your own
Be loud, speak out when you want the world to know
Be strong, hold the flame for everyone to see
Be real, if you want to love.

He will paint the endless sea.
A mystery to me
He will reach out for the sun,
Not dreaming what he sees
He will fall down on his knees
Angel touching ground
Takes him to the other side
Sweet love is coming down.

[Repeat chorus]


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    • Quirinus profile imageAUTHOR

      Queirdkus Ω Ibidem 

      6 years ago from Sitting on the Rug

      Just the other day, I had to part with a long-haired chiuaua I've only known for a few minutes. Yet I had grown attached and already had to deal with the pain of letting go. I think there's no getting used to it. My guess is that it's a matter of constantly making peace with the grief of each parting that can keep us moving forward with establishing new relationships as well staying on in existing ones.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Mary!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I dread the day when my beloved little dog, Baby, will die. She is only 4 years old, but I know the day will come. I have dealt with a lot of dying and grief in my life, and I should be used to it by now. It's always hard to let go. We never let go of the memories, though.

    • Quirinus profile imageAUTHOR

      Queirdkus Ω Ibidem 

      7 years ago from Sitting on the Rug

      As always, a beautiful comment worth its own hub! Thanks, Pwalker281

      Also for the mention about inheritting the Kingdom by letting go. So apt!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Quirinus, I too have lost beloved pets, my two cats who lived for 16 and 17 years respectively. I used to have vivid dreams of my beloved Zanzibar for many years after he shed his physical form (around 2005). Now he is a fond memory that is sparked every time I see a black cat. The other cat, Precious, was more my daughter's than mine, but her passing was felt as well.

      A big lesson to learn - that it's in letting go that we "inherit the Kingdom" - one that often takes a lifetime to grasp. But it's okay to grieve, too. The challenge is to let those feelings flow without becoming attached to them, and that includes feelings of joy. I'm seeing you moving through this period with ease and grace!


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