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Can Seeking Enlightenment Soothe Grief?

Looking for a higher love as a non-religious person

By Steffany RitchiePublished about a year ago 5 min read
Top Story - April 2023
Can Seeking Enlightenment Soothe Grief?
Photo by Rajat Verma on Unsplash

I’m officially a cliché. After several months of grieving my father, I have apparently entered the “pray” section of “Eat Pray Love.” (I admit I tried and failed to finish this book last summer! When Elizabeth Gilbert starts writing out the breathing practices of her meditation in extended detail I lost the will to go on!)

I jest a bit, I don’t know if what I have been doing would be considered prayer. But Like Elizabeth Gilbert I have turned to Eastern, not Western spiritualism in my time of need, in the form of meditation.

I am prone to a thing yogis like to call “monkey mind.” I have tried and failed to have a meditation practice in my routine for as long as I can remember.

I am normally capable of meditating only if a. there is a person in the room guiding me, as in a yoga class (I think I need the threat of a telling off for not concentrating harder!) or b. other forms of heavily guided meditation.

Except I’m picky. The meditation can’t be too complicated, the voice has to be just right. If left to my own devices/listening to meditation music only, my brain goes AWOL.

Yet somehow, I’ve been meditating more regularly than ever before in my life for the past few weeks. I found a meditation that is basically a stern sounding Indian guru chanting a repetitive mantra, some swirly Eastern music, “ohms” and then he does this amazingly trippy singing and I feel like I leave my body. And for whatever reason it blessedly numbs my overactive brain to mush.

It also makes me cry almost every time I do it. I feel sad, but also a feeling of release. The minute the meditation ends I feel separate from the pain, and relief. At first I thought it was a blip, but nope, every time almost without fail this happens.

Maybe I just need to cry more and this opens the door, but it does feel different from the moments of grief triggered in day to day life. I don’t feel like I am being dragged into the undertow of sorrow, more like I am washed in a wave of pain and expelled from it. It’s pretty intense, but I feel much better after.

The meditation style is loosely related to a form of Kundalini yoga called Kriya. I have always been drawn to the breathwork focus of Kundalini yoga as an asthmatic. Even Yoga With Adriene incorporates some of the ancient yogic breath work into her meditations in a more intensive way.

Kriya yoga does have some slight controversy surrounding it. It’s known as a “you can only really learn it properly from a guru” style of yoga that makes all kinds of claims around its benefits. I cannot personally comment on this since I have only done the meditation, which doesn’t have any special breath work in it.

It is one of these more esoteric branches that seems to inspire both fanaticism and skepticism. But I am not Elizabeth Gilbert in the ashram in India, I am just a girl with a living room practice and a curious soul!

As a not very religious person (I was raised with zero religion by a lapsed Catholic, I think weirdly this has made me a bit more inquisitive/open to the idea of a higher power, without ever having been draw to a particular religion either) I have struggled with finding anything that can help soothe my unresolved issues with my dad since his passing.

I have tried to believe some version of him is out there somewhere, that somehow I will feel that someday, even going so far as to dabble in the psychic realm. But maybe my lack of a firm belief in an afterlife means that side will never appear to me.

The small act of connecting to my feelings and letting them go with the meditation practice has been incredibly helpful to my state of mind. I feel a bit lighter and more motivated since beginning meditation. I definitely felt like I needed something to get me through the rough patches, so I am grateful to have finally found something that helps.

I am not a natural at meditation, my mind still wanders sometimes, sometimes I can find stillness better than others. I don’t know if there is an end goal, or how long I will keep at it.

It is helping though, and I am grateful for it. I was someone who struggled to meditate and didn’t ever stick at it for long, so I am writing this partly to say that it’s not impossible or hopeless if like me you are not a natural at it.

Maybe I had to be in a severely dark place to try to find some lightness in this way. Whatever the case, I am for now less heavy of heart and I feel it does make a real difference to my mental health. I feel less stuck in what felt for awhile like the endless limbo of grief.

I hope anyone else struggling with grief can find comfort in whatever way works for them. I don’t think burying our feelings, intentionally or not, progresses our acceptance of loss. I wouldn’t have known that meditation could help me feel more connected to or at ease with my pain, and I recommend it to anyone who is open to it.

“Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

*This article was originally published by the author on Medium


About the Creator

Steffany Ritchie

Hi, I mostly write memoir, essays and pop culture things. I am a long-time American expat in Scotland.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (11)

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  • Charlene Ann Mildred Barroga2 months ago

    Steffany, your open discussion of using meditation to cope with sorrow strikes a deep chord with me. It provides a novel viewpoint on dealing with bereavement and accepting alternative forms of healing.

  • BUSHRA TANVIR12 months ago

    love this . read and subscribe mine

  • hayaadnan12 months ago read mine too please. :)

  • hayaadnan12 months ago

    Nice work. Well written and very beautifully descript.

  • Billie Whyte12 months ago

    I love this. It’s so much from the heart, and I’ve been there too so I can really relate. From yoga to kundalini, I found my peace through reiki. Wishing you the very best on your journey through grief. It’s a tough one. Sending positive thoughts your way ❤️

  • Erica Wagnerabout a year ago

    Thank you for sharing with such openness. It's really helpful and generous to others.

  • Grz Colmabout a year ago

    Hi, I’m so glad U have found meditation useful! Particularly when dealing with grief or other tricky emotions. I’ve been going to a meditation group the last few years and the instructor is amazing. I often have a similar reaction to you. It’s incredibly powerful! Best wishes. 😊✨

  • Awesome job✨😉❤️🎉🎉🎉🎉Congratulations on Your Top Story❗❗

  • Kristen Balyeatabout a year ago

    I really enjoyed this, Steffany! So wonderful to hear your experience and what has worked for you! Meditation can be very liberating- I have found tremendous presence, peace and freedom through the practice. This was such a great piece and I'm so glad you have found some healing in that space. Super curious if you'd be willing to share a link to your meditation, if it's available. I have been using the Waking Up app for a few years, but I really enjoy switching it up here and there. I definitely like the idea of listening to some trippy singing to tap into that "leave your body" experience! haha! That sounds quite amazing! Thanks for sharing your experience, this was awesome! I agree with Dana, I really like your writing style!

  • Dana Crandellabout a year ago

    A very enjoyable piece that I find relatable in some ways. I enjoy your writing style. Congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Samia Afraabout a year ago

    Good insight :)

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