Category Archives: toglen

The benefits of sadness

Every hurt that is held collects within us. That part of us becomes cynical and critical of all help; suspicious of anything that is not known, that could fool us into further pain.  There is too much at stake to gamble on healing, so we keep a separate side to wait, to guard, to watch.  Still, we can bring ourselves vigilance and validate the protection we offer while slipping ourselves some nourishment and cheer.  Unification is not homogenization, but a balance.

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Julia and I made it home.  It was a successful trip seeing family and staying with friends including Matt Brady, multimedia producer, designer & artist, the perfect person to go see Pixar’s new film Inside Out with.  To say that we were emotionally moved is in line with the movie’s aim but our emotions experienced a paradigm shift. Not only were we grateful and proud of Pixar for making this intergenerational film but they have given us a tool for viewing ourselves in action. Without giving the plot away, we were amazed to see how they handled the relationship between joy and sadness and the role sadness plays in our lives.  h

I for one, as you know, am a huge advocate for joy.  One of the silent prayers I love to offer up calls for the end of all suffering. However, since we are all in the midst of great suffering both directly and indirectly, sadness plays a vital role in the release of our authentic tenderness and compassion.  It expands and connects us to one another.

In Judaism, when someone dies, we sit shiva, it is a period of up to seven days where the family does not go to work but stops the normal routine to open their home to friends and family to receive condolence calls. Traditionally, the person(s) sat on low stools or boxes, to be literally brought low so they could fully grieve the dead and receive relief from the love of the living.  Without this process, or one in which our sadness is validated and expressed, there can be a psychological and spiritual whiplash. This process also allows us to take stock in the community we may have forgotten and gives them the opportunity to be present with the love in their lives.

Ironically in Hinduism, Shiva is an aspect of God that is both the destroyer and transformer, which relates to our sadness destroying what we are holding on to too tightly so that we can transform this moment into bliss.

In Buddhism, bohicitta is the noble heart that breaks open with the recognition that you are not separate from those who are currently suffering. Toglen is the practice of breathing in their pain and breathing out relief for them as well as breathing in joy and sending it out to everyone.

Mother Teresa as well as the nuns that the show Call the Midwife, are based on, funneled their sadness into actively alleviating the suffering of others around them.

May our sadness be mingled with joy so that we are fully and most authentically here.

Love you, Ira