There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. — Washington Irving
I was working out at the gym, climbing an endlessly self-renewing staircase. Recently I’d been curious about Ram Dass’ work, as a respected colleague is interested in his work. I saw there was a new documentary about him, “Going Home”, an exploration of the final stage of his corporeal existence and a meditation on his life, and life in general. Living in bliss and beauty in Hawaii, he had suffered a stroke some years ago which forced his to slow down. He shifted to a slower pace, his ability to speak limited now, no longer lecturing to large groups of people on long, arduous tours.
In the documentary, he is discussing the stroke he had, and how it affected him. He is unable to take care of himself anymore, he has come to appreciate dependency on others, he remains enlightened, aware of the impermanence of life and the illusory nature of the self. I am watching while working out. I am thinking of my mother as Mother’s Day approaches, ironically around the same time as my birthday. I am thinking of aging. I am thinking of staying healthy for my children, and fearful that — like my mother’s — my own life may be cut short. It’s a strange juxtaposition.
I used to resist the grief because it was too painful. Now, with grieving comes peace and relief. Grief is a terrible thing to try to fight back, but grieving is a growth process upon surrender. And recently a friend from my youth died, too young, a beautiful wild man, by his own hand. All this is in my head on the stair climber, as I do high-intensity intervals and feel my heart pounding in my chest.
I am watching this video, and this man appears very happy in spite of all he has endured. I’m not a follower of gurus or a believer in supernatural forces, but I’m fascinated to some degree by the psychology of spirituality and the sociology of power, and moreover, tickled by the twirling and confusing use of language characteristic of mysticism.
He says, with a broad and gentle smile as he is discussing what he has experienced, “I don’t wish you the stroke. But I wish you the grace from the stroke.” As he says it, I feel tears rush to my eyes, and emotion well up in me. I’m working out, and crying. How odd. No one notices.
And that closely captured my experience with the grief I’ve struggled with nearly my whole life, putting words to it. I was surprised and thrown of balance. That’s what I would wish for others — the learning I’ve had, and what little grace I may have gleaned — but not the pain of loss, or the long suffering, or the sense of a void which can never be filled, or the feeling of being alone which can never be met with the presence of another.
Originally published at www.psychologytoday.com.