Grief Walk November 2015: allowing ourselves to be changed

The Intention of the Grief Walks

It is the intention of the Grief Walks to explore how we, in our communities, can create more space for Grief and Mourning.

This month on the Grief Walk we will begin by allowing into our awareness the pain and suffering that is happening all over our planet right now.

This may be a new practice to you but come and experiment in a safe way. You may be feeling anger, overwhelm or maybe completely lost, not knowing how to respond to the recent attacks. (Just in November 2015, there have been terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, Nigeria, West Bank, Israel, Somalia, Egypt, Chad, Iraq and Cameroon – 14 year old girl suicide bomber killing 5 people and herself.  Click here for fairly comprehensive list of terrorist attacks in 2015.)  On top of this, there is all the violence perpetrated by States around the world. France is now bombing Isis controlled area of Raqqa in Syria with unknown casualties. There have been  between 146,000 and 166,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since 2003. 224,000 casualties including combatants.

Allowing ourselves to be changed

“Don’t pray for Paris, work for peace “says Dalai Lama. “We cannot solve this problem only through prayers,” the spiritual leader said. “I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.”

My sense is until we allow this into our consciousness; we can’t actively work for change and for peace. My personal experience is that it is more effective to come together to grieve, instead of trying to do it alone. My experience with grief has been that I can grieve deeper when I have someone by my side. I just cry longer with someone listening to me, bearing witness to my tears. The experience is deeper because I somehow feel safer being accompanied.

One story I heard on the radio recently that stopped me in my tracks as I was preparing dinner for my son and I, was of a Syrian family walking, walking, walking to cross a border and the 3 year old son, said “I can’t go any further. I cannot go more.” And he stopped by the side of the road to fall immediately asleep.  I can imagine the fear and pain of the mother (I think she was alone, no husband by her side) with a child exhausted beyond belief, her own exhaustion, her own fear of what might happen by the side of the road.

Stories like these helped me mourn for the plight of people around the world who are living with the consequences of organised violence.  Until something shifts in our internal landscape by what is happening around the world, we cannot stand up and help work towards peace, as the Dalai Lama urges. And this may be working towards peace in our homes and neighbourhoods, it may be having the clarity that further air strikes by France or UK will only escalate violence, it may be implementing programs to support the steps towards peace here in the UK or in other countries.


Resources to accompany us

Working towards peace and nonviolence is a commitment. As Gandhi says “Non violence is a conscious deliberate restraint put upon one’s desire for vengeance. That does not mean acquiesce.”

In the place of vengeance, we need to look at the reasons why some people are moved to violence (being on the receiving end of violence, poverty, lack of education and opportunities, isolation) and as a collective global community attempt to meet needs that aren’t currently being met.

Martin Luther King said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, and Dominic Barter, working with Restorative Circles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil says that,

“The context is co-responsible for the act. Although the author (or perpetrator) of the violent act is 100% responsible for his or her choice, he or she didn’t invent the act, nor the system. Violence doesn’t manifest in everybody but it belongs to everyone in a community.”

And in our global world, I interpret that as meaning it belongs to me too.

“We really don’t like to talk about our problems, our history and because of this, we haven’t really understood what it has meant to do the things we’ve done historically. We constantly running into each other, we are constantly in conflict. We have a hard time talking about race. We are unwilling to commit ourselves to a process of truth and reconciliation.” Bryan Stephenson, “We need to talk about Injustice”, Human rights lawyer in the US.

So  on Friday 27th November, when our Muslim friends have their Friday prayers, my invitation is to allow the suffering of others into our consciousness, alongside our own pain and grief which we also acknowledge ….not to pray that God solves this, nor yet to go to strategy (What can I do?! What must be done?!) … but noticing how this affects each of us internally, so we feel connection with others around the world. We will walk with a question :

How does the violence around the world affect me?

And if you think that this question sidesteps the suffering inflicted by violent attacks around the world, I ask this question to avoid sacrificing ourselves and our own needs as we move towards peace, quite the opposite, we need to move towards peace fully, completely present in our bodies … not just with our intellect, or just with our anger, but with all parts of ourselves.

And I say that as a woman and a parent, well aware of the pressures on me to see the other’s needs and not see my own needs as being crucial to a healthy dynamic.

So I end with Interdepence and everyone’s needs being important as we step together towards peace.

Please read previous post Walking together: a safe ritual if you are coming for the first time

Practical info here:  Friday 27th November 2015, Myatt’s Fields Park, SE5 9RA 10.30am – 12pm



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