Loving, Losing, and Learning To Let Go

Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock
As someone who is prone to extreme anxiety and muscle tension, it’s no surprise that I have been carrying a great deal of tension in my body since my husband’s passing. Body scan meditations have been incredibly helpful because they allow me to notice where I am holding tension.

Still, I am facing some strong feelings of resistance. Despite the rational part of my brain knowing it is not possible, a big part of my mind is still fighting for my husband to be alive. It is only during body scans that I can feel my resistance in the form of muscle tension and feel a bit of a release as the practice progresses.

After ten months, you would think the letting go would get easier. In a way, I suppose it has. In yet another way, I know I’m not ready to let go at all.

2015-06-06 10.29.48This month, in particular, will be a tough one. My wedding anniversary is coming up in just a couple days. My husband’s birthday is next week. Without him, these celebratory moments become piercing moments of devastation.

It’s strange how confusing it all is, how difficult to know someone is gone and yet to want them back so badly. It defies all logic, and yet it is human nature. We become attached to people and, when we lose them, it’s as if we’ve lost a part of ourselves.

Knowing that letting go is such an important part of the practice is difficult to embrace. But I know I can’t keep hanging on to the desire for my husband to still be alive. It’s not healthy, and it prevents me from living the rest of my own life.

So, I try to move forward in the best way I know how, by meditating and practicing yoga and continuing to notice the ever-evolving stages of grief. Perhaps one day I will truly accept that my husband is gone, but right now–I just need to make it through this month.

Wishing love and bunniness for all, despite my heavy heart.

For more about grieving:

  • Allowing Room for Healing from Grief
  • Running On Om Podcast
  • Resources:

  • Body Scan Meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program
  • Running On Om Podcast

    Just in case you missed the announcement on Facebook last week, I thought I’d post the interview I did with Julia Hanlon for the Running On Om podcast.

    If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, or grief, I hope this podcast can provide a little bit of hope. We also talk a lot about the origins of Bunny Buddhism, so if you’re interested in learning more about how Bunny Buddhism came to be, this might answer your questions.

    Please let me know what you think!

    ROO Podcast Image

    ROO Podcast #130: Krista Lester on How Bunnies and Buddhism Saved Her…

    Posted by Running On Om on Friday, May 22, 2015

    How to Deal with Intense Emotions in Meditation: 3 Simple Steps

    As many of you know from a previous post, I lost my husband to suicide last August. If you have noticed me being a bit less frequent in my bunny photo posts since then, this is why. I am still very much grieving.

    Photo: Witsanu Keephimai/Shutterstock
    Photo: Witsanu Keephimai/Shutterstock

    Meditation has helped me enormously—I have no doubt—in dealing with this devastating loss. What I find strange, though, is that memories of my husband don’t come up every time I sit. I would think there would be so many emotions and so many memories to sort through that they would come up in every meditation session.

    Why don’t they?

    Today, I think I found my answer. I am now at a point where the emotions aren’t hitting me at every single moment of every day. They hit me when I am over-stressed or over-tired and they hit me when something unexpectedly triggers a specific memory. When I cued up a guided 30-minute body scan meditation today, it unexpectedly triggered a specific memory.

    At one point, the meditation began focusing on the chest and the heart and the lungs and these precious systems that support life. As soon as I thought about these systems, my mind was taken to the hospital, where I had watched for 90 minutes as 20 or more doctors gathered around my husband’s bed in the ICU and tried to restore his pulse and breathing.

    Of course, tears came. I briefly panicked and awaited the full-body sobs. I thought for a moment that the whole meditation process was a wasted effort. But this kind of thing has happened to me so many times now that I have learned how to deal with it. The approach is always the same:

    • Acknowledge the memory and the emotion;
    • Try not to fight it and just let it be;
    • Gently return to the meditation, when you are ready.

    For me, this meant seeing that hospital scene for a moment and reminding myself I was no longer there. The full-body sobs came and went, briefly, as soon as I allowed myself to feel. And then the task became gently turning my thoughts back to my breathing and the guided meditation.

    As I write this, it sounds so easy. It sounds like I expect that every intense emotion can be handled in one sitting with three simple steps. But the fact is, it is not at all easy. It is incredibly difficult. I have been doing this over and over and over again since August. And I only know it is worth the trouble when I reflect on where I used to be.

    When I read that post from September, I realize how far I have come. The fact that intense emotions don’t come up in every sitting is the result of working through the grieving process in the best way I can. I am fortunate to have made some progress.

    To be fair, I think it is also important to note that I have had some fantastic professional help throughout this entire process. I would encourage anyone dealing with intense emotions to find a reputable therapist and to keep looking until you find one you trust. Meditation can help with intense emotions, but sometimes we all need a little more help. And there is absolutely no shame in asking.

    Today’s meditation was one of the guided meditations included in the Insight Timer App. I am a fan of this app and often use it just for the timer and chimes, but today I used Elisha Goldstein’s 30-minute body scan meditation.

    Elisha Goldstein’s 30-minute body scan meditation is also available online at ElishaGoldstein.com.

    Image: Witsanu Keephimai/Shutterstock.

    This is why I meditate

    Since Bunny Buddhism began a few years ago, a 140-character sentiment on Twitter has been sufficient. Why change now?  Well, because it strikes me that there is a part of @BunnyBuddhism that might not be apparent from Twitter. Bunny Buddhism is not the creation of some happy-go-lucky individual who always knows the right thing to say and do. It is not the creation of someone who naturally knows how to be happy and life-affirming. On the contrary, I created Bunny Buddhism as a lifeline because I know my thoughts will spiral into rampant negativity and gloom if I leave them unchecked. It is only when I take some time to meditate and try to reframe my thoughts in a positive way that I can come up with a way to approach life that feels almost right for me.

    And there is absolutely no denying that it is a lengthy and difficult process.

    Here’s an example of what I mean. Just as I was about to go to sleep last night, I heard a sudden noise that filled me with panic. I froze for a moment, not sure whether the sound came from inside or outside, and then I heard a woman outside screaming for help. I ran to the window and looked into total blackness. I heard her scream again, tried to figure out where she was, ran for my phone, and yelled to my husband, “Someone is screaming for help!” I wanted to call 911, but I had no idea what to tell them. The voice was just far enough away that I had no idea where the woman was. So I ran back to the window and yelled, “Where are you?” And then I heard other voices speaking more calmly. Moments later, I heard sirens, and I saw rescue vehicles stop at a house about 50 yards away and across a 30-foot drop that stands between my property and the next. I breathed a sigh of relief that the professionals had arrived to tend to the scene despite my inability to process coherent thoughts through my panic.

    I sat listening at the window for at least half an hour, staring at the flashing lights, wanting to help, wondering if I would be getting in the way, knowing there was not really anything I could do, and rebuking myself for not jumping into action sooner. I tried to convince myself the situation was being handled, but I knew there was no chance I was going to be able to fall asleep. My husband decided to go see what was going on. He came back to tell me rescue personnel had just cut a man out of his car after he had wrecked it into a massive concrete divider in the street. I was shocked. I have heard car crashes, and this did not sound like one. There was no screeching of tires, no crunching metal, no breaking glass – just the sound of something big sliding or falling and then someone screaming. It turns out the driver never hit the breaks and ran right into a divider, which knocked down a massive concrete planter that then skidded across the street.

    Car accidents always send me into panic. I spent half of last night wallowing in “what ifs” and “I should haves” and the other half trying to figure out what could have happened for the driver to lose control like that. When it was time to get out of bed this morning, I had a massive headache, so I decided to do some yoga. Halfway through my yoga, I started crying, presumably releasing stress from what had happened the night before. The tears came and went and didn’t last long, and I immediately felt a little bit better.

    Following yoga, I decided to meditate, so I turned on Ajahn Thanansanti’s “Mind Like Sky” guided meditation (available at http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/12/). I knew when the meditation was nearing its end, and I sat noticing my mind anticipating the chimes that were about the come. But, as I awaited chimes, I heard church bells. I have heard these church bells many times over the past few years. Usually, I hear the bells and think, “It must be noon.” Today, I really heard them and thought, “Music has come into my day.”

    THIS is why I meditate.

    If I hadn’t done my yoga and meditation today, I would have gone into the rest of my week with unresolved tension and negativity about last night’s unfortunate car accident. Now, I know I have allowed myself to really feel for the driver of that car, release my anxiety about how I responded to the incident, and experience a musical moment that will inspire me for the rest of the week.

    While there may not be any bunnies here, this is precisely the kind of experience that leads to each new Bunny Buddhism quote, and I believe it is important to recognize that each quote is just one small part of an ongoing journey.

    With love and bunniness….