GRIEF ASKS FOR NO PERMISSION

Early this morning I sat down for meditation. The door wasn’t firmly closed, Harry came in, and without the slightest hesitation jumped up on my lap, curled his reddish body, put his head under his tail ,and went to sleep.

Ordinarily I never let the dogs interfere with meditation. They know that, sometimes come in, see me sitting on the corner chair, and you could almost see the quick grasp in their eyes: Oh oh, can’t bug her. No fun or breakfast yet; maybe time for a nap.

But this time Harry jumped on my lap in a second flat, as though he knew it was the right thing to do. And I? I let him stay there. I knew that was the right thing to do as well.

Bernie’s memorial is coming up on Sunday, and the heavy weight of it returned last Thursday evening when I received some photos. It was as if my entire system was suddenly shifted to face that date, February 17. As if someone was saying: That’s where you’re headed for the next 10 days, don’t bother looking elsewhere. Yes, you have emails to return, a lovely student staying with you to do some study, preparations for different things, but you might as well forget about them. That’s not what’s up for you right now.

And once again, I have no voice here; no say in the matter. The nights are different, the dreams are vivid, and I open my eyes at 6 and feel I have no control over my life.

Grief asks for no permission. It doesn’t say May I, or Please, it just does what it wants. The best you can hope for is that you have the common sense to let it have its way, that you don’t fight it with resolution, schedules, or to-do lists, that you don’t wish it was over. That you lose whatever purpose you thought you had in life and let it course through every vein and cell, like the winds we’ve had here for a couple of days.

You’ve convened a meeting to discuss the Zen Peacemaker Order with some two dozen senior practitioners and teachers, and even that will yield to the embers still searing inside.

So you apologize to everyone you made commitments to, you stop your studies and preparation, you don’t go to yoga, you stop talking to friends who reach out and don’t know why you don’t call or text back, you even ask someone else to take the dogs out.

If you’re smart—which I often am not—you let that typhoon blast you. It doesn’t matter that it’s done it in the past till finally you thought it had gone and you could pick up your life again, and then it surprised you once again. It doesn’t matter that the days seemed clear for a while and you felt safe. Grief lies in ambush; all it needs are some photos that you’ve already seen, Rami pointing something out in the basement, a little phrase someone drops in casual conversation, a tiny notebook falling from between the books you’re packing away—and it reminds you it’s there, blasting its way through every pore.

I think Harry understood all this before I did, and jumped on my lap. He knew what I needed better than I did: Forget your meditation, forget everything. Here I am, in your lap, against your belly. Put your hands on my hair and stroke me as I go to sleep.