Mindfulness Meditation

Grieving Our Loved Ones

In my most recent post I wrote about my mother’s death and the subtle but essential influence she, and other elders and ancestors, have on me and my family. As I continue to grieve this loss I find myself re-experiencing mom every day. Maybe it’s a memory that arrives spontaneously, seemingly out of nowhere. Maybe it’s a taste, smell, or sound that evokes an image or a thought. Mostly it’s intentional thought, simply deciding to think about mom, what she meant to me and our family, her good, bad and ugly (yes, let’s be real; we ALL have some ugly), and I smile or even laugh and then get back to the business of the day. For what choice do I have? Or you, for that matter? Life is for the living; like Auntie Mame said, “life is a banquet!”

My wife pointed out a passage from Tiffany Schlain’s book “24/6,” which I’ve reprinted below. The “Tech-Shabbat” she refers to is the essence of her book, the intentional practice of turning off our devices for a day every week and living an analog life. In this passage she’s musing about the impact of her father’s death on her own living. It’s quite good and informed my grieving and perhaps might help yours. The reference to “Blooma,” by the way, is to her then-newborn daughter of that name.

From 24/6 by Tiffany Schlain

In my father’s last months, I repeatedly asked him, what did he think was the meaning of life?

Here is what he eventually said to me:  “Appreciate beauty.  Plant gardens.  Enjoy sunsets.  Help people less fortunate than you.  Think big.  Nothing is more important than family.  Be present.”  Much later, I would realize these are exactly the things we do on our screen-free days.

I started doing Tech-Shabbats after the intense period when I lost my father and had Blooma within days.  It was as if life grabbed me by the shoulders and stared into my eyes and said, Figure out what’s important!

Here’s the thing that’s most fascinating to me, nearly a decade after my father’s death: he is now infinite to me.  While we are all human, fallible, imperfect beings who are all works in progress, if we attempt to live meaningful and purposeful lives and are present for those we love, we can live forever.

Someone once told me: whenever you are doing something that the person you lost loved to do, you bring them back.  So while I write this book in the darkness of five a.m., when my dad also loved to write; clap through tears at the end of a fantastic film in a packed theater; thrust my own finger in the air and say “Tradition!” while eating a bagel, lox, and cream cheese; or appreciate the family sitting around the table — all things he loved — he is with me.

Here is the video of that day’s guided meditation:

And the audio of that day’s guided meditation:



Mindfulness Meditation

The Second Music

During our lives we connect repeatedly with people, and some of those connections become quite deep. Using music as a metaphor, we can think of the attraction that begins a relationship as the “melody,” the most apparent part of the music of connection. So, in a way, that is the “first music,” the music we hear most readily.

However there is a “second music” in our relationships, of which we may or may not be mindful. Again, using music as metaphor, think of this second music as the bass line and drumming in a pop song. A song that comes to mind for me is “Something,” George Harrison’s ballad from the Abbey Road album. The melody is sublime, and communicates clearly the feeling of passionate love that his lyrics express. But if you listen closely you can also hear a wonderful rhythm just beneath the melody, a rhythm defined by Paul McCartney’s skillful bass playing and Ringo Starr’s subtle drumming. If we heard this song without that “second music” we would have a lesser experience.

The same is true in our most intimate and important relationships. While it is the outward signs that attract us there is that second layer, something that is constant and rhythmic, that keeps us connected. As a therapist I recognize that the issue or story that my therapy client tells me is that first music, while the client’s history and emotions and world-view constitute that background and underlying second music.

My mother passed away very recently. She died after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for many years. The early loss we experienced was the first music, as her memory deteriorated; short-term memory at first, then gradually long-term memory. In the beginning of her illness she was still mom in character; the second music was still playing. But as long-term memory faded and was lost, so was the feeling of my mother; the underlying rhythm was gone as well.

What stimulated this line of thought in me was a poem, “The Second Music,” reprinted below, that was sent to me by a dear friend shortly after mom’s death:

Today’s Quotes:

The Second Music

Now I understand that there are two melodies playing,

one below the other, one easier to hear, the other

lower, steady, perhaps more faithful for being less heard

yet always present.

When all other things seem lively and real,

this one fades. Yet the notes of it

touch as gently as fingertips, as the sound

of the names laid over each child at birth.

I want to stay in that music without striving or cover.

If the truth of our lives is what it is playing,

the telling is so soft

that this mortal time, this irrevocable change,

becomes beautiful. I stop and stop again

to hear the second music.

I hear the children in the yard, a train, then birds.

All this is in it and will be gone. I set my ear to it as I would to a heart.

“The Second Music” by Annie Lighthart from Iron String

With this idea in mind, I will pay closer attention going forward to this second music in my relationships and in the world. I think sometimes we pay attention only to the most obvious parts of our friendships. With the gradual loss of my mother, I’ve come to appreciate how much that second music means. Perhaps the next time you’re with your friend, your spouse, your partner, you’ll notice that subtle rhythm that defines the longest-lasting part of the person you love.

Here is the video of the meditation today:

And here is today’s Audio: