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Stay Alive: The Foreword to "Yoga and Grief" | Carolyn Flynn

This is my foreword for “Yoga and Grief” by Gloria Drayer and Kathleen Doherty, forthcoming in summer 2014 from Balboa Press. Pre-order it at yogaandgrief.com.

Grief comes in waves.

When you have lost someone you love, the sadness is a powerful undertow in your life. On the surface, the core structure of your life may seem much as you have always known it. Yet this is incongruent with the deep truth within: Someone you love is missing. You carry within you the profound sense that ground beneath your feet has shifted, as though you are lost in a vast ocean, far from dry land.

You hold the dissonance of the thought that the person is missing, yet the one you love occupies an immense space in your heart, mind, and soul. More than you could ever imagine.

Your beloved one is gone. The stark realization of this can bowl you over when you least expect it. The magnitude of grief is often beyond our ability to articulate it or describe it to another person. You really have to be there, in the grief-body, to know and remember. Even if … even if you have been there before.

During the year my mother was dying, my sisters and I came to call the sluggish and clumsy ways we operated as “grief-brain.” We gave each other grace because we understood that a good portion of our thoughts and our ways of interacting was consumed by the sadness that we were losing her.

She was irreplaceable. And we would have to let her go.

Grief is the most visceral of human emotions. I am convinced of that. It holds you in a physical grip, occupying your mind, anchoring itself in your heart, and rooting deep in your soul. It demands that you examine the deepest, darkest and most beautiful parts of yourself. It may be the most palpable emotion humans can feel.

Yoga proved essential for me in the long journey of losing my mother, for its power to ground me in my body, clear my crowded mind, and soothe my soul. Yoga made me brave and strong when I needed to be brave for my mother, when I needed to assure her she could face her death, and I could face losing her.

“Stay. Alive,” she whispered to me as she gasped for her last breaths. “Stay. Alive!” she repeated, so I would not forget.

Yoga keeps me alive.The sheer discipline of yoga – the strength of its gentle wisdom, executed with mindfulness and compassionate nonjudgment, its balance of effort and surrender – is a map for staying alive. Yoga can guide you through your journey with grief, reconstituting you with new mettle. With each practice, you are made new. The practice can fortify you with a renewed and vigorous spiritual force.

Gloria Drayer brings a gentle, calm, and compassionate spirit to the practice she teaches, and you’ll find that spirit infuses every page (or screen) of this book. She knows that when you care for someone, you give, and when you give of your spirit, as you do when you love someone through their journey with dying, you need the gentle sustenance that yoga provides.

If you are facing a loss or processing the aftermath of a loss, I urge you to use this book as your beacon of light on the shore.

When the undertow of grief roils at your ankles in these uncertain waters, use this book to build a yoga practice and find your way back to the light and love that you know to be the truth. Trust, as I did, that Gloria will guide you home.

~ Carolyn Flynn, October 2013, co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Mindfulness” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creative Visualization”