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Floating Through Grief

Last week, my mother called me to tell me something about my father. She is his caregiver because he has Alzheimer’s. She called to tell me how she found him on the floor at 2 am, and how hard it was to get him up. He was really “out of it.” He was calling for the priest to come to the house because he thought he was dying. My mother and my brother thought he was, too. It turns out he was okay but it still scared us.

When I got off the phone, I was upset. “My dad is dying,” I thought. I knew he was getting worse, and the day of his passing was getting closer (maybe a few months or years). In many ways, we are all dying a bit every day. We never know how many days we have. But for my dad it is more obvious. His mind is failing. His body is failing. He is getting closer and closer.

I sometimes do not allow myself to experience the fullness of my emotions. I sometimes push things to the side. “I can handle it,” I tell myself.

The next day I floated. At one point, I just “dropped out” the way someone does when we almost sink into nothingness – no thought, no awareness. It is the kind of brain state in which one is not aware how slow they are until they come out of it. I generally enjoy being in such a slow meditative state. However, this day was different. When I realized how slow I was, I was nervous. I gripped on to the bar on the side of the room. There was no reason to grip, but I was afraid. Later, I looked at the experience more closely. What was I afraid of? Well, I was afraid of my dad dying. I was afraid of the emotions I was experiencing about his sickness, and about his impending death. I was afraid to lose control and just allow myself to grieve the passing of someone I love so much.


Defy Gravity and See What Happens…

For almost all of human history, people were confined to the ground level of the earth. They walked places. Some of them rode horses. Others rode on ships. But humans weren’t able to spend much time in the air. Eventually, flying machines were created. It started with hot air balloons. Then back in the late 1800s, there was a rush of people trying to create a flying machine – something that would allow people to travel great distances the way birds flew. In 1903, after countless attempts to create a machine, the Wright Brothers made it happen. From that point forward, mankind began to take their place in the sky. Doing so, has transformed our world. People can now easily move to other countries, visit with family. We can ship goods, letters. We can now even travel in space. In short, taking our place in the air has transformed human civilization.

But staying on the ground is something people just took for granted. If you talked to most people before the flying machines were created, they wouldn’t have conceived of flying. To them, being on the ground is what we were meant to do. “It’s how it’s always been.” But as history now shows us, what “has been” is not what “has to be” and breaking into new ways of being can be amazing. If you’ve ever traveled to another part of this country or another country, you know that sense of amazement, especially if the people on the other side are suddenly speaking another language, or the weather is drastically different.

Before airplanes were invented, most people couldn’t imagine what life could be like with them. In fact, the Wright brothers had a difficult time convincing the world that they had created a flying machine. Many people attacked the Wright brothers for spreading such rumors. Could you blame them? The idea of a flying machine was very strange to people. It was outside what people considered to be normal. Now we can’t imagine life without airplanes. How else could you attend that special college you want(ed) to attend, or go to the wedding of one of our close friends and still be back for work on Monday?

The same is true of floating. Right now, your body is putting a significant amount of energy into resisting gravity. Sitting, standing, walking, and keeping your body upright is normal and just the way “things are.” That’s fine and dandy. But can you imagine how much energy is freed up by your body when you spend an hour a week in a gravity free environment? It’s “gravity free” because when you float, you do not have to put energy into resisting gravity.

When floating, your muscles relax, your spine elongates, and your nervous system calms down. In many ways, you take flight but the journey is not to another country or to the moon. The journey is within.