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Navigating Grief



In this episode, Alex shares a dharma talk she wrote during her yoga retreat on the nature of grief. In this dharma talk Alex shares the differences between major and secondary grief and describes how we have all experienced grief to some extent during the pandemic. Alex relates grief to dukham, and sukham, from Pantanjali's yoga sutras, and she offers four different causes of dukham, or suffering, and ways to process it.


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Follow me on Instagram @alexmcrobs and check out my offerings in yoga, meditation and coaching at http://themindfullifepractice.com/.


Transcript


hi friend this is alex mcrobbs founder of the mind for life practice and you're listening to the sober yoga girl podcast. I'm a canadian who moved across the world to the middle east at age 23 and i never went back i got sober in 2019 and i now live full-time in bali indonesia. I've made it my mission to help other women around the world stop drinking start yoga and change their lives through my online sober girls yoga community. You're not alone and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling let me show you how


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hello hello everyone now welcome back to another episode of sober yoga girl it is tuesday july 5th this episode is going to drop in a couple days and i just got home to toronto from a pretty big adventure i visited british columbia i went to a wedding saw a bunch of my high school friends visited family flew down to denver and then went to mexico for my yoga retreat and of course if you're following me on instagram you know what happened there which is that on the morning of my mexico retreat which i've been planning for six months traveled around the world for i woke up sick and tested positive for coven now thankfully i'm healthy i'm well i didn't have a major um experience of covid like some people have gotten really sick from covet i fortunately was okay and what was also amazing was that a lot of my yoga teacher training


graduates were actually guests on the retreat and for many of them they had an opportunity to teach yoga for the first time so there were some beautiful manifestations that came out of my sickness um everyone had a great time despite me being sick and got really amazing feedback on the retreat and i'm actually already planning next year's mexico retreat now i'm also planning a new year's eve retreat um i have a few retreats coming up in bali that i've planned on my own and one that i'm guest teaching on ellen from sobriety sisterhoods retreats i'm also planning a spinning retreat with my friend mim i'm considering a retreat in morocco so there's just a lot of cool exciting things coming up i did want to share with you for today's episode a dharma talk that i wrote during my quarantine on grief and this is because as you can imagine flying all the way around the world to teach a retreat and then testing positive for it and not being able to see my guests was like a heartbreaking experience and so i just want to share with you something that i wrote about grief during that time when i was in isolation so i've had a lot of time alone over these past three days and i think it's the most time i've spent alone in this entire pandemic since i am usually on zoom with everyone from the mindful life practice and during my isolation i've had a lot of time to experience grief to process grief to move through grief and i think i didn't even realize it was grief until that's what lana said it was so since sunday morning when i found out i had covered i have moved through several emotions shocked denial deep sorrow and acceptance but then lane i gave it the name of grief and identifying it as grief tremendously helped so since she gave me that name of grief i've thought a lot over the past few days about the nature of grief and i think we sometimes think that grief only pertains to death so dictionary.com defines grief as intense sorrow which is caused by someone's death now grief can absolutely be caused by death and i'm sure we've all experienced that at least some point in our lifetimes but i also think grief goes beyond death we all felt grief during this dynamic even if someone we know didn't die grief is a natural human response to loss and it's the emotional experience when someone or something we love is taken away so during this pandemic in each of our lifetimes some of us lost loved ones some of us lost our jobs some of us lost partners some of us lost friendships some of us lost time with our loved ones some of us didn't see a baby be born a grandchild's first steps some of us miss the vows of our children some of us didn't get to hold a parent's hand through death some of us spent so much time with our loved ones in isolation that they drove us crazy and and our relationships became fundamentally different and we grieve


that change and some of us spent so much time alone during this pandemic that we lost friendships beyond zoom and we greed that loss some of us didn't finish out a school year with our students and we agreed that too some of us got sober in the pandemic and we grieved the person we lost our identity as that party person before sobriety and some of us got sober and we grieved friendships lost in sobriety and some of us lost our sobriety and we relapsed and we probably grieved that too and then we gained it again so i was thinking today about how grief is highly personal we all grieve different things in our life and some people might feel no grief about the same moment that others feel tremendously but despite the individual experience of grief it's also highly universal everyone's grief is different but we all know grief and grief over the past two years has been sent collectively and in solitude together and apart so there are two things that i think society fails to teach us when it comes to grief the first is what grief is or isn't it's been so ingrained into me that grief only pertains to major losses like death that i couldn't comprehend that grief was what i was experiencing on sunday until elena defined it for me and then i was speaking to me who was a trained counselor and she defined for me secondary grief and this can refer to numerous small losses that don't seem like major grief but they are in the end now the second thing we're taught about grief or deep sorrow or tremendous emotions is that as children that they aren't okay and because we aren't comfortable being around other people's sorrow we rush to make it better because this is what our parents and our teachers did our default is to tell people that it's okay and we're trained to suggest that they look on the bright side but


the thing about grief is that when you're in the thick of it there is not a bright side it just needs to be felt to be seen or heard or held because some things in life are just shitty like losing a parent or a friend and no amount of positivity will make it better so in sutra 11.5 pontangelly describes human suffering as dukkha which literally means tightness in the chest or constriction in the heart and if you think about a time when you were upset and what it felt like in the heart this is dukkha and there are four causes of dukkha outlined by pantonjali so number one when the circumstances suddenly change that affect you and you weren't expecting it it's like when you're a kid and your mom suddenly takes you to leave the park when you weren't expecting you thought you'd have more time to play this is kind of like when covet originally hit and we were all suddenly put into lockdown the second is longing so you suffer when you want something you don't have it could be longing for anything a job a toy a promotion an event that you missed while in lockdown the third is samskara this is habit now this is when we repeatedly cause ourselves suffering with a habit that harms us so this would be like addiction to alcohol or drugs or eating junk food the fourth cause of suffering is when you're imbalanced so this is like when a toddler misses her nap when you're awake all night and you can't sleep when you're sick like you have coronavirus and when i reflected on all of these today i thought about how i've experienced almost all of these in a week right my circumstances suddenly changed i longed for something i didn't have and i also got coronavirus so sunday was the day that this retreat started and it was root chakra day and on this day of my retreats i build the foundation and i bond the group i build trust by having people share and once we've built that initial trust day two is the sacral chakra and this is when we go with the flow we get creative and we express ourselves and usually by that point in the retreat even if it's only a weekend away i typically have gotten to know my guests each so deeply on an intimate level that i know they're suffering i know they're dukkha i know their stories and if they're processing grief i know it if there is a mountain in their life that they're climbing i know what it is if they're making a tough life decision or add a fork in the road i know what that is and i hold space for all of this and on this retreat for the first time i do not and this has been my grief so this is my sixth yoga retreat but it's a really special one it's the first time i'm meeting so many of you in real life after two years of friendship whether it's been on zoom or facebook or instagram it's my first friendship where i've flown around the world my first retreat with this many guests it's my first retreat in this career that i've spent eight years building but what i am grieving right now is not this retreat and it's not the hike to south beach or the trip to toto santos it's not the yoga classes it's not the meals shared what i am grieving is these little moments in between and during all of these things when i as a retreat leader connect with everyone individually on a retreat it is when you open up and you share your suffering and i hold space for this my grief is that i see all of you in front of me but i don't see you i don't know what you came on this retreat to manifest i don't know what you dream of i don't know what heartbreak you're healing i don't know what challenges s leaving your kids or what fears you've overcome like your first vinyasa practice what grief you might be carrying like the loss of a parent and not knowing this is my grief and i'm so grateful for all of you for being so incredible and teaching practices and i appreciate that you've all been amazing and you want to make sure that i know that you're all happy and you're making the best of a shitty situation where you don't have a retreat leader that you thought you would and you've had these


wonderful opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone and teach yoga the first time in person and i know that there's going to be more retreats in my life and this is only the start of a yoga career and i'm gonna have more and you know there's a lesson in everything and the universe has my back and i know that one day this is going to be a hilarious time a hilarious story about the time i got covered on my retreat but it is not that day yet and it's only been about 50 hours of me processing grief and the unusual thing about this situation is that typically as a retreat leader i don't show up with grief or trauma or emotion or suffering on my retreats or even in my yoga classes right i usually teach from the scar of the pain and not the wound and this is the first time that it was beyond my control right this happened simultaneously as the first group was landing on the airport and on the way to andara and so you are witnessing me my moment by moment experiencing this grief and i'm looking for a lesson in this but i haven't found it you're live with me as i process this grief not after the fact and i will find and share that lesson when i found it but i haven't found it yet and for now i'm just processing grief so i realized today that the interesting thing is that my most recent retreat in may was also an experience of dukkha or suffering but in a different way so one of my guests had traveled all the way from the usa to bali to honor the one-year anniversary of her son who passed away by suicide in may of 2021 and the whole week we held space for her to process her suffering for her shares for her tears for her vulnerability knowing that nothing other than our presence no words could make up for this enormous loss she was facing in her son and with this guest her suffering would come out of nowhere she'd be tearing up and then there'd be moments of spontaneous joy she'd be singing in the car and then sobbing while spreading judson's ashes towards the end of the retreat she belly laughed for what she said was the first time in a year and then moments later she cried and this is suffering this is grief so my teacher ralph he taught me that all things come in twos so salt comes with sugar sunshine comes with rain happiness comes sadness and dukkha darkness or suffering has a pair too and it's called suka and suka is the light and today i experienced the first suka or the light of this week so i got a chance to sit with julie today for an hour when she came to pick up her towel and the first time since we arrived on this retreat i felt like i had finally made a connection so julie so vulnerably shared with me her losses her struggles her setbacks her heartbreak for limiting self beliefs and i just sat with it and i just want to thank you so much julie for taking that time with me today because i feel that this hour has been such an important spark for me so i finally had an opportunity to connect with someone since coming on this retreat which is what i've been yearning for i want to hear your stories i want to be reminded that we each carry our own sorrows and i feel like my story of grief of testing positive for coven and being in isolation it's somehow taken up the narrative of this week but everyone has a story of sorrow and suffering and grief not just me so inherent in sutra 11.6 is what pantonjali says is that there's no hierarchy and suffering so no one's experience of suffering is less legitimate than another pantonjali would say that each person's experience is valid and each person's experience is unique and when you accept that you can avoid comparing or judging right no one's suffering is greater or less than anyone's we all just suffer and instead of comparing we can just have empathy for everyone's suffering for everyone's sorrows for the discomfort that everyone has experienced at some point in their life including our own suffering and the one thing that i want to share is that i know that all of you want me to feel better but i will feel brief this entire retreat and that's unavoidable i think i'll sweep under a wave of grief and then i'll come above it i'll think i'm at the surface and i'll think i'm fine and swimming along and then boom something will hit me right like last night i held a circle and i thought i was okay and then a few minutes later we went to a sound bath and i couldn't stop crying and this is the nature of grief this is human suffering it comes in waves when you least expect it it will smack you under the surface and then you'll think you're coming up for air and then boom it's going to smack you again so there's no way for us to experience dark there's no way for us to escape darkness or suffering because this is human nature we all are going to live with it all at some point in our lives this is the human experience and the only way to move through our suffering is to just do the inner work here and now you have to sit with your suffering you don't have to force it to heal just keep swimming upwards out of the brief just ride along with each wave and allow the waves of grief to wash over you don't try to push through the waves just ride with them but resist being carried by them through the rest of your life so pantonjali also provides us different strategies to overcome our suffering or our dukkha and dukkha comes with its pair which is sukkah or joy so after this dharma talk we did a practice on my retreat we gave our darkness or our suffering to be transformed through the light so we practiced some rituals we did a bit of meditating we did a bit of journaling we did some sharing and then some releasing with a bonfire on the beach and it was so beautiful so we made a list of all the things we were letting go of anything that we were holding on to that was no longer serving us and then we all took a turn to throw it into this bonfire on the beach and then we had this new moon we had this moon milk for new intentions with a new moon it was like one of the most incredible beautiful um heartfelt nights i've ever had on a yoga retreat and the beautiful thing was that after this experience i ended up getting to have one-on-one time with all my guests so we sat six feet apart with me in a mask outside and i shared you know already that no one on the retreat tested positive recovered so we were managed to keep um everyone safe while i was recovering but i also got to have a bit of human connection from a distance which was really beautiful and i think it was really just what i needed right i wanted to connect with all these people on my retreats and i felt at the end of the retreat that i had left with what i had wanted even though it looked a little different than what i was expecting so that is my dharma talk on grief please let me know shoot me a message shoot me a comment if that resonated with you what your feelings and responses are to that now i'm super excited that because of this experience of having all of my ytt students step up and lead parts of my retreat i realize that there's a lot of space for my yoga teacher training students to take leadership roles on retreats so i'm actually going to be starting a new program for my ypt grads to join me on retreats as assistant teachers so if you're someone who's graduated from my ytt if you're curious about coming on as an assistant teacher on a retreat please shoot me a message i would absolutely love to chat with you more about this and next yoga teacher trainings are starting next week if you want to do an online 200 hour or 30 hour yoga teacher training i would absolutely love to have you so please shoot me a message if it's something you're curious about join our incredible sober girls yoga community of women around the world we also have our general mind life practice community with women men sober not sober so it's just an awesome community all around thank you so much for tuning in i really appreciate your support your commitment listening to the show and joining all of the online amazing programs that we have to offer and if you have any feedback if you like this please share subscribe it really helps to to hear your responses all right have a beautiful week everyone and hopefully by the next time you hear me on the show my voice has gotten totally back to normal hopefully i'm not like wheezing coughing anymore um but i appreciate your presence and your support have a wonderful week everyon




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