Valituksen voima: Vaihtoehto tunnottomuudelle ja raivolle

Tohtori Cedar Barstow

The Power Of Lamenting

Here are a couple of questions for you. What happens inside you when you when you read or listen to the daily litany of abuse of power, suffering, injustice, murder, war, and destruction of the earth? What do you do when someone close to you has been hurt by unethical actions?

Asking around, these are the things I’ve heard.

“I just get numb because I don’t think I could bear the amount of pain I would feel.”

“Well, I get mad at the news companies because they just seem to look for the bad stuff and don’t give us a balance. There’s good stuff happening too, but I guess that doesn’t sell.”

“I find I can’t see violent movies anymore even if they are Academy Award winners. Hurts too much.”

“I glaze over so I can subdue my feelings.”

“I feel so upset and helpless that it turns to hopelessness. When it’s hopeless, I disempower myself because there’s nothing useful I can do anyway, so why bother?”

“When something gets to me, I can’t sleep at night.”

“I feel disappointed in people. We know better than what we do.”

“I just don’t read the paper or listen to the news anymore. I don’t want to support this kind of newscasting.”

“I try to offset the bad news with looking at the bright side. I think I do this too quickly in an effort to avoid feeling bad.”

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Do any or many of these responses feel familiar to you? Anything you want to add?

Of course, how we deal with human suffering is one of the universal core life questions that each of us must find an answer to. This question has two dimensions—how will you BE with suffering and what will you DO about it? This article speaks to the kinds of inner doing that can help you be with terrible and disturbing things.

Recently, I was singing in a chanting group. One of our songs was a lament. We were to let go in wailing sounds for some minutes, and then we sang the words of the lament. Stefan Waligur, the leader, reminded us that wailing and keening are an historic and current form of individual and group response to suffering, grief, and injustice. Wailing is often, though not always, the work of women on behalf of the whole community or the whole family. Wailing walls. Wailing in the streets. Wailing over the bodies of the dead. For many people and many cultures, this is the appropriate way to respond to terrible things.

For me, the lamenting sounds felt good and relieving. I was surprised because I tend toward stoically managing my feelings. Lamenting as a chant made it more acceptable for me. It felt good to let my whole body move and sound with the expression of deep grief. Stefan suggested we should make a place for group laments in response to a school shooting, flood, or insurrection.

Public or private lamenting, full of sound and movement, is a good antidote to the responses of fury, numbness, and hopelessness that have become our normal reactions.

My friend Robert said he noticed he regularly shut down about, as he called it, “news of the terrible.” He now has a practice of covering his eyes with his hands and taking a moment to let his grief travel through his body and soul after hearing something distressing. He says it helps him stay alive and real. When you numb yourself about bad stuff, you numb yourself about good stuff, too. Numbing is not selective.

A study comparing meditation masters and ordinary people in terms of how they respond to disturbing images found that the people in both groups responded to the disturbing images with an equal level of pain and upset. The only difference was that the meditation masters were more resilient and returned to their normal state of equanimity much sooner. Their emotions were quick spikes, whereas the non-meditators stayed in their distress for a significantly longer time. I think regular lamenting could have the same effect of increasing resilience.

Read the rest of the article here

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  1. Alternatives to Numbness and Rage in Challenging Times

    The after effects of the pandemic have certainly left me with a mixed assortment of challenges , financial, personal , relational and physical. At these times of many conflicting challenges its easy to sit in a place of numbness and overwhelm, stillness and shock or even to go into anger ot overdrive and try to do everything , to fix everything and to make the difficulties go away. Feelings of anger, grief, powerlessness and hopelessness can arise. In these moments I attempt to transform these feelings into something that is the catalysis for movement, whether that is actual movement to music , or going outside into the garden , feeding the birds, going to watch a sunset or sunrise, or doing one single action with another living being . I see these activities as my resources to transmute my difficult feelings into something more joyful , less painful whilst allowing those difficult feelings to be felt without shying away from them. I write a lot of letters and emails most of which are never sent and they go into an “unsent letter box “ or inbox and reading these years later has shown me how past difficulties so tough at the time seem somehow ephemeral with the passing of time and also a signpost to the resources i already have to dealing with life’s challenges. This understanding that change is constant and that my life has had other challenges which I have effectively negotiated creates a sense of optimism and if not that a dogged self knowledge that this too will pass. The resource I call on most is the natural world. I am always amazed at both the beauty and the transient nature of living things and the way in which the living breathing world which we are part of speaks ro me about challenge and resourcefulness. I am always uplifted by the blackbird that has learnt to wolf whistle for dried worms and the ravens that call out for peanuts on cold days and the wood pigeons that run over the glass roof windows when they hear me come into the kitchen calling out for black seeds. In the winter, their time of difficulty, they have learned to reach out by calling . How much can we all learn from feeling a sense of connectedness , awe at the power of the life in the natural world and in ourselves and the humour that can come from nowhere and for me recently has been watching my neighbours response from my upstairs office as the black birds wolf whistles at them . There they are looking for the cheekily or disrespectful culprit ! That has made me laugh out loud! With awe, wonder, connection and laughter somehow challenges seem easier to manage somehow.

    1. Thank you so much, Beryl, for this cogent and inspiring response. Yes, the need for lamenting. And yes, the need for resourcing–and what a resource nature is! and for small actions that get us outside ourselves and contributing to the lives of others–both near and far. Even if it is hopeless, I/we can do no other.