Q: What is a loss you’ve lived through that you can talk about?
What is a loss you know you could live through if it happened?
What power, knowledge, or freedom has your grief given you?
How can the grieving and the not-yet-grieving hear each other?
PRACTICE: Stand facing each other. Thinking of losses you have felt or fear or are enraged by, someone will start by making a quiet wail or moan, and others will join in. Add your voices, listening and matching the sounds, tones and loudness, making these more intense when it feels right to do so, until you are all as loud, wild and mournful as you can be. Someone can then start bringing the tone and loudness down, until everyone is quiet again. You can do this once or multiple times.
GOOD TO DO
- Choose the questions and/or practices you want to do at least a few days before getting together to do them. This means that people have time to feel their way into them and no one is surprised. The reasons for doing them—outlined above—should also be really clear before you do them.
- If it’s a short gathering or if you have other things to work on, limit it to one question set or one practice.
- Whatever ways you have of looking out for each other while you’re together also apply here. If you don’t have ways of doing that on purpose, developing them before you begin would be a good idea.
- Have snacks around during the practice, and share a meal at the end. Do this even if you’re doing it remotely and can’t literally hand each other food.
- Remind each other that it’s okay to do the questions or practices in a way that makes sense for you, which might mean changing them a little.
- Every so often, offer or take the option to say how you’re feeling in your body, without needing to explain why.
- Take both formal/guided breaks where you move, breathe, or otherwise remind yourselves and each other that you live in your bodies on earth, and regular breaks where people can walk around, go pee, have a cigarette, whatever.
- Remember that people’s different histories may make these questions and practices difficult for them in different ways and amounts. Choosing a story to share, thinking in a different way, remembering and feeling can all be stressful. Be patient with yourself and others.
- Try to keep your attention in the room you’re in and with the people you’re with. People may go “in and out” a little bit in their attention if what you’re doing is stressful for them, and that is okay.
- Wind down at the end by asking people to say something about what they want to leave behind and something they want to carry with them, or something similar to help people return to their day or night.
IMAGE: A flat expanse of sand where saltgrasses used to grow, but nothing is growing right now, with strips of vegetation and water in the distance.
Thank you to Janice and to the various crews of We Gather and Interdependence Days for trying out parts of this exercise with me.