The dictionary defines 'Sorrow' as: 1) deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone or something loved and 2) resultant unhappy or unpleasant state.
In an earlier post called 'The Functional Mind,' I talked about how the primary functions of the mind is to identify, categorize, associate, store and retrieve data (information about the world, both external and internal).
Looking at the feeling of sorrow through the lens of the Thoughtfulness Practice, we can immediately see that a state of sorrow depends on us first categorizing something as a 'loss,' secondly as associated with something 'loved,' and most importantly - the thoughts that lead to this state must be retrieved over and over again.
We've all felt the deep sadness that comes from experiencing the loss of something we hold dear. It might have been a friend, family member or a pet. It could have been a quality that was 'lost' such as tenderness or innocence.
Whatever it was, the 'loss' is experienced as an emotion that often manifests throughout the body as a feeling of both emptiness and heaviness. We might experience sensations of tension coupled with feelings of helplessness. Sorrow is a powerful feeling and it can weigh us down and drain us of energy.
Clearly, there are times when it is appropriate and, some might argue, necessary to allow one's self to enter into a state of sorrow. In times of great loss, sorrow serves to slow us down, provide a space for mourning, reflection, and the healing process to begin. This is normal and when appropriate, sorrow can be exactly what we need to process an event in our lives.
The key to living an enlightened life, is to know when and how to move beyond sorrow and resume the natural state of bliss and gratitude that is the birthright of every living being. As 'universal beings' we are wired for bliss and healthiest when manifesting joy. We are most productive when we are happy and looking forward to the many gifts each day brings.
Let's see how we can use the teachings of the Thoughtfulness Practice to move beyond sorrow, when the time is right.
Sorrow, as a condition, depends largely on the re-experiencing of the feeling of loss. In most cases, the 'loss' is a change from one circumstance to another (i.e., My pet was here and now he/she is gone). In order to experience the sorrow, we must re-mind ourselves of the loss and continue to wish that the current condition was different than it is.
We know that the mind's job is to store and retrieve data, but we also know that it is our perspective and orientation that determines the quality of that information. 'Quality" in this case refers to the relevance and usefulness of the thought as it pertains to our life.
When we take an objective look at a 'sorrow-producing' thought, we can examine it for its quality by asking the questions:
- Is this thought true in its timeliness?
- Does maintaining this thought serve my highest good?
- Am I willing and ready to let go of this thought/feeling?
Is this thought true in its timeliness?
Sometimes we hold on to an event, thought, or feeling long after the event has past. We continue to re-mind ourselves of it until it becomes almost hard-wired into our daily life. We change our perspective to accommodate the thought and can even change our entire orientation in life. In some cases, our mood suffers, we feel sad, our bodies ache, we're unmotivated and even angry. In extreme cases we might experience depression and feelings of helplessness.
The KEY is to consider the timeline and be realistic about the event, which may have happened months and even years before. Even though we can remember it, is it true in this moment? Are those events happening now? Chances are, if we're being honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We can help move beyond sorrow, by admitting that it is us who are continuing to pull the event into the present, through the use of our mind. This is a mis-use of the mind. The first step is to notice that this is happening.
Does maintaining this thought serve my highest good?
If you were going to recommend that someone else either use or not use the 'sorrow-producing thought,' what would you tell them? Be honest. Does pulling the thought and feeling into the present serve you in your highest good? Does it help you feel more like yourself or something else? If it is not serving you, then it makes sense to change your perspective and focus on what does. You can do this by simply observing the thought, feeling the feeling, and not reacting negatively to the presence of the thought. (See the article "Feeling the Feeling.)
We can allow a thought without having a reactive experience to it. When we provide compassion to our own sorrow, we begin to heal - we begin to understand that it is not the event that is causing us to suffer, but our resistance to the change in our life situation. We sometimes become bound to a feeling and the orientation around that feeling. We might think that if we are not sad that we are not honoring the person or thing that we loved, but this thinking only hurts ourselves and those who are with us. In fact, we can honor those we loved by living a bright and joyful life.
When a though does not align with your highest good, you have the option of acknowledging that. When you truly acknowledge that you could be spending more time with your quality thoughts, you will reclaim your highest good and use your mind in ways that lead to productively and happiness.
Am I willing and ready to let go of this thought/feeling?
As mentioned above, we sometimes hold on to a thought or feeling for various reasons. We may actually become attached to feelings of sadness and sorrow to the point where they become part of who we are. You can sometimes see this in people who have suffered great loss. They seem to carry the thought and feelings of sorrow with them everywhere, never letting go, always focused on a feeling of loss and suffering. It's not as important to know why people do this as it is to know that it is always a choice.
In order to allow a feeling to move beyond your conscious mind, you must be willing to allow that to happen, which means you must be willing to let the associations go as well. This might feel like abandoning the thing you loved, but in truth, it is honoring all that is good in life. Have you ever met someone who suggested to you that, should they pass on before you, they would want you to feel sorrow for a long time? Of course not.
Once the sorrow has served its purpose, once the appropriate space has been created and rituals for healing have been practiced, once the person, pet or thing has been acknowledged and respects have been paid, the focus can return to the present moment - not to the future, but the here and now.
Letting go of sorrow does not mean forgetting about people or what they meant. It means returning to a state of gratitude and wonderment for each and every moment that is your life. It means allowing yourself to be present in your life and not stuck in the past or future.
We can move beyond sorrow when we acknowledge that our mind is a tool for solving problems - not producing them. When we are able to manage our thoughts in a way that produces quality, we can release feelings of sorrow. By embracing the wonder and joy that is inherent in each moment, we focus on appreciation for the gifts of life, rather than what we think was taken from us.
Each day is a gift. That's why it's called the present. (Anon)
What do you think of this Thoughtfulness Practice?
Have you found ways to move beyond sorrow?
Leave your comments below.