Returning to Life
Reflections on mind, body, and grief
In early 2015, my brother Mike died tragically after a brief illness.
When I learned he was gone, my mind detached from my heart. In nature, this is called autotomy, which is rooted in the Greek word tomy, meaning “to sever.” Autotomy is self-amputation, and is a self-defense mechanism. Some animals later regenerate the appendage.
In the two years since his death, I’ve been on an emotional journey from despair and emptiness into an incrementally more full and embodied life.
The work that I’ve done, and the teachers who have helped me through the unimaginable, have led me into a shift in awareness that I guess only deep grief can prescribe.
It is hard to put into words, but put most simply, I am learning to stop hiding in the abstractions of my thinking mind. Instead, I am returning my attention to my body, and learning to experience my emotions directly.
We’re conditioned in a thousand ways to spend our lives outside of our bodies — focused on invented stories, mental constructs, media, and other distractions that are disconnected from our physical and emotional experience of the world.
This ability to detach is useful in times of overwhelming pain and crisis, or at least it has been for me, but as a long-term mode of living, it tends to be destructive.
For me, recognizing this, and adopting practices that strengthen the relationship between my mind, my body, and the earth has opened the door to healing, and put me into deeper dialogue with life.
This dialogue has deepened my awareness of the physical interconnectedness that is the true nature of life here on earth. When I’m grounded in this awareness then what I need, and what is needed from me, tends to become more obvious.
I feel grateful for the innate healing properties of biological life, and for our capacity as humans to individually and collectively regenerate in the face of loss.
From here, I plan to keep exploring and sharing, in writing and other formats, my ongoing journey into the healing traditions of the world.