Paris Lockdown: Grief and Grace

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This bouquet is still beautiful more than two weeks after I bought it at Fioretti 18 avenue Secretan, Paris 19, specialist in fresh, sustainable local flowers. I hope the shop survives confinement.

Day 14 (I think)

The virus has struck closer to home. A neighbor across our courtyard is hospitalized and on a ventilator. From what we’ve heard, he’s recovering, but this means the virus is in our building. More seriously,  a new family friend has just lost his dad. I’m sad for our friend, even more so because I had planned to visit his dad at his retirement home and didn’t get there in time because of COVID-19 confinement. He was an elderly Russian gentleman I was looking forward to meeting for two reasons. First, I have a soft spot for elderly Russian emigrés because talking to them is how I learned their difficult, beautiful language. Second, my own mom is in a retirement home across the ocean and I wish more people could visit her. I’m always looking for ways to focus on the bright side, but this death crystalizes my grief about COVID-19 and other things from the past few months, too many to list. Everyone has their own. A meme from @_happyasamother on Instagram  :

Itsokaytogrieve

And thank you to Renée Vizzard Worthington, our friend who is Program Officer at the Meridian International Center, for sharing “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief,”  an article by Scott Berinato, colleague of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross:

“…we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”

Perhaps acknowledging our sadness as it arises can open a path to grace? In my understanding, grace is akin to a miracle, something unexpectedly wonderful that defies normal logic.

In psychological terms, this can come as a shift in our relationships and health when we release mistaken beliefs about ourselves and unconscious projections on others we hold responsible for our problems. Grace can come in conversations with open-minded listeners, cathartic art, travel, retreats, rituals, vision quests, mantras, prayer, poetry and other experiences that change our perspective.

In the Judéo-Christian tradition, grace is the child of compassion and forgiveness, freeing us from Karma, the maze of outcomes determined by past events.

Here are two meditations to help make the leap from grief to grace.

The first is a gem from Sylvia Boorstein, self-described Jewish Buddhist, therapist and grandmother. It’s short but very sweet:

http://onbeing.org/blog/sylvia-boorstein-a-lovingkindness-meditation/

The second, a Service of Light and Breath, comes from Rev. Michelle Wahila, a young pastor here in Paris, whose inclusive wedding ministry, Ruffled by Grace, and body-positivity workshops have been put-on hold by the COVID-19 restrictions. It offers a way to hold grief and hope through deep breathing and Judeo-Christian ritual.

http://ruffledbygrace.com/a-service-of-light-breath/?fbclid=IwAR3_34wJ4noBJ_ZXQZ2FJIMZVsbuUF6DeYHzZ1C7Z3bV2gOLtIbERKX7I4s

Last but not least, a view of grief from the Islamic world, the poetry of Sufi mystic Rumi:

Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round
in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.

God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flower bed.
As roses, up from ground.
Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,
now a cliff covered with vines,
now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these,
till one day it cracks them open.

Part of the self leaves the body when we sleep
and changes shape. You might say, “Last night
I was a cypress tree, a small bed of tulips,
a field of grapevines.” Then the phantasm goes away.
You’re back in the room.
I don’t want to make any one fearful.
Hear what’s behind what I say.

Tatatumtum tatum tatadum.
There’s the light gold of wheat in the sun
and the gold of bread made from that wheat.
I have neither. I’m only talking about them,

as a town in the desert looks up
at stars on a clear night.

Translated by Coleman Barks

xxxxx Aliss

The Heart of France

Reposted from August 201610333405_10152648423348899_8170936228487363108_o
A memory from August 15th, 2014: “Paris, City of the Goddess… This morning in our courtyard I could hear bells ringing everywhere for a long time, the way it must have been before cars, watches, and smart phones, when the streets echoed with human voices and bells tolled the time. The city is almost empty and today is Assumption Day. You don’t have to be Catholic or even Christian to feel the feminine energy here. Notre Dame stands in the very center, where geobiologists say Telluric Currents meet and people have been drawn to worship from time immemorial. Traditionally all distances in France were measured from Notre Dame. When you were out in the provinces, the old road signs used to read ‘Paris Notre Dame xxx km.’ There are shrines to Mary everywhere with ex-votoes at the entrances and on the walls saying, ‘Thank you, Mary’ or ‘Thank you, Mother’ and sometimes details about the events of her intercession. Whatever your beliefs, these places seem like portals to another dimension where you can release your fears and pain if you are willing to trust that somehow they can be transformed through grace beyond human understanding…I thought this was all superstition until I moved to Paris. The Goddess of La République, called ‘Marianne,’ seems to be replacing Mary in some contexts. Her statue stands on one of the major squares of the city and in all the Mairies, or town halls, presiding over civil ceremonies of all kinds. If she allows us to imagine a higher power of justice and gives birth to compassion and hope, then is she Mary’s secular sister… or daughter?”
 xxxxx Aliss

Notre Dame

Reposted from March 2017Point zero*

Embedded in the cobblestones in front of Notre Dame Cathedral is this marker, the starting point of all main roads leading to French cities and the endpoint used for measuring their distances, the very heart of the country. DSC03304The cathedral itself is a visual encyclopedia of French culture and history.DSC03305

Beside the main altar stands a 14th century statue of the Mother. No matter what tradition you come from, she is the incarnation of compassion enfolding soul,  reminding me of Kwan Yin, (Guanyin) the Buddhist bodhisatva, sometimes compared to Mary.

I’m grateful to have this sanctuary nearby, to sit in silence, in candlelight, sending and receiving love through this portal, always, but especially in times like the ones we are living.

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

*Photo: Jean-Jacques Breton, Paris à vos pieds, editions Parisgramme, Paris 2013, p. 106. (Scan and color-adjustments, Aliss Terrell)

Street Heart

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Unexpected mudra with flowers under a bridge along the canal, a non-verbal message that needs no explanation. Still I wanted to know more:

Mudra: A mudrā is a spiritual gesture and an energetic seal of authenticity employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions. In yoga, mudras are used in conjunction with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises)… to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of prana in the body.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudra

Is this the Apana Mudra? (“The Apana mudra has a grounding force to help you connect with the earth’s energies whenever you are feeling off balance or flighty.”) https://www.thoughtco.com/mudra-photo-gallery-4051990

More intriguing: “The Apana mudra is good for mental or physical digestion and for eliminating waste material from the body. This gesture may also be a form of aiding in mental and emotional digestion when applied to “evil” outside of the body.”

http://www.chopra.com/articles/10-powerful-mudras-and-how-to-use-them#sm.0000lrfs189btdgwxcb1qqtc5ij7n

Interesting that the hand is emerging from a business suit, and how many of these hand positions are part of our everyday body language…

To be continued…xxxxxx Aliss

Sanity Savers 12: Point Zero

Point zero

Photo: Jean-Jacques Breton, Paris à vos pieds, editions Parisgramme, Paris 2013, p. 106. (Scan and color-adjustments, Aliss Terrell)

Embedded in the cobblestones in front of Notre Dame Cathedral is this marker, the starting point of all main roads leading to French cities and the endpoint used for measuring their distances, the very heart of the country. DSC03304The cathedral itself is a visual encyclopedia of French culture and history.DSC03305

Beside the main altar stands a 14th century statue of the Mother. No matter what tradition you come from, she is the incarnation of compassion enfolding soul,  reminding me of Kwan Yin, (Guanyin) the Buddhist bodhisatva, sometimes compared to Mary.

DSC03307I’m grateful to have this sanctuary nearby, to sit in silence, in candlelight, sending and receiving love through this portal, always, but especially in times like the ones we are living.

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

Celebrate Food

Seems to be a bug on WordPress and some of the photos are displaying sideways…hope to debug soon 🙂

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In previous episodes  we postulated that the national religion of France is not Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. but rather Foodism, that French people detect the presence of the Divine through their senses, and the French Table is often an altar (see April 9 and March 5, 2016 on Hugo Desnoyer). Enjoying a beautiful meal made with reverence for the ingredients honors life and connects us to the holy earth. Here is one of my favorite places to celebrate food: Chez Philou, 12 avenue Richerand, 75010,  +33 1 42 38 00 13    http://www.restophilou.com

Quality/price ratio for the lunch menu is unbeatable, meanwhile, some images:

DSC01021Owner-chef Philippe Damas recites menu poetry to transfixed diners.

DSC01022  Chandliers with letters and art from fans.

DSC01075Les enfants du paradis poster for Fifi’s cinema friends…

Wild pheasant one October…DSC01076DSC02655Recent déjeuner: filet of pollock fish with succulent baby turnips, carrots, spinach and potatoes….

DSC01078And all mere steps from the romantic Canal Saint Martin and famous Hôtel du Nord bridge…

To be continued xxxxx Aliss