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

Paris Lockdown: Inner Fire then Fun

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Some are enjoying this (Photo by Lewis Primo)

Day 8 (I think):

France just announced 8 more weeks of confinement. When this is all over, it’ll be interesting to compare notes. Was it harder to be shut in with a 16-year-old as I am or with a two year old as are some of my family members?  For teens, isolation feels like punishment, add in peer pressure to dismiss and defy the restrictions and you get a perfect recipe for risk-taking and conflict with parents. A bad mix, for them and for us, adding to everyone’s frustration, uncertainty, and fear.

How to remove fear (fun info follows)

Trying the following recommendations from a Russian friend, Svetlana Nikandrova, psychologist, yoga master and bio-energy healing specialist. The only person in medical history to have had a pacemaker removed and live to tell the tale, she wrote two books about her journey back to health and helping others. (links below)

From Svetlana’s Energy Notes
“Highly relevant. Prevention techniques for those who do not want to get sick.
To remove all fears: in the present, future and even in the past.
   Tool: conscious sensory breathing
– Set the mood for fire breathing (you can breathe with a candle).
Heartbeat rhythm. 4 inhale, 4 pause, 4 exhale, 4 pause.
-Warm up the heart, liver, spleen. Listen to the pulsation of these three organs and synchronize them. Saturate the whole triangle with fiery energy.
– Circulate heat from the heart in a small circle around the circulatory system first in the  head, neck, shoulders, chest, arms. Then, in a large circle from the heart to the stomach, buttocks, hips, and feet.
– Then  circulate the energy in a fiery figure eight, alternating the upper and lower circles.
-Continue to warm the entire circulatory system: heart, blood vessels, large, small, veins, capillaries.
-Observe how blood warms the entire body.
-Complete a few cycles until you feel a pleasant calm in the heart, or see a glow in and around the body.
-Continue to track the pulsation in a 4-4-4-4 rhythm.
-And then, listen to your renewed heart. Let it bloom with love, tenderness and gratitude.
Thank the universe.”
*****
Svetlana’s books Heart Breathing: Healing the Heart and Heart and Fateare currently available in Russian only:
English speakers can follow her on Facebook and Instagram, just hit the translation button.

Now, ready for fun?

Escape from confinement with Velvet & Toads, the gorgeous, delicious YouTube channel by my friend Letitia Ferris Toussaint, about wild edibles, gardening, shopping, sights and all things fabulous and French. Relax and fantasize:
Or pick up healing tips like her latest, “Two ingredient natural recipes for cough and sore throat”
We’ll get by with a little help from our (multi-talented) friends.
xxxxxx Aliss

 

Paris Lockdown: Resilience

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My world has become both smaller and larger, close ups magnify: butterfly on wild strawberry and magnolia leaves in my courtyard

Day 6 (I think):

Fear keeps rearing its ugly head. Worst case scenarios like “What if I never see my loved ones across the Atlantic again?”

Making a list of end-of-the-world situations our first-world grandparents, parents and we have come through over the past century: WWI, “Spanish” flu, Great Depression, WWII, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Korean and Viet Nam wars, May 1968, Cuban Missile Crisis, Oil Crisis, Chernobyl, 9-11 Gulf Wars and Recession, Financial Crisis of 2008,…Pandemic?

Am I leaving anything out?

Fortunately French artist Catherine Jonville relayed this on her feed: *

(my translation)

From French radio station France Inter published on March 16 2020 at 6:57pm

“Boris Cyrulnik: After the coronavirus, there will be deep changes, that’s the way things work. 

 
The neuropsychiatrist was interviewed by Ali Rebeihi in the program Grand bien vous fasse, devoted to the epidemic. He explained how our society can survive this crisis and become resilient.

 

 
“We have to adapt to an invisible agressor. Humanity only evolves through crisis. After this crisis, the family and the couple will once again become havens of peace.
 

Crises are part of the human condition. There have been ice ages where we had to adapt by hunting more. And during the periods of global warming we had to farm more. We have already faced many epidemics which have triggered cultural revolutions, great adaptations.

 

 

Right now with quarantine and confinement we must focus on inner exploration. 

 

Along with reading, cooking will become more important whereas before we snacked on industrial food. We’ll listen more to the radio and music. We’ll adapt by retreating into ourselves, we’ll rediscover the values of our grandparents.

 

For those who worry about their jobs, their family, their children, I say we must worry about taking protective measures. If we follow them, uncertainty will decrease. If we adapt to confinement, there will be fewer reasons to worry.
 

When the epidemic is over, we will see that we have dusted off old values which will serve to develop a new way of living together. 

 
Every time there’s a natural catastrophe, there’s a cultural shift. After the trauma, we have to discover new rules, new ways of living together.
 
In the Middle Ages, people hadn’t understood that they had to quarantine. Infected people spread the bacillus everywhere. And in Europe, two years after the plague of 1348, half the population had disappeared. When the epidemic was over, social values had changed completely. People discovered the art of homemaking. Before that art was essentially religious. Suddenly there were stilllife paintings of game and fruit, carpets under the tables. 
 
Above all, the production relationships had completely changed. Before the epidemic, most people were considered as serfs and sold with the land. Afterwards, so many had died that the survivors who agreed to work were no longer serfs. They had to be paid for their work. Production relationships and the hierarchy of values had been completely transformed.”
Boris Cyrulnik is an psychiatrist, behavioural scientist and author, best known in France for developing the concept of resilience in psychology. He knows his subject from the inside, having survived as a Jewish child during the Nazi Occupation of France, as his parents perished in concentration camps.
For more about his life and works see:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Cyrulnik
*For more about Catherine and her art, see:
https://www.catherinejonville.fr/?fbclid=IwAR0fGjI2Dbxz7MCFV_QanKQAwXsgB1balPggfSIMWlhOanfsAiuG8KgKoYs 

Focusing on gratitude, connecting, going outside, moving my body, cultivating beauty, and releasing expectations of “normal” (see previous post)

Wishing you  resilience!

xxxxx Aliss

 

Life Inside Paris Lockdown

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My world now, my Paris courtyard

Day 4: After the initial shutdown shocks, then euphoric determination to make the best of confinement for the common good…Ups and downs. Reality started setting in yesterday. Huge drop in energy, didn’t even leave the building for food. Did cross the courtyard, did water and deadhead plants in the sun, did get some writing and cooking done, did FaceTime with US loved ones and exchange on Internet, but all in slomo. Relief at news that we could go out for exercise with our signed form was replaced by damper of learning we have to stay within a certain perimeter and can be fined if it looks like we’re “just walking.”

Plan to go out to pharmacy and food stores later. This now qualifies as a “big walk.”

Thank you Kim Powell (photographer, activist, and head of Community Outreach for the American Cathedral in Paris) for this just now:

https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/wellness/video/quarantine-questions-healthy-daily-care-69675625?fbclid=IwAR23bV3j9i3tiZ1l7riov1iBDu4_LYD4H8cEXniOBpL2vNoasgLqrxC6k-Q

6 quarantine questions to ask ourselves every day:

  1. What am I grateful for today?
  2. Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
  3. What expectation of “normal” am I letting go of today?
  4. How am I getting outside today?
  5. How am I moving my body today?
  6. What beauty am I creating, cultivating or inviting in today?

Some of my answers…

Grateful for and connecting with–family:

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Letting go of all expectations of “normal”–time:

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How I’m getting outside today and moving my body–on my street (and with some indoor stretches):

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What beauty I’m cultivating today:

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To be continued, with some uplifting stuff from here and there…

Follow on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/aliss.terrell/

xxxxxx 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)

Sanity Savers 19: Hope

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I’ve been having a hard time taking pictures… Paris is gray and cold, there’s a national psychodrama going on due to the presidential elections, the atmosphere is very heavy.

I look for openings in the clouds. No matter who is elected on Sunday, we will have to keep hope alive, as we are doing in the US, by every means possible.

Some lightness from Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.”
And what if we are extra kind to everyone we meet every day? Can that open the clouds, even a little bit?

To be continued xxxxx Aliss