“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
-Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”
There was a period of time after my mom died that I became completely engulfed in grief and sadness. I could not see or feel anything except searing pain.
Prior to and during this, I had studied about loss in college and how it can make you feel as though you have been hit in the stomach.
I could intellectualize what this would feel like, but really had no way of knowing exactly what it would be like until I experienced it for myself.
For a very long time, it felt as though a cannon ball had been shot into my stomach, first causing physical pain and then just a hollow emptiness.
I literally felt as if a piece of me was missing and nothing could make me feel whole.
I felt as though I was withdrawing deeper into myself, and even my physical appearance began to change.
I started to gain weight, wear looser clothes with muted colors, and within a year even my complexion changed to becoming very pale as I often didn’t want to leave the house.
There were many days that I couldn’t make myself get up and go to class and just felt extremely tired.
One of these days was fortuitous, however, as I lay curled up on the couch and turned the TV on.
Hope Edelman was being interviewed on a morning show about her new book, “Motherless Daughters,” which coincidentally came out the same year my mom died.
I remember lying there with tears streaming down my face as I listened to someone like me, who knew what I was feeling and who understood my struggles.
At that point in my young life, none of my friends had lost their moms. Although they did their best to be supportive, it is a loss unlike any other you will ever have.
Until you’ve gone through it yourself, it’s extraordinarily difficult to understand and wrap your mind around as it’s effects will ripple across every life stage you go through.
Although I still struggled with depression and anxiety for many years after that, that was one of the first cracks when the light got in.
Sometimes we are fortunate in that one day we wake up with a different outlook and everything shifts towards the positive.
More often though, there are these little fissures in the darkness, these tiny cracks of light, that are happening all the time, showing us a way out.
The problem being that sometimes we are so consumed by darkness that we don’t see the light for what it is.
Start right here, right now…
Beginning a gratitude and breathing practice are two of the ways to slow down and begin to tap into these moments of light.
Sit comfortably on the floor on a folded blanket in easy pose (criss-cross applesauce from grade school days). Close your eyes or soften your gaze downward.
Take a moment to settle in this position, breathing in and out through the nose, making each breath slower than the one before. Relax your face and your shoulders.
Bring your fingertips to the floor on either side of your hips. On an inhale, lift the arms up overhead and touch the palms together, exhale as you bring the hands down through the center, touching your thumbs to your heart.
Have a moment of gratitude for the warmth of the sun, which even through the winter heats our planet and allows for there to be life.
Release your hands to your sides. On an inhale, lift the arms up overhead and touch the palms together, exhale as you bring the hands down through the center, touching your thumbs to your heart again.
Take a moment of gratitude for the fact that most of us have clean water to drink, which is a luxury and a struggle to this day in many parts of the world.
Release your hands to your sides. On an inhale, lift the arms up overhead and touch the palms together, exhale as you bring the hands down through the center, touching your thumbs to your heart.
Take a moment of gratitude for your own innate intelligence. We all have an inner guidance system that knows the right decision in almost any given situation. Becoming quiet and present allows us to tune in to that voice.
I invite you to practice this exercise as often as you like, especially during times of stress and overwhelm. Add or change anything about the things you are grateful for to uncover your own slivers of light.
It’s when you let the light in to nourish yourself that you are able to project that light back outward, nourishing everyone and everything you come into contact with.