The movements of grief and tenderness that are ebbing and flowing through me (and, through us collectively) during this autumn season have been more pronounced than I can remember in a long time.
There are layers to my personal experience as I ‘be with’ all that is – from continuing to grieve the loss of a significant relationship in my life, to the tenderness of family stories resurfacing within this thin-veil time of ancestral connections and my mom’s death anniversary, to the invitation to surrender over and over to the limits of living with a chronic pain/fatigue syndrome that has flared, to the waves of grief, shock, numbness, rage and horror as we collectively bear witness to the genocide of Palestinian people, amidst the long historical and current suffering of Jewish people and all peoples of Gaza under state-sanctioned colonial violence.
Grief is part of our personal healing and collective action. Experiencing our grief is part of ceasefire, alongside protesting, signing, writing, praying, and using our collective voices. Grieving supports our capacity to not numb or turn a blind eye, or be immobilized in complacency and helplessness. Grief supports our capacity to acknowledge what is, to see clearly what is happening, and to be moved into action and response, each in our own ways.
Grief in itself is a type of prayer. Grief is a declaration that we will not lose our humanity in the face of systemic atrocities.
Do nation-states based in colonial and patriotic values of control and ownership, grieve? Do nation-states have a central heart that metabolizes old pain so that they may move forward from a place of humanity and heart?
The heart does not polarize. The heart does not know ‘us versus them’.
This is the wisdom that speaks through my heart and through ripples of bone-knowing, ancestral echoes, voices of land, and in the reflections of tears rolling down cheeks of other humans also feeling, together. This wisdom seeps through mystic memories across the warp of time, across traditions. This wisdom still whispers up from the earth, trying to pierce through the layers of hardening sediment buried under capitalist institutions and supremacy of all kinds. This wisdom begs to be re-membered by the whole body, my body, your body, the body of humanity, the body of this Earth.
Do nation-states have a body?
Genocide. Violence. War. These reverberate across space – to all the places that know this violence right now, but aren’t receiving the attention and collective focus, grief and action (Sudan, Congo, Ukraine, and more). These reverberations span across time – within our own ancestral lineages and peoples who have been in the violence of ‘us versus them’, on either side, sending echoes into our bones and heart and minds, here and now.
The heart does not know binaries.
Jewish safety and Palestinian freedom are not opposing – this is a false, and dangerous, binary.
So we grieve to honor life, to honor lives, to demand dignity for all, back and forth through time, and across lands, beyond the violence of borders.
For me, a tremendous resource is my contemplative and communion practices and group rituals that nourish me during these times of deep mourning. Connection with other humans and my animate community, seen and unseen, provide a ballast and steadying to support me to remain in a soft heart and to remain in my humanity as much as I can. And when I can't, to not stray too far before doing what I need to return to my heart, over and over. This is a practice. And it is vital.
I notice when I stray – my belly hardens, my energy become dispersed, I get busy, I feel a depressed energy thickening around me, and my mind starts to become rigid and in false certainty… perhaps it starts to become like a nation-state?… trapped in mine and yours, attached to my story and hurt, solidifying the pain, and severing me from my humanity (heart) and yours. My mind, untethered from my heart and body, can make all kinds of excuses and stories to avoid responsibility and to avoid feeling.
Responsibility. Response-ability. The ability to respond and feel our emotions is sourced in the heart, and held within the ground of our body and in connection to land and to others. It is held in deep relationship.
Do nation-states pause to listen to the land? To listen to the collective heart of their people?
This Samhain week has been particularly tender. I have been offering my tears and prayers to the ocean, alongside more of my mom’s ashes; ashes that hold legacies of my inheritance, in the beauty and the hardships, and are offered now as ancestral healing prayers. I have been in grief for the places my heart still yearns for connection with a beloved that is no longer, and the confusion and pain for how it happened; a pain that turned hard into anger in my belly, and is only now softening into deep heartache, months later. I am in surrender to moments, hours, and sometimes days of lying low, as my body speaks loudly through flows of fibromyalgia pain and fatigue.
‘What is happening out there is also happening in here’, my body whispers. My body and heart know of the interconnection of life, my life/our life, your life/our life, their life/our life. My body and heart know the feeling and sensations of love, personal and collective. My body and heart feel the disruption of these connections. How does your body and heart feel this?
I am reminded this is a season of descent; a slowing of movement towards the fecundity of fallowness.
Surrender and listen to your heart. Regenerate. Surrender and let the tears fall. Rejuvenate. Offer your grief, your exhaustion, your rage, to Earth, to our humanity, as your dedication to be with what is. Reclaim. And then act in ways that you are best made for these moments. Repeat.
As my beautiful soul friend Carly Forest says, informed by Taoism, “the heart can hold the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows”. Will we allow this capacity of our heart to be a collective priority? A personal priority? This is a practice, to return to the wise heart that only stretches and deepens and expands beyond us in more expansive love, rather than break into binaries, fragments, and disconnected pieces.
The heart unifies.
It is our birthright and need to actively seek out joy, beauty, connection and pause during times of pain, so that we can also be with the pain, be in witness, metabolize and act from a place of, and for, dignity. Where are you finding beauty and connection in your day to day? Where is love being offered that you have yet to recognize? What are the moments that offer grace and joy to you?
It is in the individual that collectives are made, and it is through collectives that individuals are shaped. Let us be in this deeply reciprocal dance in a heart-full way; in a relational way. This is our power, our place, and our practice.
This is my prayer towards liberation, inner and outer, for all.
What happens when you email the government in Canada? Here’s how it can help:
Social Change Ecosystem - what role matches you?
Deepa Iyer created this framework as a tool to clarify values, identify roles, and support our commitment to solidarity, justice, and equity. It identifies ten roles that people and organizations often show up in (such as weaver, builder, and storyteller) when they are responding to crises and participating in social change movements; it offers a path to engage in social change efforts more effectively, collaboratively, and sustainably.
Open letter from Jewish Writers: Critiquing the State of Israel is not Anti-Semitic
“We refuse the false choice between Jewish safety and Palestinian freedom; between Jewish identity and ending the oppression of Palestinians. In fact, we believe the rights of Jews and Palestinians go hand-in-hand. The safety of each people depends on the other’s.”
Shauna Janz, MA is a teacher, mentor, and facilitator at the crossroads of grief, trauma, ritual and ancestral healing. She is the founder of Sacred Grief offering immersive online programs for folks interested in deepening their skills in these areas.
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