shaunaThe following is a guest post written by Shauna Janz, a friend and connection here in Victoria, BC. Shauna is not only a lovely person, but has wise, wise words for us today about connecting with our community by connecting with ourselves.

A few weeks ago Beth posed the question – how can we ‘give’ to our community in just 10 minutes each day?

So, I am writing about grief.

You may wonder how grief has anything to do with volunteering, engagement and giving in our community? Well, in my work as a Grief Activist, I find grief has a lot to do with giving to others – it affects how we show up, who we are, and how we can give.

And, here is why…

Connecting with others and our community is strengthened by nurturing our relationship and connection with ourselves – body, mind and spirit. We all carry around stresses, hurts, unmet expectations and disappointments as we go about our busy lives. We accumulate these sorrows and grief over time. And largely, these are collected without much second thought as we navigate the outside world of work, family and social obligations.

These seemingly small losses build up, in our bodies, and specifically in our bellies and hearts. We can become hardened and closed, in parts of our body, mind and heart, if we don’t pay attention. When our hearts and minds close, our selves become smaller, more rigid and dependent on habit. This accumulation of unattended grief keeps us small, and consequently our lives small also. We can become hyper-focused on our own daily livelihood, making invisible others around us – making invisible the pain and needs of others around us.

The remedy?

Make time to be with your losses and hurts on a regular basis. A brief “hello grief, I see you, so let’s hang out for a few moments”. Allowing ourselves to acknowledge and welcome our hurts, allows us to deepen our joy, compassion, and generosity.

It only takes ten minutes each day. Here is how…

Find a quiet spot, sit comfortably, and place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart. Simply breathe deeply in and out through your nose, noticing your hands rise and fall with your tender belly and heart. Breathe deep.

Allow the in-breath to expand and open the muscles around your belly and heart. Allow the in-breath to fully embrace and soften the hardened shell of accumulated losses. Feel the dull ache that appears in your heart and belly, and just be with it. Breathe in acceptance and love for yourself. There is plenty of space for both pain and joy – let it all be. Feel the tightness soften.

You are ok. You are resilient.

Give deeply to yourself, your heart and your belly, the love and generosity that you deserve.

Be with this.

Allow the pain and the joy. Feel the ache, feel the joy, and know you are fully alive and vibrant. Just be with your grief for a few minutes. And now, turn your focus outwards as you breathe out acceptance and love to those around you – friends, family, and community.

Know that everyone has a tender belly and heart underneath all that hardened stuff.

Connect with that softness, in you and in others. This is our connection. This is our seat of compassion and generosity. Hold that tenderness in your mind and heart for a few minutes. Hold it for yourself. Hold it for others in your community.

Give from this place.

Now, notice how you feel, as you move through your day. And throughout the weeks as you take time to practice this daily. Be gentle with yourself – it isn’t always easy to be with our hurts, yet we all deserve this loving attention from ourselves.

Allowing time to be with our grief keeps our hearts fluid and open to connecting with others. When we welcome our grief and pain, we open ourselves to our shared connection with everyone around us. We feel expansive. And, we allow for more joy and generosity.

Pain, sadness, hurts and disappointments will always be present, but they do not need to harden us or make us small. In fact, with some love, they soften and expand us.

A softened belly and an expansive heart is generosity and connection with self and others! So may you go forward in your giving roles as volunteers, family, partners, friends and more, with an even deeper compassion that is continually rooted in your relationship with your own grief, igniting the passion to connect and give to others.

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Shauna Janz, MA is a ‘grief activist’ – she is passionate about creating more spaces in our society to talk about grief, and to learn from it and allow it to connect us in healthy and affirming ways. She is a consultant, facilitator and educator who works with individuals, groups and organizations to facilitate understanding and healing through grief and to create supportive environments that honour loss and promote well-being. Visit www.facebook.com/shaunajanzconsulting for helpful tips and articles on grief, and visit www.shaunajanz.webs.com for more information on her services.

The practice described in this blog was inspired by, and adapted from, the thoughts and words of Stephen Levine, Francis Weller and Pema Chodron.