Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Room Full of Grief

Praying in groups, what is that all about? This post will take a brief look at Judaism, Catholicism, Christianity, and Buddhism and think about group prayer.
It was the firm belief of the Jewish sages that wherever ten Israelites are assembled, either for worship or for the study of the Law, the Divine Presence dwells among them. In rabbinical literature, those who meet for study or prayer in smaller groups, even one who meditates or prays alone, are to be praised, however, the stress is put upon the merits and sacredness of the minyan of ten and the ten must be men or boys who are Bar Mitzvah, women and girls do not count.
In Catholicism, it is believed that His mighty workings increase exponentially and His purposes are accelerated when people pray together. This message is not given to minimize personal prayer, instead, it is to show that personal prayer alone will not result in the working of God to the degree needed for spiritual transformation in people's lives, churches, cities, and nation.
Group prayer among all Christians is important and rewarding, devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer together.
Buddhist thoughts includes three gems: Buddha - the historical Buddha and one's own potential for awakening, Dharma - the teachings of the Buddha; the truth of the way things are, and Sangha - the community

The Sangha, or community, generally refers to the fourfold community of monks, nuns, men and women lay followers. Monks and nuns are respected for their good conduct and for their experience in meditation. They are also respected for their diligence, mindfulness and calmness. Wise and learned, they are able teachers of the Dharma. They can also be like trusted friends inspiring the lay followers along the path of Good Conduct.

Prayer itself can mean different things to different people. It can mean having reverence for a God, talking outloud or silently to oneself, having a personal experience with a God or having that experience through a priest or guru. It can be being grateful for what one has, begin grateful in advance for what one is asking for.

It can for some be bargaining, begging, and pleading for change or for better or for the fulfilling of a lack. It can mean getting quiet, calming the "voices in the mind," or distracting oneself.

This brings me to the topic of my post: A Room Full of Grief. You may have read on my other blog that I am involved in a Yoga Class on Grieving and Loss with my "Guru," teacher Corinne Peterson. I have taken a number of classes with her and when I heard she was doing this one I signed up last, I believe, August.

I wanted to spend some time with Corinne to recharge my meditation practice and knew that in many ways I have been grieving Gregory' Dementia  Alzheimer's for the last twelve years since the diagnosis.

Gregory and I have lived well and made the most of our journey but never the less, it has been a slow loss and slow grieving process. Little did I know that shortly before the class was to begin, Gregory would die.

The class has twelve members plus the teacher and has met for two hours every Monday for the last ten weeks. At the first class we shared a little, if we wanted to, about why we decided to take the class. Then we do stretching and movements and finish up with a quiet meditation practice.

A number of realizations have taken place in these sessions. First, I am not alone in grieving. I think when one is in the middle of grief, it is easy to forget that so many others out there are grieving and suffering loss as well. Next it was nice to be able to share with total strangers, a little about how I was feeling and grieving.

In addition no one was telling me to get over my grief, or calling me "poor you," or trying to "make it all better!" As people told their stories I could feel empathy for them even as I was feeling emotional myself. I could see that each of us was dealing with various levels of grief but there was really no hierarchy or evaluating whose grief was greater or lesser.

I could feel the heaviness of grief and loss in the room as the session began and I could feel it slowly dissipate for everyone including myself as we were able to focus our practice, awareness, time, and thoughts more on breath, movement, body, chantings, candle light and less on the weight of our grief.

No doubt the grief, loss, sorrow, emotions would return but hopefully with less wallop and it was nice to have the grief at bay for at least a few hours.

At the end of each session I felt lighter, more in control of my emotions as well as more able to let my emotions ride when I needed them to but not to feel out of control or hysterical.

So maybe this has shown me that there is some strength in groups and community and sharing with fellow humankind even if it is in a room full of grief.

I will need to continue my grieving, I know that it will jump out at me when little expected, but I can also get on with my life without Gregory and feel in good place, as he is now in a more comfortable place than he was while dealing with the slow decline cognitively and physically with Dementia/ Alzheimer's.

(The information about religious groups was taken in part from Google and in part in my own words.)


  1. Grief is very personal and each of us has his own style. There is no set recipe and no timetable.

    I would like to point out that Catholics are Christians. Not all Christians are Catholics; some became Protestants during the Reformation. Then we kept dividing into more and more denominations, human frailties being what they are.

    An example of how confusing religions can be, a true story: Pastor Ken and his Baptist wife attended services at a Methodist church. During the congregation's recitation of the Apostle's Creed which they followed along in the hymnbook, they came to the line "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church..." looked at each other and refused to repeat that last part. They had no idea that catholic Church meant 'the Church universal' not 'The Catholic Church' -- note change in case.

  2. Good point Jean. I guess I know that Catholics are Christians but not all Christians are Catholics but the flow of my blog confused this. I might correct it :-)


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