What inspired you to work with Silatha?
It was a natural flow of serendipitous occurrences that lead me to the founder of Silatha. Early in 2017 I recorded a podcast for a friend called ‘Happy Place’ about my story of loss and grief, how yoga and 12 step recovery had helped me during that time. I also celebrated my good fortune of falling in love and celebrating my life as it expanded around my grief. As the year went by, I found myself supporting more and more people willing to share their stories of loss and grief. I was curious to learn more about other ways I could use my platform to support others. I created my own podcast, organised retreats and themed my yoga-mediation classes around the topic of embracing change, loss and grief.
From time to time, I tend to set forth a thought or desire into the universe, some might call it a prayer. My prayer at the time was ‘I am open, willing and asking for guidance’ directing me to my next day and how I work. I received an email soon after from Silatha opening an opportunity to collaborate. I met with the founder Veroniek Vermeulen at a Yoga studio in London and she explained her vision. I was intrigued. During that meeting I bumped into many people I haven’t seen in years that I adore and knew I was in the right place. I listened to Veroniek’s story and what she went through before creating the company and felt moved by her drive to support others.
However, the most serendipitous point that moved me to work with SILATHA was the symbol of the company. A Dorje. Veroniek didn’t know that I have a HUGE tattoo on my back of the same symbol. This symbol, I have held dear for many years, was tattooed on me after my husband died. It became the symbolic start to my new life falling in love with my present husband and manifesting my deepest hearts desires. The meaning behind the symbol moved both of us (Veroniek and I) in big moments of our lives, connected the dots and the kind flow to lead me to the decision to work with Veroniek.
What inspired you with the meditation series on grief you created for Silatha?
I found that in our yoga and meditation community and the wider community, there is a lot of content and focus on cultivating Love, Peace, Compassion and manifesting Desires…however, not much real support embracing our shadow, painful and suffering side. I find that just as love needs to be creatively expressed, so does grief and loss. I see that it is still taboo and hard for people to understand how to cope with grief or even support others grieving without platitudes or avoidance. We aren’t taught how to be present for pain. So I felt there was a need in my community to share some techniques I gathered from a few of my teachers and share to see if they work for others.
How does mediation relate to grief?
I feel we need safe places to validate, see and experience our pain with more tender attention and care. Meditation offers the experience to learn how to embody the moment and build greater resilience to what is arising. There are many paths to self-reflection, awakening and healing. Mediation is one way to learn how to recognise, acknowledge, allow and nurture with non-judgemental acceptance. We can’t think our way out of pain and suffering, I find when our mind directs the attention to the simplicity of the breath and allows the body to express through sensation, we give rise to more intimacy of how grief affects us. It is like cracking the body open so the light can get in.
Why is grief such an important topic?
It is important as we will all face it. No one is getting out of life without experiencing minor to severe loss. We are in rented vehicles and we will eventually have to return them. Megan Devine summed it up brilliantly in her book titled “It’s okay that your not okay” Grief is a part of love. It hurts because we love. This capacity to love, feel joy and deep empathy opens us up to the pain of loss, tragedy and death we will all experience. The problem is that our culture in the west doesn’t educate or support us. It keeps us busy into the progression of climatically achieving perfection of youth, wealth and financial success. The problem is, as I see it, in the industry I am in, that we are more depressed, stressed, anxious and addicted to minor or major things than ever before. Something isn’t working. We are not expressing or facing our pain, trauma and grief. People connect to authentic stories of life searching for ways to heal, transform and inspire them as they move through life’s ups and downs. Addressing mental health is a huge topic today and we see that it is deeply needed in our communities.
Recently you paired up with Silatha to create some workshops on grief, can you tell us a little about them.
The workshops Silatha and I have offered have been really cathartic experiences. From my grief story, I have never been able to heal by myself. I have healed through listening and sharing experiences with others. Empathy, tears, shared anger and love have all been part of my journey through embracing my grief and learning from others. I was really nervous about holding space for people seeking to understand their loss and tragedies, however once we began, I felt seen in my stories, though they were different. We can all relate to the feelings that loss brings. By sharing how these meditations we recorded support me specifically for different times, I felt people connect to the hope of understanding, acceptance and peace they could provide.
What feedback did you get from people at the event?
I still get people contacting me, sharing their stories, hearing their gratitude for offering the place share. It is powerful to hear how the workshop affected them, opening them up to another way of managing the unmanageable waves of grief when they arise through meditation and mindful practices. I hope Silatha and I receive more opportunities to hold space for a more in-depth look into how we can support each other with our grief.
The series you developed with Silatha are linked to the Apache Tears gemstone. Is there anything you would like to share about this stone?
As a North American, growing up I was educated about our history and brutality of the Native Americans as our young country (d)evolved through the 1800’s onward. The Apache Tears legend is poignant, as legends and folklore are a continued tradition of explanation and processing the unknown or the un-explainable. The suffering and grief on that level, at that time, was a terrible and relatively new experience for the Apache tribe. It is a heart-breaking explanation of the origins of this beautiful stone. It is a story that should not be forgotten.
I come from a place in the US where obsidian is plentiful and so are the stories of Native American suffering and grief. A gem of this substance is a fitting reminder of the shared experience of grief and loss.
Grief is a really hard time, any tips for people to navigate through this time?
Early grief is very hard, almost unbearable. I would recommend (as I did) to reach out to a grief therapist for extra support as they are trained to handle the anger, fear, rage and deep sadness that howls. I would also recommend Yoga, exercise or anything that gets you moving, as they say ‘to change your psychology, you change your physiology’ Everything we mentally go through our body goes through too. Allow your body to express your grief. Dance, swim, cycle, run, do yoga…whatever to kindly release some of the energy that gets stuck. However, due to loss, we become so tired…deeply tired as we are processing the pain usually with sleepy nights. So introduce Yoga Nidra into your week. This is Yogic-sleep with awareness. Done with the intention of healing this has been the fastest growing way to manage PTSD and fatigue in the meditation and yoga world. Ask for your needs to be met from your friends and family, honour your gut reaction/intuition and be kind, patient and trust yourself.
One of the hardest things to do, but one of the most important as well, is to make sure to be amongst the living. By that, I mean surround yourself with people that are positive and connect with life and the joys of it. We all will go through loss, nothing will prepare us for it, however we can start to become awake, loving in how we tend our pain. It begins with us and a constant reminder of better things to come is a great support.
Besides organising Grief Workshops and Meditation Classes, what keeps you “in the land of the living” these days?
It is Christmas time and for a lot of people it is a difficult time of year with added stresses and pressure of family and the busy-ness of the holiday season. I am a full-time mother of teenage girls so am pulled in all directions this time of year. The anniversary of the death of the girl’s father is right around the corner, so this time of year there is always a bit of grief looming. However, during the holidays I always try and look forward to the opportunities of the new year. I always do a Yoga/Meditation workshop on New Years Day to set intention for new beginnings. I plan retreats for people filled with new experiences and new destinations. This January I am going to try my hand at skiing and face my fears of heights and speed at a Yoga/Ski/Hiking Retreat (join us) in Switzerland! I am off to India in February for Kumbh Mela to dip my toe in the Ganges with 20 million of my closest friends and in March will be cycling and Yoga-ing in Morocco with another group for an annual retreat at the base of the Atlas Mountains.
I love retreats as they offer a space to gather and share the joys of life outside of our daily environment and be reminded of the fascinating world around us. I have been doing more and more retreats every year as the ease of accessibility to new destinations and experiences becomes more popular with people looking to; expand their Yoga Practice, Meditation, physical exercise and most importantly, be amongst the living.
Find more about wonderful Zephyr and her work supporting people going through grief.