Inner Peace: Life lessons help in dealing with overwhelming grief

As a man who grew up in the '60s, I have always been interested in learning to develop more control over my internal states, my emotions, my reactions to events and over the body of thoughts that often ran rampant through and over my life. In short, I've been focused on consciousness and how it expresses itself in and through life's events.

Having dabbled in many disciplines from various forms of new age spirituality to Eastern philosophies and dietary systems throughout my 20s, I'd have to say that none of them made a great difference in my ability to cope with one of life's real challenges — that is, relationships. At the age of 28, when my partner was pregnant with my son, we were just not getting along at all, and I took an opportunity to go to a Sufi retreat for two weeks in the French Alps. This taught me some lasting lessons. The most obvious one was the wisdom of getting away when there's nothing to be gained by staying in a stressful space. But I had also had six days of silence and prayer that brought me some insights about my psyche and my identity.

When I returned to California, I felt like a different man, more in control, more grounded, more sympathetic, more able to cope. I also began to study a variety of symbolic languages and some of the traditional Western mystery schools. This led me to some lessons I will share shortly.

Fast forward 33 years. My son, Kawika, who was an avid diver and underwater photographer, goes missing after going out in his boat by himself to dive and get some pictures off the Lost Coast of Mendocino County. He was never found.

In the first days after losing him I was numb, unable to think, barely able to talk, unable to sleep at night and yet desperately wanting to be anything but awake and conscious. I was afraid of being alone. I needed people around me every moment. I couldn't imagine a future. There didn't seem to be enough love in the world to ever give me the solace that would set things right again. After a while, the frozen places in me began to thaw, seemingly of their own accord. It helped that I had a lot of things beyond my grief that demanded my attention, not the least of which was selling a house and moving to Ashland, which was already underway when my son went missing.

In the aftermath of my loss, many new things opened up for me, among them were vocal and instrumental music, volunteer work, and teaching. It almost seemed like the ending of my life as a parent (I have no other children) created a vacuum that drew other opportunities for creativity and self-expression both to me and out of me. These days I thank Kawika for that, as it seems to be an unexpected gift that he gave me.

So here are some other realizations, arrived at after 71 years of growing up:

• All the power that ever was or will be is here now! The ability and the wherewithal needed for accomplishing anything is always and everywhere at hand.

• Every individual is a center of expression for the primal Will-To-Good that has created and that sustains the universe. We may act unwisely, we may not realize our responsibility for, or our part in, creating the world we live in, but when we awaken to it, there is no going back to feeling like a helpless victim of circumstance.

• All created things, great and small, manifest beauty in the expression of that primal Will-To-Good. Look around you every day and stop to appreciate every miracle of the ordinary. Don't ever lose your sense of wonder or your appreciation for your gifts. Losing these things leads to depression and hopelessness.

• Understanding the principles of how-things-come-to-be leads to the realization that, moment by moment, there is guidance along our individual path available to us all. Use it! Quiet that overactive thought machine and tune in to that still small voice. You'll know what to do.

Avram Chetron lives in Ashland and enjoys his passions for music, OLLI and golf.

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