Monday, May 23, 2016

Loss and Grief

By Rev. Amari Magdalena

A recent program that I listened to on NPR discussed the impact of loss and grief on the airplane crash victim’s families.  It got me thinking about all of the large and small losses, and resultant grief, that we each experience on this physical plane over a lifetime.  Some of our losses we more easily recover from under the old adage, “live and learn.”  The big ones may take a lot more time and for those we may find acceptance on some levels yet may not ever fully recover in the sense of being the same person we were before the loss.

Years ago I wrote in a poem, “Or would the moment die its own fleeting death anyway ...As we are living and dying in moments.”  This was not meant to be fatalistic rather a recognition that there are all kinds of deaths that we come to cope with over our time on this Earth; each in our own way. The path to coping and acceptance are as varied as the causes or conditions of the deaths.

There were two times in my life that I’ve felt overwhelming grief at death.  One was the year that Martin Luther King, my cousin Patsy and Bobby Kennedy died in April, May and June correspondingly.  I could not fathom such grief at loss of leadership and a young, beautiful cousin. It took a good year to find some peace with their individual and collective passing.

The other time was even more egregious.  Within a period of three years, I lost a 3-year-old grandson, a 52-year-old sister and a 17-year-old nephew.  I’d had a premonition that major grief was about to descend several weeks before the first death; thankfully I was given no idea whatsoever what was to come. And, the grief wasn’t over I sensed after our beautiful Diego was gone.  What a roll-a-coaster ride those short years were.

Each of us must find a path through our grief and losses. What saved me with the latter griefs ultimately was the grounding that daily sustains me through earth-based practices and the medicine wheel of life. I feel extremely fortunate that I found this path as it has sustained me as no other in my lifetime.

In working with my personal grief, and others in my family and pastoral counseling, I’ve seen that there is no formula or time frame for processing grief.  The ‘get over it’ mentality that so very many people espouse to avoid deep feelings, just doesn’t work.  The degree of loss includes: the circumstance of the loss; the people or loved pets involved; the place one is in their life; the supportive environment or lack thereof; the time in life; etc. 

For some people, counseling is effective; for others grief support groups.  Others may take solace in their religious or spiritual practices. I believe there is no right way.  Each of us, with some support, or help, can find a pathway that works.

I’m also struck by what I said in the poem, we are living and dying in moments.  That knowledge, for me, means that I want to embrace my life in the now with appreciation for each day and the people who are now in my life.  It also means that I can treasure what is presented to me today without worrying about what might be taken away tomorrow or what was taken in the past.

Dia de los Muertos ceremonies are a wondrous way to celebrate our friends and family who’ve stepped through the veil.  At that time when the veils are thinnest between the material and ethereal worlds, we can bring into our presence those loved ones and celebrate them.  At other times, memories and pictures help us keep a loving connection with our beloveds. 

Birth, life and death are the triumvirate we all live with.  Being gentle with ourselves, allowing grief it’s due, and coming to feel thankful for whatever time is allotted us and our dear ones, can move us a long way to acceptance and appreciation for the fragility of this wondrous play, Life.  The key is living and loving.

[53 Past Blogs are in my book "Shaman Talk" available in softcover and ebook on]

Friday, May 13, 2016


By Rev. Amari Magdalena

There was a wonderful share the other day on Facebook about perspective.  It got me thinking about just how relevant perspective is to our state of mind and contentment in life. For many of us, particularly those living alone, it is easy to lose perspective when we encounter the bumps and detours that life presents; no one to bounce things off of.  For others even living with others, perspective can be skewed.  All of us are, at times, fairly insular in our world view; we are the center of our universe.

When our small universe presents challenges of body, mind or spirit, we often fall into feeling sorry for ourselves with the accompanying pity party.  At times, we choose to wallow in the suffering that we are experiencing.  Some choose to isolate themselves at times like this; others broadcast it through their downtrodden energy.

It strikes me that what is needed are new filters through which to view challenges, bumps and detours. We might liken this to using a camera.  Some people are more adept with the instrument; others not.
What is clear to me is that we each have an internal camera, along with our external one (our eyes).  To a certain degree, we simply take a picture of what we see with your eyes.  Yet through processing or developing the picture our internal camera tweaks the picture: in modern terms, we might say we Photoshop it.  That internal processing is very unique and determined to a great extent by our life experiences and cultural inculcation.

Additionally, we seem to have a propensity to repeat the very same processing method we've previously used for similar pictures.  We are on a form of auto-pilot with those. This can be time-saving yet may also represent a sort of blindness.  Perhaps we do this repeat procedure to save time; perhaps it is simply habit.

If we continue to process pictures on auto-play or pilot we are not considering the present moment, circumstances, and presentation before us.  This creates a lot of views that may be outdated or distorted.  The distortion effect may lead to misunderstanding, prejudice, assumption, and limited thinking.

We could apply this to the events in our own lives or to our perception of events unfolding before us in the lives of others or the world.  Truth may go begging when our camera lens is clouded or fractured.  Recognizing any distortion by running our perceptions through a new truth filter may be of great value.  Asking or questioning ourselves, when we find ourselves making judgments about a person or circumstances, may help us discover new truths.

In my own life when I question negative thinking, I often ask, "Is this true today?
Are the feelings or thoughts or perceptions I am experiencing based in what is presently before me or some half truth from another time and place?  This helps me greatly in clearing my filter and perhaps coming up with new ways to view what my camera is focusing on.

The quote below sums up my thinking on this subject.  One can just as easily apply it to "when watching yourself and your reactions...."  I believe that we can choose to change our perceptions through highly focused awareness and commitment to re-viewing all that is within our scope; especially when it is causing us any angst or unhappiness. 

The choice to see heaven or hell each day is ours alone.  No external force can manipulate our inner camera, truly.  We alone can "Windex" our perceptions and click on a focus that creates greater happiness and contentment.

“…and so it is with life.  What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the Window through which we look.”  

[53 Past Blogs are in my book "Shaman Talk" available in softcover and ebook on]