Francis Weller: Of Grief and Reverence (E04)

Charles talks with Francis Weller about grief as a gateway to joy, to reverence, and to community, and the power of public grief to bring healing on a personal, community, and political level.

From this episode:

"We have this projection onto sorrow and grief as if it is some
depressed state, but it only becomes that way because of our avoidance.
We become oppressed by the weight of all the unexpressed grief in our
lives." - Francis Weller

"We will not have truly compassionate politics unless we are able to let
in the truth, and we can only let in the truth that hurts so much if we
have ways to process the grief." - Charles Eisenstein

Francis Weller, MFT, is a psychotherapist, writer and soul activist. He is a master of synthesizing diverse streams of thought from psychology, anthropology, mythology, alchemy, indigenous cultures and poetic traditions. Learn more about Francis on his website. You can also check out his organization, WisdomBridge.


Comments

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. So much here touches the very core of my grief for the world and my longing for what is real in life. I am full of gratitude for what was shared in this podcast and will be checking out Francis Weller more. My maternal GrandMother just died recently at 99 years of age. I got to return to the cradle of my family, which in the past has been an anxiety provoking experience, and we spent a week together, storytelling, remembering, and simply being with each other. Not without it’s rough patches, but there was a quality in the shared missing and loving of her that brought us together in a way that I have never before felt so close to my family of origin. Very sweet. I will continue to allow this connection of heart to inform my life as long as possible. This podcast speaks to that longing so well. Something I have sought for all my life. Looking to balance the insanity of this world with the nature of what is real and true in my soul.

  2. Wonderful, thank you. It might even be valuable to add grief to the daily ritual of love, compassion, gratitude, and forgiveness; consciously spend some time with it. And yes, hold the grief in reverence.

  3. Thank you for this. So much of this conversation resonated deeply with me as I grieve the passing of a close friend who could no longer endure the pain and suffering caused by feeling ill in an unwell world. While I find much of both of your analysis meaningful, I think your question, Charles, regarding the risk of cultural appropriation is important. I felt relieved when it was brought up at the end. I noticed throughout uses of ‘we’ and ‘our’ in reference to white european ancestry which left me wondering if you are intentionally gearing this work towards white communities. Francis mentions ancestral grief without making distinctions between the varied identities of your reader/listenership. I feel that both of your work would be strengthened by naming more directly the dependent nature of capitalism on white supremacy.

  4. Thank you, Charles and Francis. This was perfect timing for me.

    I was just at a small public grief ritual, last night for a teacher who was loved by a large community. He was randomly murdered by 3 young kids (18-24) while walking his dog on a hiking trail near my home presumably for his 2003 VW station wagon. He was shot several times and so was his dog whose leash was still held in his hand (the dog lived). He had been caring for his wife of 17 years who is currently being treated for an aggressive form of breast cancer. (if anyone wants to donate her go fund me campaign that was up before her husband’s murder, let me know and I will post the link)

    Only a few of the people who were able to make it to this spontaneous gathering actually knew him, but we all needed this opportunity to process the shock of this random violence in our small sweet town. I went to honor his spirit that had just left his body, and to send love to his wife and dog. I also wanted to bless this sacred land that is so dear to me, and reclaim that place with love.

    I have also been thinking a lot about his young killers and other disturbed perpetrators of violence lately. Although I do not condone what they did obviously, my heart goes out anyone whose lives were so desperate that they would be able to commit such a horrible act.

    I can’t do anything about any of them, but I did just reach out to a young relative today whose life sounds like a cliche for a serial killer in the making. Who knows if my efforts at connecting with him and showing him some love and attention will make a difference in his future, but at least it feels like something tangible that I can do.

    Parts of the vigil I attended last night felt a little awkward to me, and I noticed my judgment about how others were expressing their grief and questioned my right to be there since he was not close personal friend and yet there was something that felt so right about being in a circle with others who were grieving.

    Two weeks ago I also lost a friend to a car accident. He was not close friend, but he was very dear to friends who are very dear to me and I felt his loss.

    There have been many losses in my extended community over the past few weeks. None of them have touched me too closely but I am no stranger to grieving close personal losses.

    There is much more I could say about this topic of grief that is so alive for me right now, but I need to catch up on my responsibilities after all these unexpected events and the time they’ve taken out of my life.

    I have one more comment and that ishow much I appreciated Took what Francis said about how when we approach things with reference, great things will decide to approach us. I do my very best to be reverent, especially during my time out in nature every day. It is a little more challenging to do with people, but I aspire to that as well!

  5. Thank you, Charles and Francis. This was perfect timing for me.

    I was just at a small public grief ritual last night for a man who devoted his life to teaching others how to love. Not surprisingly he was loved by a large community. He was randomly murdered by 3 young kids (18-24) while walking his dog on a hiking trail near my home presumably for his 2003 VW station wagon. He was shot several times and so was his dog whose leash was still held in his hand (the dog lived). He had been caring for his wife of 17 years who is currently being treated for an aggressive form of breast cancer. (if anyone wants to donate her go fund me campaign that was up before her husband’s murder, let me know and I will post the link)

    Only a few of the people who were able to make it to this spontaneous gathering actually knew him, but we all needed this opportunity to process the shock of this random violence in our small sweet town. I went to honor his spirit that had just left his body, and to send love to his wife and dog. I also wanted to bless this sacred land that is so dear to me (I hike these trains every day), and reclaim that place with love. And (less popularly) include compassion for his young killers and other recent disturbed perpetrators of violence. Although I obviously do not condone what they did , my heart goes out anyone whose lives were such that they would be able to commit such a horrible act.

    I can’t do anything about any of them, but I did just reach out to a young relative today whose life sounds like a cliche for a serial killer in the making. Who knows if my efforts at connecting with him and showing him some love and attention will make a difference in his future, but at least it feels like something tangible that I can do.

    Parts of the vigil I attended last night felt a little awkward to me, and I noticed my judgment about how others were expressing their grief and questioned my right to be there since he was not close personal friend and yet there was something that felt so right about being in a circle with others who were grieving.

    Two weeks ago I also lost a friend to a car accident. He was not close friend, but he was very dear to friends who are very dear to me and I felt his loss.

    There have been many losses in my extended community over the past few weeks. None of them have touched me too closely but I am no stranger to grieving close personal losses, so my empathy is strong.

    I know I’m rambling and there is much more I could say about this topic of grief that is so alive for me right now, but I need to catch up on my responsibilities after all these unexpected events and the time they’ve taken out of my life.

    Hopefully I will have time to read through some of the other responses at a later time, I’m sure there are many others who found this interview to be poignant as well.

    I have one more comment and that is how much I appreciated what Francis said about how when we approach things with reference, great things will decide to approach us. I do my very best to be reverent, especially during my time out in nature every day. It is a little more challenging to do with people, but I aspire to get better at that!

  6. So timely, thank you. I’m in Lake County and i’m processing the same events as Michelle: The murder of Steve Carter of the ecstatic living institute and the Fires (Valley, Rocky, Butte, and Jerusalem) which burned over 100 Thousand acres and over 1300 homes in our community. The physical structures of Harbin Hot Springs, where Steve and his wife led seminars, were also destroyed.

    This podcast has gifted me with some language to express these feelings. This quote from the talk and this poem, I found helpful. Thank you – newman

    “The work of the mature human being is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other. And, to be stretch large by these two things.” -Francis Weller

    “I carry a torch in one hand
    And a bucket of water in the other:
    With these things I am going to set fire to Heaven
    And put out the flames of Hell,
    So that voyagers to God can rip the veils
    And see the real goal.”
    -Rabia Basri

    • Hi Newman,

      Steve Carter was planning to go see Joanna Macy at Spirit Rock that fateful night.

      She read a poem by Rilke (not yet knowing about Steve) with this quote that I have found helpful this past week.

      “Let everything happen to you
      Beauty and terror
      Just keep going
      No feeling is final”

      ― Rainer Maria Rilke

      Also, if you are interested, here is the link to my blog about this topic.

      http://blog.sparksandleaps.com/2015/10/killers.html

      My heart goes out to you and all in Lake County. i have been donating money and sending love. Just went to another benefit for Harbin last night.

      I think on some level the reason I have been so involved in various efforts to help others with their losses lately (went to another funeral yesterday and spent time talking to a young woman pouring her heart out about 2 divorces in her family – even though I was running late for the funeral) is because I superstitiously hope that if I can do something to alleviate the grief of others I will be spared.

      I will let you know if that works!

      Take care,

      Michelle

  7. As I listened to this podcast I reflected upon a workshop I am leading in a few days on the topic of anxiety. I wrestle a bit with the various ways to frame anxiety. Often I combine a family systems approach with mindfulness and embodiment. ie – explore concepts of emotional fusion/differentiation, locate anxiety as a body sensation, develop a more direct relationship with it, etc. The discussion between Charles and Francis reminded me how essential the community/social context is. Anxiety, far from being a “disorder”, can be seen as a natural and predictable result of social agreements that deny what Francis terms “primary satisfaction”. And so I struggle a bit creating some kind of cohesive, holistic framework for addressing a topic like anxiety. It’s difficult to pull the various threads together and present an integrated view that isn’t completely unwieldy and confusing for folks new to this stuff. I also feel some internal tension around the reconciliation between family systems notions of (unhealthy) emotional fusion, and the idea of (healthy) shared emotional experiences. I wonder if other counsellors and therapists in this community are doing any inquiry along these same lines?

  8. Last night on the LIVE phone call that Charles offered, I asked him how we might cope with our personal as well as Universal grief–for our own losses and sorrows as well as those of our society, culture, trees, waters, pets, animals and so on. He advised listening to this podcast. I did and feel better, already!

    It is such a rich offering of compassionate ideas, thoughts, feelings, ideologies and healing dialogue between two men. This podcast should be made into a movie! And, I may be so inspired to start writing it. For, it moved me greatly and completely. What I just heard, no, “experienced”, felt, right down to my bones, was so refreshing, comforting, soothing, empathic and loving, I cannot express my deepest gratitude enough to both Charles and Francis!

    Gentle-men, you have just given me an hour and three minutes of more empathy, compassion, love and understanding than I’ve felt over years of counseling, classes, seminars, study-sessions, online gurus,enlightenment promises, and the list goes on. In one hour (and three minutes) I believe you have opened a door to my mind, heart and soul, that we are all “aware” of but, like the locked door to the attic that we are NEVER to go near as children (as well as thousands of other metaphorical “locked doors” we dare not enter as adults and for the rest of our lives), you have not only given me permission to open it, you have given me the KEY.

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ! !

    It is with such support, deep honesty, candor, community sharing, caring, courage and love, that we may all tap into that which we KNOW is true. And then, be able to express, recognize and believe in the true gifts we were born with and may share with others to, indeed, create and experience THE MORE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OUR HEARTS KNOW IS POSSIBLE.

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