by Megha Nancy Buttenheim
Welcome back to my series on seven healing ways to find grace within grief. If you missed the first entry, I invite you to return to the beginning in order to get the most from this article.
For me, one of the most important aspects of grieving is to let feelings be there, no matter how tempestuous. I remember thinking, when my daughter, Sarah Grace, died, that I would never stop crying. But if I simply let myself be fully present in each moment of grief, the moment would indeed pass. Grieving is exhausting; not letting myself grieve was more so.
I lived and taught at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health for 12 years when it was a residential spiritual community, and have continued to develop the work I learned and created there. Central to the Kripalu approach is the model known as BRFWA: Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow. Using BRFWA is particularly helpful when things get tough or overwhelming, when we’re experiencing major challenges or loss. I have been using and teaching this method for two decades.
The following definition of BRFWA is excerpted from my Let Your Yoga Dance Teacher Training manual.
Breathe: Take long deep breaths. Pay attention to each inhalation and exhalation.
Relax: Using your breath, begin to consciously relax, soften, and feel your muscles, releasing tension in both body and mind.
Feel: Feel every sensation as it arises. Simply experience the sensations, instead of trying to understand what is happening. There is nothing you need to understand right now: Just feel, just breathe.
Watch: Watch each moment, along with every sensation and feeling, without judgment. As you keep taking deep, long breaths and relaxing into the sensations that arise, you can create a space between you and the event. You become an investigator of your own Self. Swami Kripalu said, “The highest form of spiritual practice is self-observation without judgment.” Simply watch, and accept.
Allow: With breath and acceptance, you can allow the moment to be as it is, without trying to change anything. Imagine you’re riding a wave of insight. As you breathe, relax, feel, and watch what is happening, you can also allow these feelings to be as they are. Insights will be revealed without struggle, effort, or force. You can ride your wave without falling off the surfboard, all the way to shore.
BRFWA has been a lifesaver whenever I’m in need. Sometimes, I laughingly argue that there is one other important word that should be tacked on the front of it: REMEMBER… to breathe, relax, feel, watch, and allow! When waves of sensation hit, especially in the form of grief, anger, frustration, fear, or hatred, BRFWA truly becomes my personal surfboard.
In August of 1995, when I was catapulted by waves of grief, I did my best, beginning with the breath, to leap on to my consciousness surfboard and ride those waves to shore.
I recall a visit to my parents three weeks after the baby died. Dad was in the hospital with congestive heart failure and was not doing well. I came home to try to be of help to them both. At one point, I opened the refrigerator door and saw a tall bottle of white wine. An occasional wine drinker, I reached for it, but suddenly paused. I went right to BRFWA, breathing, relaxing, and feeling the moment. The question then came up: “Do you want to put a Band Aid on your grief? You know that the wine is going to muffle everything. You will feel more numb. But is that what you want?”
I kept breathing and allowing the feelings to surface as I stared at the wine bottle. I watched the internal discussion going on in my mind and allowed it to be there. With a long, deep breath, I made my choice: I closed the fridge, empty-handed, and got myself a glass of water instead. I wanted to respect the memory of my baby girl by feeling everything. It was my small way of bringing her closer.
I invite you to try BRFWA for yourself. You can learn the method simply by sitting with eyes closed, and repeating the words to yourself: Breathe … Relax … Feel … Watch … Allow. If you practice, then, when the waves do hit, you will remember BRFWA.
Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, E-RYT, Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, E-RYT 500, is the founding director of Let Your Yoga Dance® and a faculty member for Wholebeing Institute’s Certificate in Positive Psychology. letyouryogadance.com