Grief & Loss: Death of The Physical Body

Grief & Loss: Death of The Physical Body

Grief & Loss: Death of The Physical Body

Have you seen that cartoon of the monk in meditation with the caption “Come on bliss, hurry up, I haven’t got all day!”

Sometimes I close my eyes and I’m right there, fast track meditative state, bliss and peace. Other days it’s impossible to even close my eyes. 


When Meditation does not help

Take my meditation this morning. I found myself in the mind trap of disturbing thoughts following a sleepless night of nightmarish dread and worry. Completely beside myself, upset and frustrated, I was at the opposite end of bliss and peace. It was not helping, it felt even darker. Where is the light, the blissful state, peace of mind, generosity of spirit? Not here for sure. 


I told myself to pull my socks up, get on with it, get over myself, do some ‘positive thinking’ or a gratitude journal. Then I remind myself that these feelings get to be here too, they’re natural, not to be shamed or pushed away. I notice the imposter telling me “you teach meditation and can’t even do it”. OK, deep breath – sigh out, somethings gotta change. After years of meditation and on the verge of giving up, I remembered to catch myself in this moment, to be aware of myself ‘in a state’, not the meditative state, to normalise intense and ‘ugly’ emotions, my miserable mood, and the visceral feelings of deep grief in my heart and guts. To feel them fully, give them space to breathe. And then give myself space for Netflix and chocolate.


Being with the truth of what is

"As we age, our bodies change, and we experience the loss of youth.We come to an understanding that were are more than our body and it's important to befriend the layers beyond the physical.  I believe as we face our own mortality, we are drawn to revisit and remember all we have forgotten in our busy lives. This is my opinion, my practice, it’s what I trust and guide" Judy Sampath

The key is to hold your attention steady on what’s true in this moment, to learn to stay with the discomfort and “can’t”. It takes bravery to feel it fully, to cry when it comes…and it will lose its intensity. Easier said than done, right? 


I settle into my meditative seat, commit to being immersed in my story just as it is, all of it welcome like crunchy popcorn, not in a hurry to make it go away. The drama plays out, poor me, poor them, hopeless world, such pity, the violins crescendo, tears come, I am consumed. 

Giving up the fight

And then, I project the whole damn mess onto a cinema screen in front of me, the longer I hold my attention on it, it gets a little further away. This is not a fight I'm interested in having, I'm too exhausted by this.

To be honest, I’m getting a little bored of myself now. It starts to lose its power.

This realisation initiates a chain reaction. My Self signals with a wry smile at the corners of my lips, and is reconfirmed by a widening across my occiput, the drama shifting into a different energy, here we go. The alchemy starts, I choose to go with it. Choice and acceptance are important. I dissolve through the walls of my own body into the background. My body is no longer, my mind has left the building, I have died to myself psychologically.


It won't always be like this

I emerge on the other side with a different perspective. Hope is here, life is here, time to move into my day. And I know the intense waves will return, and I will ride them, sometimes more successfully than others. And I know deep down that some wise part of me will save me from going under and I will rise again, I know it in my bones. Nothing stays the same.


Nuggets of wisdom and gems of practices

Here are some practices that I use to ride the disturbing waves of loss and grief. 

Linger with any that resonate, repeat a few times, practice holding your attention in discomfort, make something up of your own. 

Be a brave explorer, be silly, die to your physical body and your critical mind, and drop into the background beyond the veil of illusion.

Step One

  • Set an alarm for 30 minutes
  • Find a comfortable seat or lie down
  • Lean back and down, anchor into the ground with long sighs out 
  • Open your eyes wide, close them tight, hen relax the muscles around the eyeballs
  • Wink one eye open, then the other – notice change in perspective
  • Go between eyes open and eyes closed, no right or wrong
  • Focus back into the optic nerves so your brain gets the message that you’re not looking out for danger
  • Imagine eyes all over your body, turning them inwards like guards
  • Offer space for any guards, allies or guides to show up and be with you
  • Repeat affirmations – I am here, I am safe, I have time, I am home, it’s OK to feel like this, it won’t always be like this…
  • Pull silly faces to stretch your jaw, tongue, facial muscles - express all kinds of moods and make some sounds, notice what arises in your private space
  • Lengthen your inhale slowly into the spaces in your skull, your brain, body
  • Soften your neck, shoulders, belly, hips, re-relax with each exhale
  • Cover your ears and hold your head in your hands
  • Massage your ears and face tenderly
  • Get quiet so you can sense into sounds 
  • Slow down and notice what’s happening moment to moment
  • Track what is true in each moment, thoughts are allowed too!
  • Keep coming back to here, now, presence, truth, track it all
  • Let go of any practice and simply be here
  • When your alarm sounds, ask yourself what you discovered, what’s changed

This is the first step, the physical level. The body is your home. Sense into the phenomenal assortment of cells, wondering at the miraculous feats the body performs to keep you alive and in a state of relative balance (and often balancing on the extreme edges physically, mentally and emotionally). This focus returns you to your senses, the appreciation of this precious gift called life, to be here in this astonishing body, on this unique green planet with the most extraordinary plants and animals, the unfathomable design and natural order of things. And you can choose to go further.

Step Two & Beyond

 Staying intensely present takes you from doing to receiving, from gross to subtle, from physical to soulful. 

"When you shed your physical body like a skin and die to yourself psychologically, there is a connection to source, you are not separate or alone but a part of something infinitely vast, unknowable, connected to all that has been and all that will be, words can’t describe it, you simply know it directly" Judy Sampath

There are more steps to explore further. The potency of yoga and meditation practices in life and death is clear and a deep well of resources. The practice of yoga itself is inextricably linked with birth, life and death and how you do it, how you can do it well, how to die well. Judy will be exploring further, offering and sharing practices on her BWY CPD days on Loss and Grief in 2024 online and in person.

When you need comfort, simply come to the thousand year old science of meditation. Remind yourself often that you are a part of the whole, bound by the cycles of life and death and beyond, not in control of impact the forces of nature have on you - you are a key player in the mysteries of the universe. 

Honour the parts of you that are longing, in distress, or that feel broken. Return to the understanding that you are never alone, your physical body is a tiny part of the vast field. Allow yourself to feel all the emotions that you want to banish, and inevitably you will be drawn back towards the opposite. From grief to love, from loss to generosity... If you are feeling down right now, can you name the feelings, feel them fully, and describe the opposite?
Judy Hirsh Sampath is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, founder of Yoga United and course director of the YU Education accredited yoga therapy diploma. Her CPD day ‘yoga therapy for grief and loss’ is coming to your region soon (add the date).
For 1-2-1 yoga therapy or a discovery call about yoga therapy training, contact