Grief As Transformation

The movie, Cherry Blossoms is about life, death, love and the journey of spirit.

It is also about Butoh. I now understand Butoh. Life, death, love, grief and Butoh — all the same.

My dearly departed friend, Marianne, danced Butoh. Another friend, Sika, has just taken it up. I never understood the attraction.  It seems slow and ponderous, requiring much heady focus. Although, I must admit, when Marianne danced in that slow, deeply internal way, I was mesmerized. Recently, Sikha did a short demonstration of Butoh and then broke into her familiar middle eastern dance. “Oh,” I thought, “I like her middle eastern dance much better. She is much more vibrant and free.”  But, no, it is all Butoh. Everything, you see, is Butoh.  Butoh is being in the moment. It is the wind on your hand, the dance of your shadow, the feel of the telephone next to your ear recalling the voice of your mother. If I were to write whatever came off my fingertips, without editing, and just posted it, that would be Butoh.

In the movie, Cherry Blossom, Rudi, a German business man, is given a terminal diagnosis. Only he doesn’t know it. Only his wife, Trudi, knows. It must have been a terrible burden because she dies suddenly while on the trip that is to be Rudi’s last adventure. “Rudi hates adventures,” Trudi explains to the doctors who suggest the idea. “He would prefer nothing to ever change.” Trudi, on the other hand, is a different spirit. She loves Butoh and has always wanted to go to Japan, to Mt. Fuji, to see the cherry blossoms — an exquisite symbol of impermanence. Rudi, of course, is embarrassed by Trudi’s love of Butoh and always puts off the trip to Japan, always thinks there will be another time. And, of course, there isn’t.

Only after Trudi dies, does Rudi comes to appreciate who she really was. “A wild cat in a cage!” he tells a young Butoh dancer he meets in a park in Tokyo — on the trip he should have taken years ago when Trudi was alive. And how many of us live our lives like Rudi, resistant to change, holding on to the sameness of a dull and routine life? Of like Trudi, for that matter, caging in our wildness to accommodate another?

The movie is about revelations, discovery and opening. Grief can do that, split you wide apart. Because when you have lost the love of your life, anything is possible. “There is no more fear,” a woman said to me after losing her partner. “Nothing can be as bad. You have already lost everything.” And so Rudi sets aside his dislike of change and the unknown and travels to Tokyo in honor his wife’s desire. He go through a lot of change to truly find her, but he’s up to the challenge. He befriends a young dancer of Butoh. She teaches him the dance, the dance with the wind on your hand, the shadow at your feet, the spirit of the dead. She dances with a pink telephone cradled to her ear recalling her deceased mother who was always on the phone. At last, they journey to Mt. Fuji to see the cherry blossoms. His act of abandon might initially be understood as homage to his wife. In our initial grief, we can be motivated to some act of bravery like dunking in the cold waters of the Pacific, or hiking up a mountain top, but really, it is not for the deceased. It is for the spirit, the evolution of soul made possible, made irresistible by the emptiness and greatness of loss. Grief is transformation, it is going into the void. It’s Butoh.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief Transformation Coach Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D. helps people transform their grief with a holistic approach to mind, body and spirit that heals trauma, reframes past attachments and releases limiting beliefs while uncovering a true life purpose and direction. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at

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