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DEALING WITH DEATH OPENLY

By Barbara McDowall

A lot of the conversations I am having right now revolve around death and dying.  This is of great interest to me because it is a subject near and dear.  There is something quite liberating when we explore this subject in more depth. 

Over the years, I have become increasingly aware of the lack of understanding and the great fear that exists regarding our mortality, where we are going after we leave this place in time and what will happen to us when we “get thereâ€�.  Sadly, we are a death denying society preferring to keep the topic in a box in the taboo section located in the far reaches of our closet.  Rarely does our understanding and acceptance of this fearful subject increase because the box rarely sees the light of day.  Conversations about death and dying are not part of our regular discourse.  Often we don’t take the opportunity to inform our opinion by seeking out other perspectives, e.g. books and lectures.  And because we do not have conversations about what death is, we live in fear of its arrival.  We can ignore it for years and then suddenly is right in our face.

Whether by design or default we have learned from a variety of different sources that death is a mystery to be feared; the place we are going could be heaven or hell. The Buddhist tradition speaks of the suffering we create for ourselves when we pathologically hold onto this life; when we refuse to see the impermanence of all life.  Nature is a skillful teacher always reminding us of this impermanence.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is a rich resource for anyone interested in this subject with much wisdom.  It has greatly assisted me with my understanding.

There is a great deal of misinformation and ignorance about death which has a direct impact on how we live our lives today.  The bi-product of that misinformation and ignorance is we live in fear of the inevitable.  We try to hold back time and the aging process.  The reality is we are born, we live and then we die.  It sometimes seems that simple.  Often we give our power away by placing our trust in the so called “wisdomâ€� of others.  How much more empowering it would be to take responsibility for the beliefs we hold about death and to take back our power through opening ourselves up to conversation, books and lectures; to other perspectives of a metaphysical, spiritual and philosophical context.

We are “dyingâ€� from the moment of our birth.  Each day, if we are paying attention, we may notice numerous “deathsâ€� or losses that intersect our path. We may lose a job; a relationship goes so; we didn’t make it to the store before it closed; we didn’t get the phone call we were expecting, etc., etc.  Each day provides us with new opportunities to let go and “dieâ€� into the next moment of our lives.

The truth is we all will die; we do not know when or how. And many of us terrified of death.  However, this is something we all share. And we do have the power to change our experience of our here and now.  We have the power to live our lives with intention and this is what really matters.
The subject of death midwifery has captured my imagination. Just as midwifery can usher our entry into life, death midwifery can also assist us as we are ushered into new life at the time of our death.  Our death is after all the final growth stage in this time and place; similar to the immergence of a beautiful butterfly from its cocoon.

In the next little while, take the opportunity to have a conversation, read a book, or attend a lecture on the subject of death and dying.  Take a reflective walk, do some writing about what that means to you and acknowledge your fears. 

How could our lives change if we changed the way we looked at dying?  What great dreams could we realize right now between our dash; the time between our birth and our death?

When we actively change the way we see things those things we look at will change. When we take the steps necessary to change how we look at our own mortality, we can change how we live now.  We have a choice ~ to live in fear or to live in hope.  We can liberate ourselves from the pervasive and terrifying fear that surrounds death. 

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross says it so well when she writes, 'We do not know where death/loss awaits us; so let us wait for it everywhere.  To practice death/loss is to practice freedom.  A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.'

Authentic Living

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