Saturday, April 06, 2013

Reimagining Death: The Elephant in the Room

Woody Allen famously said that he didn't want to achieve immortality through his work; he wanted to achieve it through not dying. While we celebrate birth, its corollary, exiting the Earth plane, is feared only slightly less than public speaking — at least, in the Western mind.

As someone with a gerontology (study of aging) background and an abiding love of elders, I've been exploring positive aging and death-related subject matter for years. I'm currently reading two complementary books with mirrored titled: From Age-ing to Sage-ing by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and Sage-ing While Age-ing by Shirley MacLaine. MacLaine's book has been eye opening, not least because she articulates much that I've discovered/remembered on my own awakening journey, but also because she ratchets up my knowledge to the next level. In Chapter 11 (number of Aquarius), she focuses on soul development and references the work of regression therapist Michael Newton, PhD.

Suddenly I read, "All regressed souls speak of how much easier death is than birth. With death there is a release into the light. With birth there is an entrance into density." Of course! It's easier to expand than to contract.

And this awareness dovetails beautifully with another stunning book I read last year, Deathing: An Intelligent Alternative for the Final Moments of Life by Anya Foos-Graber.

Deathing is the real deal on conscious departure. We're not meant to die alone and afraid, maintains Foos-Graber. This definitive guide — the first of its kind I've seen, and it was published in 1989 — spells out clearly how each person can prepare for an informed death. Since most of us avoid any discussion of the subject, the very concept of a 'how-to' manual may sound frightening. Yet like MacLaine, Foos-Graber maintains that death can be a light-filled, spiritual experience.

We have a lot of help entering the world: we emerge from the body of our mother with attendants such as doctors, nurses, midwives, spouses and friends at the ready to welcome us and tend to the birthing mother. But there is no corresponding death ritual to support us in exiting the body we've inhabited as we return to the Great Mother of All.

Through two teaching stories, Foos-Graber shows us what both a typical, unconscious dying and a planned 'deathing' experience look like. The second half of the book provides step-by-step instructions and simple exercises such as breathing, visualization and remembering the Love that you are, to assist you in releasing the body and making a conscious, even joyful, departure from this life — and to support others in doing so.

Plus, we can rehearse while alive! Foos-Graber writes, "By practicing ahead of time with an eye toward this spiritual life insurance, you can increasingly live in an atmosphere free from fear and ignorance. A correct grasp of how to die necessarily produces an expanded philosophy of how to live more abundantly, however long or short your time of physical life."

As I was reading this book, a friend of mine's husband surrendered to cancer. Here's how she described his conscious death: "He squeezed my hand and left his breath here to begin to inhale the ethers of elsewhere. A gentle wave of joyful contentment spread out in ripples of sparkling delight. He was free again and slowly twirling in the softly glowing wonder of it all. This ethereal mist of farewell whispered through our home for an hour or so and then was gone."

So let us bow to that elephant and embrace its wisdom, rather than indulge in what MacLaine refers to as "amphysteria" ~ a condition of forgotten fear, usually of a place. We have no reason to fear expansion into the Light of All. And the elephant-headed Hindu deity Ganesh is revered as the "Remover of Obstacles". We can ride the elephant of awareness right on into the next adventure.


jacquelyn said...

Am enthused to know about the deathing book. How did you know the networker of me needed this now. My mother will be 93 on may 7 and i intend to print out this post and order the book to send to her. Will follow up with a visit as the book may be an opener for this discussion. my mom's long time friend and eldest, 92, in my Grandmother' s Circle, welcomes news of this book. She feels that she is withdrawing from life. Looks forward to dying.

Amara Rose said...

Hi Jacquie ~

Synchronicity is the order of the day! I've sent you the post as a Word doc for easier printing, along with my article The Love You Make, a tribute to my lifelong friend Ellie, written when she was 92.

You may wish to "midwife" the Grandmother Circle with Deathing if they are open to it; could be an excellent "book club" choice, taken slowly and in the right spirit :-)