Today I’ll share some thoughts on recent tragedies that have occurred near me this week, the meaning of compassion, and why at times we humans are not able to feel compassion for others when they suffer. Then I’ll share the words that have guided me to experience deeper compassion for many years. Download a copy of the Lovingkindness Blessing below:
Tune in to a series of brief webinars by 5 new teachers of death and dying classes. They share excerpts from their courses that we hope will inspire you to want to teach your own community class based on your knowledge, experience and passion for end-of-life issues. Click here to watch the webinars.
In this episode I’m back from my travels in Spain and share some stories from my trip. When I travel I focus on learning how other cultures have experienced loss and grief throughout history in order to form a deeper connection with all people everywhere. Grief is the great connector of humankind as a universal experience.
(Photo: Tomb of Christopher Columbus in the Cathedral of Sevilla. For more photos go to my Instagram page.
There will be a webinar with Jane Barton on developing resilience in later life titled “Bridge Time: Dealing with the Consequences of Change” on Tuesday October 30th.
Sign up here to listen live or get the replay after the broadcast.
This podcast is supported through generous donations on my page at Patreon.com/eolu. This week I’m sending a HUGE THANK YOU to the following new patrons: Tawnya Musser, Julie, Rowena Wallen, Issac Seigel, and Alicia Coleman. If you’d like to join the team and contribute to this work you can learn more and sign up at Patreon.com/eolu.
Here are some highlights of my travels in Spain:
In Madrid I learned about the terrorist attacks on commuter trains coming into Atocha Station that took place on 3/11/2004, which reminded me of 9/11 in the U.S. I understood the grief, panic and horror that struck all of Spain that day as they experienced the overwhelming shock of such an attack on their own soil.
I saw Picasso’s painting “Guernica” at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and learned about the tragic bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. The painting is massive and very moving to behold in real life as it portrays the anguish of that awful day.
Through travels in Toledo and the region of Andalusia I learned about the convivencia, a period of relative tolerance between Muslims, Jews and Christians who lived as neighbors during the 700-year Muslim rule. They shared literature, poetry, architecture, design, agricultural and irrigation methods, and advances in science, astrology and medicine during the Dark Ages when the rest of Europe was in a time of regression.
I visited La Mezquita in Cordoba, once the largest mosque in the world in the middle of which a huge cathedral was built after Catholics reclaimed the city from Muslim rule. The mosque is extraordinarily beautiful inside and much of the architecture was preserved and incorporated into the cathedral. The red and white arches of the mosque can be seen in the header of this post.
In Granada we visited the Alhambra, a gorgeous palace and walled city from the Nasrid dynasty that was surrendered to the Catholic monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492 to finally end all Muslim rule in the country. The beauty of the palace has been preserved as an example of Moorish architecture that is also seen in many Jewish and Christian buildings from that time.
Finally we saw many monuments to Christopher Columbus throughout Spain and were there to witness the celebration of Columbus Day on October 12th, which is now being called Indigenous People’s Day in many places here in the U.S. It was fascinating to view Columbus’ exploration through the eyes of the “colonizing country” and compare it to the experience of the “colonized” in this country. Columbus died in poverty and disgrace after never finding the passage to India he was seeking, not knowing the legacy he was leaving behind (which is now tarnished from our perspective in the U.S.)
In conclusion, travel is a fascinating way to connect with people of different culture, ethnicity, race, and religion and has the power to bring us back to a place of convivencia, where we can live together in tolerance, even though we have different views. We share our humanity, our mortality and our grief as one people living on one planet.
Remember there will be a new episode every Monday! If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes.
Learn how a skeptical psychologist began receiving messages through channeled writing from his son after his tragic death.
In this episode I share an interview with psychologist Matt McKay PhD who tells how he began receiving messages after his son’s death that taught him about spirituality here in this life and in the afterlife. Matt shares his suggestions for communicating with those “on the other side.”
You can get it hereon Amazon in print, ebook and audiobook formats!
THANK YOU to all of my current patrons on Patreon.com/eolu! Your support means everything to me! If you’d like to join in and help support this podcast for as little as $1 per month go to Patreon.com/eolu and check it out!
In this presentation clinical psychologist Dr. Matthew McKay will share the story of his son Jordan and how he sought to connect with Jordan after his death. He will teach us how to communicate with our own loved ones who have died.
Dr. McKay offers these suggestions for starting your own practice of channeled writing:
Get grounded and centered
Have a physical object that connects you to your loved one
Use a candle or other visible object to focus your gaze
Become more receptive bu using mindfulness, self-hypnosis, breathing techniques
Have a special notebook handy
Write down a question for the loved one you would like to communicate with
Wait for words to form in your mind and immediately write down anything that arises, without judging or questioning it
Acknowledge your doubt but don’t be paralyzed by it
Remember there will be a new episode every Monday! If you enjoy this content please consider leaving a review on iTunes and sharing it with others.
Learn about my Top-10 picks for people, events and trends that have changed the end-of-life movement in 2017.
In this final episode of 2017 I take a look back at the previous year and share my thoughts on some of the events and people that I believe will have a big impact on how our society deals with the end of life.
You can support this podcast by making a small donation of $1 or $2 at Patreon.com/eolu.
Here are my picks for the 2017 Game Changers in the Death-Positive Movement:
The documentary film “Extremis” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. The film was also picked up by Netflix in 2016. It is a powerful depiction of end-of-life care in the ICU staffed by Dr. Jessica Zitter, which should serve as a wake-up call to people about the need to do end-of-life planning before a healthcare crisis occurs.
Dr. Jessica Zitter’s book Extreme Measures was also released this year. In addition she wrote an article for the N.Y. Times (“First Sex Ed Then Death Ed”) calling for death education classes for all high school students. This novel idea has the potential to change our society’s perception of death and dying by introducing the subject to young people. Dr. Zitter is truly a game changer!
In March and May of 2017 the organization The Dinner Party (a movement to provide community for millennials dealing with loss) convened meetings with business leaders from some prominent US corporations to discuss loss and the workplace. They emphasized the importance of developing workplace policies and protocols for managing bereaved employees and offering them assistance. These conversations are just the first step in changing how grief is recognized and supported in the workplace rather than being ignored.
In April 2017 the 1st International Death Doula Training was held in Maui for the purpose of teaching people from around the globe to serve others as death doulas. This event was a game changer because it validated the death doula movement, increased the number of qualified doulas who can serve their communities, and provided a networking platform for death workers, which helped strengthen and expand the movement. The 2nd International training will take place in 2018!
Also in Apri the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit was held to address the epidemic of opioid addiction in this country. Measures have been taken to limit the number of pain pills that can be prescribed and dispensed at one time. This is an important and game-changing step to deal with the overwhelming public crisis of opioid deaths but caution is necessary. We must be vigilant to ensure that all hospice and palliative care patients have access to the medications they need for pain and symptom management.
On June 27, 2017 Jon Underwood, founder of Death Cafe, died suddenly and unexpectedly at a young age. Jon has been a game changer from the beginning by creating the Death Cafe platform for conversations about death that has spread around the world. But the tragedy of his death is also a potential game changer because of the powerful legacy Jon leaves behind and because of the potential for tragedy to inspire growth, creativity and healing. The entire death-positive movement is indebted to Jon for his inspiring and gentle leadership and may his death be a catalyst for transformation.
In July a new smart phone app named WeCroak was introduced. This app is a game changer because it helps people to think about death in a positive manner by sending reminders (“You will die one day”) and quotes on their phones 5 times a day. Technology has the potential to revolutionize our approach to death and dying and this simple $.99 app is just one small step toward the change that is needed.
The film Coco was released in the US by Disney and Pixar in November. Coco tells the story of a 12-year old boy who is transported to the land of the dead on Dia de los Muertos. There he receives help from his departed great-great grandfather to return to his family in the land of the living. The film depicts joyful skeletons who dance and sing and it portrays a positive image of life after death. While it is a children’s movie Coco has a powerful message for adults and is likely to stimulate much conversation in families about death and departed ancestors. It is exciting to see Hollywood begin to address death in a positive manner and this film is a game changer that will hopefully lead to more such productions in the future.
In December the first EndWell Symposium, created by Dr. Shoshana Ungerleiderand her foundation, was held in San Francisco. This groundbreaking symposium brought together thought leaders from healthcare, design and technology to share ideas on how to improve end-of-life care. The synergy of this collaborative event will have a ripple effect across the country and should lead to innovation and creativity around death and dying in the months to come. Dr. Ungerleider is a game changer for her forward-thinking generosity and ingenuity!
Also in December the Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy in Prescott AZ held a class for students in grades 9-12 on “Death and the Meaning of Life.” School Director Charles Mentken taught the class, which provided a comprehensive look at death and dying from various cultural and religious perspectives. The elective class also introduced the students to options for hospice and palliative care, death doulas, home funerals, cremation, and traditional funeral and burial services. This may be the first “pilot project” course of the type Dr. Jessica Zitter called for in her NY Times article and it is definitely a game changer. The students in the course have reported that their attitudes and fears about death have been totally transformed, as well as their approach to life, as a result of what they learned in the class. (I’ll be featuring an interview with Charles Mentken and 3 of his students on the End-of-Life University Interview Series in early 2018. Sign up if you’re not already on the list!)
I hope your holiday celebrations have been filled with joy and light and that you feel ready to embark on a brand new year next week! There will be a new episode on New Year’s Day where I will share my “wish list” for 2018.
Learn how travel can provide a “safe container” for healing grief and loss.
In this episode I’ll share my own insights into how the experience of travel can help with the process of grief. This is also the subject of the new book I’m writing (I did research for it on my recent trip to Italy) … I’ll share a brief overview here!
You can check out all of my Italy photos onInstagram!
Each month I host a “Virtual Death Cafe” with fascinating conversations about death, grief and the end of life. Anyone can join by telephone or online. You can learn more about it at www.eoluniversity.com/death-cafe.
This podcast is supported through the generous donations of my patrons on Patreon.com/eolu. I’m sending a HUGE THANK YOU to all of my current supporters – your support makes a big difference! Join the fun for just $1 or $2 per month and you’ll receive the “Patrons Only” Q&A recording each month (Hospice Happy Hour!) Go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more and sign up!
During several of my travel experiences in the past I have been dealing with grief and have found the process of travel to be helpful. On one trip to Italy, my husband and I learned of the death of our brother-in-law on the day we arrived in Venice. Unable to cancel the rest of our trip and return home immediately, which we wanted to do, we stumbled through the remainder of the vacation and managed to make peace with our pain.
Here are some of my “takeaways” about how travel can help with grief:
Permission to wander aimlessly. On our Venice trip we canceled all of our sightseeing plans and activities. We started each day with a totally clean slate and just wandered the streets and canals of the city all day long. By following our intuition and our broken hearts we were able to enter into our grief without distraction or attachment. Had we been at home with family we would have felt obligated to “do something” and “be somewhere” but because we were traveling we were free of all expectations.
Seeing the big picture. Because we were freed up from the details of our daily life at home, we found more space to explore grief from a “trans-personal” perspective, as something bigger than just our own individual lives. Experiencing grief in another country allowed us to:
Recognize that all people, everywhere, experience the death of loved ones. Our mortality and the grief it causes us is the interconnecting thread that binds us to all of humanity.
Go deep into history. By visiting ancient ruins we can see that all of humankind, throughout history has dealt with the pain of loss and struggled to make peace with death. Our experience of grief is just one part of a vast “whole” picture of human loss.
Surrendering to grief to find joy within. As travelers “stuck” in another country even though we wanted to be home, we had no choice but to surrender to the pain that engulfed us. When we allowed grief to find a home within (and even “became” a living embodiment of grief) we also discovered a startling capacity for simple joy over the beauty of being alive. I’ve written this before: suffering hollows us out so that we can contain an even greater measure of joy … and also love.
Understanding impermanence. Strolling through cemeteries, relics and ruined structures of the past illustrated to me perfectly that everything that exists in the physical realm is impermanent and will one day dissolve away. Only love and the energy of life persist eternally. And it is the depth of the love we experience for others that causes the magnitude of pain we feel upon their deaths. Grief is one of the visible manifestations of love in the physical realm.
Learning how to navigate in unfamiliar territory. On our “grief trip” in Venice we simply wandered every day until we were hopelessly lost. We took in everything around us along the way–noticing all the colors and sounds and fragrances of life. And when we felt ready to return “home” we studied our maps to figure out where we were and to slowly find our way back to more familiar territory. This skill of navigating in the unknown will prove to be very helpful to us throughout life and especially during our own dying process as we struggle to get back to a home we can’t remember.
I hope you will take the opportunity to travel some day, even when you are experiencing grief, to experience the profound benefits it can offer!
Tune in every Monday for a new episode of the podcast! If you enjoy this content, please share it with others and leave a review on iTunes! Until next week remember: