Learn about the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of keeping a journal and why you should start doing it!
In this episode I share my thoughts on my own journaling practice and how it has changed my life. I also relate a story of a woman who kept a “hospice journal” during her last days of life. You’ll find plenty of reasons to start your own journaling practice and you can download the Journaling Starter Kit below if you are interested!
You can still join A Year of Reading Dangerously and start reading a book each month of 2018 about death and dying. It’s a great educational and inspirational experience! Click here to learn more and sign up.
Stay tuned for more information on my current Work Group for Death & Dying Teachers. We have gathered together a fabulous group of dedicated women who are going to be starting new classes on death and dying this year! I’ll be reporting on it in future episodes.
Thank you to my latest contributor on Patreon.com/eolu: Birgitte Due Jensen Koch! I appreciate your generosity and support so much! I’m grateful to everyone who is helping me keep this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series on the air by making a financial commitment at Patreon.com/eolu.
This episode was inspired in part by a message I received from Evan Mercer about his wife Julie’s hospice journal, which he shared at her memorial service and in a video on YouTube:
I have been journaling for much of my life and have found it to be very beneficial in many ways. So I wanted to share this message to encourage everyone to give journaling a try and find out for yourself how it can help you. Here are some of the benefits I’ve received:
Creates discipline and a routine for my day
Helps me ventilate my emotions
Organizes my thoughts
Allows to analyze and process my judgments toward other people
Shows me another perspective and reveals my higher wisdom
Studies have shown that journaling has health benefits for people with chronic illnesses like asthma and arthritis and also for those with terminal illnesses like HIV/AIDS and cancer. I believe that keeping a “Hospice Journal” as Julie did can help terminal patients cope with a range of vacillating emotions as death approaches, discern what really matters in life, and leave behind a legacy for loved ones to cherish.
Journaling has also been shown to improve immune function and alleviate stress. Men seem to benefit from journaling even more than women and writing a journal by hand is more beneficial than typing on a keyboard.
Learn how to awaken to higher consciousness NOW so that you can experience conscious dying at the end of your life.
In this episode I share the secret behind the 3-part tagline I use on the EOL University website and at the end of every podcast. (If you listen regularly you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!) I discuss the wisdom behind the phrases I repeat each week and how they represent keys to our ongoing spiritual evolution!
My long-awaited trip to Italy begins tomorrow, the day after the original airing of this podcast! You can follow my journey on Instagramand Facebook as I hike, bike, eat, drink, pray, and write my way through the country–all in search of the perfect stories for my new book on grief! I’ve pre-recorded enough podcast episodes to last until I return in one month–“see” you then!
I would like to send a HUGE THANK YOU to my latest supporter on Patreon.com/eolu: Rich Hayes, who is a hospice chaplain. Check out his website at www.richhayes.com and his book God Made Simple. If you would like to join the list of patrons go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more and chip in $1 or $2 per month to support this podcast and the EOLU Interview Series. You’ll receive a thank-you on this podcast and I’ll also promote your end-of-life related book, website, cause or business. PLUS you’ll receive the monthly Hospice Happy Hour Q&A recordings!
3 Keys to Living & Dying Consciously
(Be sure to tune in to upcoming podcast episode #112 when I will feature an interview with philosopher and sage Ken Wilber about conscious dying and the death of his wife Treya. If you are interested in conscious dying you won’t want to miss it!)
In order to die consciously you must first begin to LIVE consciously right now. Here are my 3 tips for awakening to higher consciousness–they have been hiding all along in the simple tagline I use at the end of every podcast! Now you’ll find out what I mean when I remind you of them every week!
Face Your Fear
You must go through your fear in order to rise above it; the more you hide and run away from your fear of death (which is the ultimate fear) you run away from joy, as well. So begin to accept that Death is inevitable–everything in the Universe dies–and life is full of difficulties. Once you embrace that fact you can begin to work specifically on your fear of death and turn it into acceptance.
Think about death every day. Include contemplation of death as part of your daily practice; get used to the idea that life is fleeting and you don’t know when it will come to an end.
Read about death. Find books (e.g. What Really Matters) and stories that portray death and dying in a meaningful way to help you see that it is not necessarily something to fear. The dying process can be a beautiful time of healing for patients and families.
Write about death. Use your journal to record your thoughts and emotions about death. Observe how they change over time as you continue this practice of increasing death-awareness. (The book The Tao of Death with its companion journal can be a helpful tool for reading and writing about death.)
Learn about death. The more information you have about the end of life, the more your fears will lessen. Knowledge is one of the most powerful antidotes to fear. Tune in to the interviews on End-of-Life University for an ongoing education about all aspects of the end of life.
Work with death. Consider volunteering for hospice to learn how to sit with death and witness the dying process. Hospitals and nursing homes are also good places to volunteer to get closer to death and overcome your fear.
There is no substitute for preparation, no matter what you might face in the future. Once your fear has decreased begin to plan ahead for the end of life and imagine how you would like that experience to unfold. Here are some steps to help you get ready:
Know what really matters to you. Spend some time thinking about what in your life is most important and prioritize those items. You need to know what you value in order to make tough decisions in the future.
Make choices for what you want at the end of life. Use a tool like the Conversation Project Starter Kit to help you decide what type of healthcare you would like to receive in your last days.
Complete your paperwork. You need to appoint a healthcare proxy and fill out an advance directive form in order to give your wishes some legal clout. But you also need to talk to your loved ones and your doctors about your wishes so they will know how to care for you if you can’t speak for yourself.
Tend to your relationships. Learn how to forgive NOW so that you won’t be rushing to complete this important task while on your deathbed. Remember to say “I love you” to those who matter to you whenever you have an opportunity.
Learn to BE in the present moment. Let go of ruminating about the past and worrying about the future–love and joy exist right here, right now in this present moment.
Love Your Life
Once you have learned to manage fear and to BE ready for anything that comes your way, you can begin to learn to love your life just as it is, even if you are surrounded by tragedy and pain. Here are some steps to consider:
Live according to what really matters to you. Let you values guide your choices each day and put your time and energy into the things that are most important.
Practice gratitude each day. Keep a journal and begin by writing down one thing you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep. Even in the worst of times you will be able to think of one thing to be thankful for–you just have to shift your mindset to a more positive focus.
Learn to find love in every situation. After you have developed a gratitude practice you will begin to notice that love is actually present everywhere, in everything that happens. Start focusing on the love and you will find it more and more frequently.
Allow love to fill you. You can become a channel for love to the rest of the world by simply letting love into your life in every possible way. Fill yourself with love so you can share it with others.
Life is an ongoing learning process! No lesson comes easily or without a certain amount of pain, but it’s worth it. If you begin conscious now and begin to live a life of love, then you will remain conscious when it becomes your time to die. You will continue to radiate beauty and joy to those around you–I’ve seen it happen over and over again!
Here are two books to help your learning process and your practice of death awareness:
Next week I’ll be celebrating the 100th episode of this podcast! I’ll have a special guest on the show so stay tuned!
Upcoming events include:
Friday July 21st: Hospice Happy Hour Hangout for all of my supporters on Patreon.com/eolu
Sunday July 23rd: Virtual Death Cafe – 3 pm Pacific/6 pm Eastern (everyone welcome to join the conversation! Read more here.)
Tuesday August 8th isDying to Know Day and I’ll be hosting a Virtual Death Cafe at 5 pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern. (More information at eoluniversity.com)
“An Evening With Ira Byock MD” to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking book Dying Well!
Monday August 21st
6 pm Pacific/9 pm Eastern
Registration information available soon. (Save the Date for now!)
Here are the benefits I’ve received from my daily spiritual practice of death contemplation:
Gratitude for every moment of life
Taking responsibility for my life
Looking within myself for answers
Finding joy in being alive
Being prepared for anything!
You can use the book The Tao of Death as a guide for a daily practice of death contemplation. Simply read one verse each day, spend some time thinking about what it means for you, then write in your companion journal (available for free download here) about the question that accompanies the verse. When you finish the book you will be well on your way to a daily death contemplation practice that you can continue for years.
I hope you find that his practice enriches your life as much as it has mine! Send me a message and let me know how it’s going for you (email email@example.com or Tweet me @spiritualmd.)