Our Natural Passage

A two-day workshop designed to openly explore, question, teach and learn about death and dying in this area of the world, today.

Learn about the purpose and limits to Advanced Care Planning.

Explore the difference between Life Support and Death Support.

Decipher what your needs might be, when the time comes to say Good-bye. 

Ponder the mystery.

And look into the ways you can become an author and actor in how you design and participate in your final days and thereafter.

 

April 23 & 30, 2016                                    11:00 am-1:30 pm

Wilson Senior's Rec Center                    604-927-7970

Book Review

The Smell of Rain on Dust, by Martin Prechtel, 

 

unearths grief as a natural and deeply sacred element of love and living with integrity on this planet alongside all other Beings of all species. Nothing special, but simply, skillfully living in accord with our souls, without a 7 step method, without pre-determined calculations or award-winning titles.

The illusion is that “knowing” a menu of what people can expect will better anticipate life and therefore invent and cure every glitch before we get to it to improve our “quality of life,” therefore jettisoning having to live as in our distant past, with some respect for God’s love of chance and chaos.

I so enjoyed the brilliant storytelling from this indigenous, author, artist and Shaman . It sang to my soul – giving me a drawing of our shared natural connections and diverse tales weaving all parts together: the clumsy, the broken, the unloved, and the beautiful, just to name a few.

The water of the ocean is salty because it is made of the tears of all the grief of all the world’s losses since forever. So it is that the water of all grief—the ocean—is the womb that gives birth to all of life. So all life and happiness are born from a womb of life’s grief.

Martin Prechtel warned the industrialized mind of profiting from our internal experiences, of making something notable out of them, like becoming a teacher of what you have just faced, rather than keeping it within your own personal hollow where it can only be shared between you and Spirit and maybe even forgotten because it is seldom repeated to anyone.

Prechtel shared one of many rituals with the industrial mind, of how to connect to the Ocean Spirit in a song of unwinding grief. The sharing came with warnings of what to avoid and where to not be tempted. 

He talked about war vets and the grief they carry and how traditional societies have healed those who have lost parts of themselves through killing others.

He spoke of grief on top of grief, as in the burden one generation passes onto another when they neglect the process of transforming themselves and their grief into beauty or praise. Layers of generational grief seek to re-live the past in a struggle to unburden themselves. Prechtel portrays this seeking as the impulse that creates war and addiction and more war until grief is given space to unwind and love what is lost. 

He eloquently writes of the art of appreciation: an appreciation that is so great, that you can see through the eyes of an other, because you have appreciated this Being so deeply you understand their language of love. You understand how love moves through them. You understand that love and praise are signals of grief already present before the loss has transpired.

 He talks about our relationships to animals, wild and domestic and where they help us, humans, to metabolize our own grief. Metabolize like fungus cleanses the earth of toxins.

This book transformed how I meet my own grief and the grief of others and it affirms what I and many of us feel to be true but see very few markers of because they weren't taught in school. It’s the silent, metaphorical, inter-connected language of nature.

I know that when I am grieving, I am hungry for meaning and a connection to that which is here and beyond and for something absolute to contain the gaping that is leaking out of me. What Prechtel is offering reaches me in a way that makes me richer.

Mother's Day ........ without Mother                                 

A workshop turning your experience of grief into beauty,  

leading you through simple, meaningful ritual

and leaving you with a personal symbol of your relationship with your Mom today.

 

May 8th, 2016. 1:00-4:00 pm

Mount Seymour United Church

1200 Parkgate, North Vancouver

$35/person


Facilitated by Death Midwives, Catherine Tremblay and Tricia Keith

For more information and registration, contact Catherine, 604-880-2691  catherinetremblay@gmail.com

Bringing Death Back to Life

Hello Friends! Join us for this amazing day-long community building event "Bringing Death Back to Life". We'll be exploring the denial of death in the North American culture. The day will include: a panel discussion, mini death cafés, a comedian, a light lunch and refreshments, workshops, door prizes, and a playback theatre performance on death in the evening. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/936760819704730/



Port Coquitlam - Wilson Centre Senior's "Healthy Living Fair"

 Port Coquitlam's Wilson Recreation Centre is hosting a Healthy Living Fair February 13, 2016. According to their Rec. Therapist, Cierra Popove, "They have always wanted to have something on death and dying."

 

As  Midwife to the Dying, I have been invited to set up a table to talk about the range of services and style of approach a Midwife to the Dying offers. Basically I'll be adding a few extra chairs around my table and bringing a big pot of tea to pour for those who choose to sit with me. I'll have a few handouts along side to guide conversation and propel thoughts.

I have found that once people know I am a hospice volunteer or that I am involved in this kind of work, they become eager to talk about their experiences around death and dying. From that place we can begin talking about what we would prefer most for ourselves and our loved ones. Its very heart-felt conversation, as we begin to really take in that how we die matters.

Winter Leisure Guide 2015/2016 (See pg. 71 for more info.)

I will also be letting people know about the upcoming workshop OUR NATURAL PASSAGE I will be facilitating at Wilson Rec. Centre, April 23rd. and 30th.

This workshop is designed to support people to think about and talk about what is important to them in their Advanced Care Planning and learn about the legal documents that can help them in their final days. There is a fare amount of new vocabulary that takes time getting used to and the workshop can help with that. Its also a good place to practice talking about what matters most to people when the time comes to say Goodbye. The idea is they take this awareness and information home with them and continue the conversations and complete their Advanced Directives according to their wishes.

It is very purposeful work. It creates further bonding between trusted ties and alleviates any anxiety of not knowing what a loved one would have wanted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Circles and a Cross

The circle in astrology represents the Spirit. Its location in one's natal chart is the position of the Sun viewed from Earth at the time birth. The circle tells the story that is never ending.

The cross is the symbol for Earth: the four directions, the horizon line marking the sunrise and sunset and the vertical line that links you, the Being to the center of the planet and the center of the cosmos.

 

two circles and a cross

two circles and a cross

The eyes of the skull see through to Spirit and the endless doorway Earth rises towards.

the skull

the skull

"Love and Death are the great gifts that are given to us; mostly, they are passed on unopened." - Rainer Maria Rilke

The heart tells the story of two expressions of Love rising above the limitations of Earth.

the heart

the heart

The circles contain two expressions of inner power: _______  and  _______ .

At the time of death, what would you choose?

? Love - Courage - Peace - Acceptance - Sleep - Dissolve - Surrender - Redemption -Awakening. 

Follow you Heart

Take Child's Pose.

Send your breath into your heart space.

Breathe in - 

self appreciation and love for Self.

Breathe out -

any limitations to having more self appreciation and love for Self.

Breath into your whole body and Being - 

self appreciation and love for Self.

 

Expand, expand.                

Empty out, empty out.

Follow you Heart

Savasana, Meditation and Dying

Take a deep breath, we are all going to die.

Creating a peaceful death is a realistic goal. Pain, fear and unfinished business are the primary blocks to getting there. The same limitations block the healing in savasana and the clarity - connection in meditation.

In Corpse Pose, we symbolically “die” to our old ways of thinking and doing. The normally perceived boundaries of body image and experience dissolve, and we enter a state of neutrality often experienced as bliss. In reply to the question “What does Corpse Pose feel like?” – the answer is “Nothing.”

In meditation, awareness is anchored in the body and to the Ground of Being. Neutrality, though always available, is not easy when struggle persists. Like a wall, it blocks what is on the other side. 

 

To practice Savasana, start by aligning the body. Make sure that your two sides are resting evenly on the floor and that your ears are equidistant from your shoulders. Physically relax the muscles and bones. Imagine that the mass of your body is sinking down into the floor, then spreading out like a puddle of oil. Next calm the senses. Soften the root of your tongue. Cradle your eyes in their sockets and turn them down to gaze at your heart. Release your inner ears to the back of your skull (yet keep them alert to the sound of the breath). Smooth the skin at the bridge of your nose and melt it toward your temples.

 

Medical science has evolved, though quietly, to embrace the awareness of Being beyond the physical body. Just as a human body universally grows hair, the human mind universally grows ideas and the human spirit universally grows intuition of what is beyond the body’s understanding.

 

Finally, surrender any and all psychological effort (or at least as much as you can). Even as you lie still on the floor, you’ll discover that you’re still trying, wondering what to “do” in this posture. Drop your brain to the back of your skull. Remember the words of the great sage Abhinavagupta: “Abandon nothing. Take up nothing. Rest, abide in yourself, just as you are.”

 

“Your body is likely to die with this disease.” “We have treatments for your body, to help it endure longer and without pain though it is likely that your dear body is on its final journey here.” "We are here to care for all of YOU, your body and your Being."

 

Meditators and yogis alike, we are in the same position as any scientist. We have to go on our experiential evidence. Sooner or later we have to trust our own experience (of awareness) because that’s all we have.

Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you. As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew. And not merely ‘someday’: but now, today, every day she is bringing you forth, not once, but thousands upon thousands of times, just as every day she engulfs you a thousand times over. For eternally and always there is only one now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end. 1.

1. p. 20. Ken Wilber, Grace and Grit. 2000.

Book Review

            “May you have the commitment to heal what has hurt you, to allow it to come close to you and in the end become one with you.” 1.

Richard Groves, the founder of Sacred Art of Living and Dying  Educational Series, has written a manual for spiritual healing at the end-of-life based on his research, personal experience as a hospice chaplain for nearly 30 years and education. His writing partner is Henriette Anne Kauser, whose key role was to transcribe and shape the content of the book. 2.

The first portion of the book offers a historical survey of the end-of-life care throughout the centuries, crossing over cultures East and West.

         “Our Western ancestors created guides and manuals, for their work, but there is no “one size fits all” model to relieve spiritual pain.” 3.

This is the main premise of the book: how to heal spiritual pain at the end-of-life. Groves draws largely on the ancient term, Anamcara, a Celtic word meaning Soul Friend or spiritual midwife with skills in end-of-life caregiving.

The segment on Becoming an Anamcara, outlines:

10 Commandments of for the Anamcara

 1. BE PRESENT. . . . 2. TRUST THAT WHO YOU ARE IS ENOUGH. . . . 3. SHARE WITH YOUR FRIEND AS AN EQUAL.  . . . 4. LISTEN RATHER THAN BE CONCERNED WITH DOING. . . . 5. PAY ATTENTION TO CHANGING PRIORITIES. . . . 6. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR NEEDS AND FEELINGS. . . . 7. JUST KEEP BREATHING. . . . 8. PAY ATTENTION TO THE CLUES. . . . 9. REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE. . . . . . . . 10. GREIVE AND KEEP REMEMBERING.

In Commandment 9, Groves writes,

          “Our ancestors spoke of death as a natural friend who will eventually bring relief and welcome us home.” 4.

How different dying in the 1500s was compared to today. Could you imagine a doctor offering such a soothing interpretation of death to a dying patient in our present culture?

The second segment of the book teaches diagnosing and healing spiritual pain through nine true-to-life stories. Each lesson highlights a specific archetype with a certain spiritual pain and concludes with a Spiritual Diagnosis, Presumptions surrounding the individuals of the story and Lessons for the Anamcara.

Though the work reads slightly like recipe cards, Groves’ experience and wisdom is tangible and the tools and insights are useful. Each one of the stories is based on his real life accounts as a hospice chaplain and each is a truly remarkable and inspiring journey through the dying and healing process. Groves’ writing partner, Henriette Klauser, was able to bundle each story as a whole, give each a unique depth. The power of her writing is that she is able to share the healing in each story with the reader. 

The final section of Groves’ book, The Tool Chest, describes in great detail the healing tools used in the former stories, each with ample resources for further training and the level of expertise needed to apply the tool without causing harm.  His comprehensive list of alternative therapies includes: Art Therapy, Breath Work, Coma Therapy, Dream Work, Energy Therapies, Forgiveness Exercises, Guided Visualization, Healing and Assistance from Ancestors, Healing Religious Abuse and Images of God, Intercessory (Non-Local) Prayer, Journaling, Life Review Exercises, Meditation Practices, Music Therapy, Religious Rites and Sacred Writings, Rituals for the Bedside, Rituals of Release and Vigil Rituals and Rituals for Remembering.

The Groves manual illustrates a real comparison of end-of-life care.

            “The realities of bureaucratic regulations and the reluctance of the physician to refer patients to hospice early enough leave the system burdened with impossible expectations. A dramatic decrease in the length of stay (the number of days a person receives hospice care before their death) means that many of the classical tools for addressing spiritual pain are left untried. In many states, patients spend no more than a week in hospice care, whereas our ancestors consciously journeyed for months with their terminally ill.” 5.

I recommend Groves’ & Klauser’s book for its attempt to harness a value-system that speaks to,

         “an entire society [that] was once committed to doing whatever it took to support the peaceful dying of its citizens. Aspects of this ancient healing art are relevant today.” 6.

Living wisdom in the present moment, without a doubt we see a shift today in our desire of wanting more authentic living experiences. Grassroots collectives are sprouting up all over the globe, connecting people who are in touch with life supporting life, which includes death as a birth rite.

 

 Notes

1. p. 24.

2. www.sacredartofliving.org

3. p. 14.

4. p. 59.

5. p. 20.

6. p.14

 

Yoga, Nature and Dying

Mindfulness in the Classroom is a trending concern nowadays. Mindfulness in the mainstream, often translated into scientific language, continues to speak of the spirit that runs through all living things, saying “Hello” to the form and that which animates the form.

I am always excited to bring yoga and mindfulness into a classroom setting, for the students and the teachers alike. Everyone wins when we are centered and having fun inside our bodies.

Specifically for the primary grades, I bring I bring a collection of yoga games I have researched and created over the years as well as nature awareness games that I gathered through my studies with Jon Young, former high school biology teacher and founder of Wilderness Awareness School. 1.

Yoga and nature awareness games are intrinsically related. Yoga mimics nature forms and nature awareness games invite students to adopt the inner world of nature. From the inside out, students experience and connect to the pressures, concerns, strategies, beauty and specialized skills of nature’s creatures and environments.

The benefits of playing yoga/nature awareness games is the connection it fosters in young students to themselves, to others and to nature. Most students relish the opportunity to become an animal whose powers are outside our regular range of attention. The centered, silent steps of Fox Walk, the wide open visual perception of Owl Eyes, the ever shifting responsiveness of Deer Ears, the grounding and inner stillness of Mountain, the power and balance of breathing in Warrior II: in each of these is a way of Being, where students receive their cues from the inside. They learn that everything they need to know begins with quieting themselves. Plus its tons of focus on your own super-powers!

The dichotomy of chaotic activity and inner silence play a big role in nature/yoga awareness games. We learn one in contrast to the other. Silence is so much richer after the body has been spent playing hard and the outside stimulus has been combustive. Then when silence does awaken, as the space between movement and sound, it is a totally enriching experience.

Empathy is a huge piece of the process and the end result. When we have empathy, or an intrinsic connection to what it is we are studying, the flow of information easily becomes applicable knowledge at a very personal level. To take on the characteristics of another creature is to experience personally that creature’s challenges, strengths and environment. Nature awareness and yoga games are an inter-disciplinary approach of exploring various subjects such as science, social studies, history, drama, and physical education.

It is worth noting that all indigenous cultures mentor their younger members through a playful mimicking and eventual mastering of nature forms and animals. Again empathy is the process and the valued product.

In nature all multicellular organisms experience death and dying. It is not something that can be overlooked in a wilderness experience and it does not have a morose or frightening overlay, because dying always seems to have a purpose that is surprisingly positive. It is commonly life affirming, life building and life enhancing. 2.

In yoga terms, Shavasana or Corpse pose is the most challenging and important pose. It is also the one most of us feel we can do without. "Is it OK if a leave the class early? I'll only be missing Shavasana?" I think it is time I started saying, "No, I'm sorry. Corpse pose is not optional."

With a (wilderness) awareness that all life is born to develop, grow and someday die, and that everything that we know and love will also die, shapes us. Without this full awareness we are not protected but misshapen. This awareness is not a bleak outlook but rather enhances our chances for survival. Death provides meaning to the living world around us and life becomes sacred again because we are connected to it.

 

1. http://wildernessawareness.org/

2. Kellehear, A. "The Inner Experience of the Dying Person" Columbia University Press. 2014. p 13.

Remembrance Lanterns

Remembrance Lanterns is a recent workshop that I initiated with a small group of people. The workshop was designed to open a sacred space in remembering a Loved One who had died and creating a lantern in their memory.

Six people in total attended and in their invitation they were asked to bring a photo of their Loved One, artifacts, a story of their Loved One’s life that they wanted to share and music that connected them to their person.

To begin, in a large open space I had drawn out A Remembering Well. Concentric circles mapped out with many, river and ocean stones. (I am a stone collector.) I asked folks to sit around the edge, wherein they brought in their photos and artifacts of their Loved One. Each person introduced him and herself and their Loved One who had died. For most of the folks in the circle these were first time introductions. Each of individual shone their uniqueness and what they all shared was an enthusiasm to talk about the One who is often left out of conversations.

I led them through a meditation on Love and Support and then we moved into the other room, prepared for making lanterns.

While the group made lanterns we listened, via YouTube, to an ongoing playlist of music, they had each selected to remind them of their Loved One. This element of music brought emotions to the table in a fluid way. Some of these emotions were joy, umor and awe. Some were down-right heart breaking – there was space and time for all of them.

After a few hours of glue guns, white glue and tissue paper, lanterns were complete, filled with color, stories and meaning. Lanterns were set aside to dry and we all re-grouped back into the circle for a short closing, or so I assumed, feeling that everyone was a bit tired. But once we dropped back into the circle, most folks wanted to stay in the Remembering Well as long as time would allow, share more and go deeper.

Two days later we met again in Green Timbers Urban Forest to light and walk with the lanterns around the lake. The Full Moon rose just before dusk. I gave a reading on the four elements, available to all of us to witness in the round. We then we walked beside the lake and through some trails. While walking through darkened trail, with the small glow of a lantern that has been given such soulful meaning was powerful to observe and an universal experience for all of us.

I was so touched by the energy of the group and the individuals themselves. The gratitude each of us had the others in group showed that we all came away feeling fuller and richer.