As I write this, I am currently engaged in studying my Masters in Counselling. The requirement to meet deadlines is an accepted part of the process in academia at whatever level one is at. Throughout my academic life I have learned that I prefer to get my assignments done well and on time. This is the biggest commitment I maintain whilst studying. Whatever happens in between the beginning and the end of an assignment, semester or degree is less important.
Self-care is also part of ensuring that my assignments are done well and on time. It takes getting enough sleep, eating well and having some fun along the way for me to do well and meet deadlines. I am mindful of my limitations and strengths, of how best I can study and still get everything else done in my personal life.
During my undergraduate studies, where I completed degrees in Counselling and Behavioural Science, I tried to become the student I had always wanted to be. You know, the kind who stays up late, drinks copious amounts of coffee and still manages to work and party!? Umm...that lasted for about a week. As a mature-aged student, my hopes for immortality were crushed. At the same time, I learned that I could still enjoy and in fact, love being a student, but perhaps without the body-destroying lifestyle that in my mind was the epitome of student life.
I do know that I am committed to my goals when it comes to living my life fully before I die! The suggestions in the next section have helped me along the path, especially when it comes to staying in the present moment, meeting my daily goals, and maintaining joy in what I do.
I leave you with an excerpt taken from the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) website on acting mindfully...and being committed to your life...how committed are you?
Excerpt taken from ACT Mindfully website.
For another day I am passionately yours,
I know that I want to be completely used up when I die. That is, to feel that my purpose has been fulfilled, my life made meaning of, and that I have contributed all that I could during my lifetime. I feel that this is part of what will make my journey to death a positive experience.
Conversations about death and dying has made me see my life in its entirety...in a split second. The only thing I really want at the end of my life is to have loved and felt love. That is what death boils down to, who we love and who loves us. It's so simple. Really.
When I sit with people who are at the end of their lives that's mostly what they share. They show me photos of family members. They have family members visit them. It's all about the feelings.
A palliative care worker, Bronnie Ware, has written of her years sitting with people who are dying. She has written a book with the same title as the infograph below, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. This image has spread like wildfire throughout social media since first emerging onto the scene in 2012. You can find more about Bronnie on her Facebook page or website.
I would like to offer a slightly different perspective, amounting to the same outcome, but with a positive spin on wordplay. I am very persnickety about how what words we say creates our universe. In the title of Bronnie's infograph a word struck me as negative and then I thought about how I could turn it around. When I read the word 'regret' I think of sadness but the take away message in her words is nothing but positive!
So I am endeavoring to use these words instead...5 Reasons to Embrace your Death. What do you think? How do those words make you feel? Do you see death as a negative? I don't. I see death as the best catalyst to live life fully right now...to avoid regrets!
My 5 Reasons to Embrace your Death are:
I enjoyed writing about this so much that I've dedicated a whole webpage to them! You can find out what each of these 5 points are about in detail by clicking on this link! Here you will find a positive approach to death, dying, life and living. You will see that death is not only sad, fearful and grief-laden. It can also be positive, useful and an opportunity for growth! I hope you enjoy!
For another day, I am passionately yours,
I love facilitating conversations about death and dying...It's my passion!
So, how lucky was I to be able to share my passion with friends and family!
In many ways the conversation flowed as it always does, and the sharing seemed as intimate as it always is when I facilitate Death Cafe's for the public. These conversations appear to transcend family and friends, to a human level. It doesn't matter if you're my immediate family, a dear friend or a complete stranger, the intimacy and sense of community goes deeper than even these connections.
I am fascinated by this particular interaction. And I am fascinated by talk of life and living that arises out of talk of death and dying.
This is the first time I have held a Death Cafe in someone's home as opposed to a public space like a cafe. It was just right for the participants involved because, with the exception of a couple of people, most knew each other.
As a personal preference, I like running the Death Cafe in a public place to aid in normalising the conversation. I believe talking about death and dying is as normal and everyday as talking about birth and living, so for it to be hidden away behind closed doors just keeps it in a place of fear and taboo.
This evening was different. It felt completely acceptable to be in this person's home where we sat around her coffee table in warm surroundings. It felt comfortable. It felt like a place I'd want to have a deep heart-to-heart chat with a dear friend. Kudos to my friend who provided just such a space!
I would run a Death Cafe like this again, in this way again, with anyone. This is not an experience reserved for friends and family alone, for aren't we all brethren, kindred spirits, and family on a whole other level?
For more on this event or future Death Cafe's in your area, click here.
Again, I love what I do! Stay tuned for the next Death Cafe in Fremantle by clicking here!
Did you know I've got a Facebook page for this Death Cafe? It's called Death Cafe - Fremantle, WA. You can find out more here and give it a LIKE!
And, for yet another day, I am passionately yours,
As some of you may know, I have been visiting with my family and friends back home for the last 8 weeks. I have just under a week left before heading back to my home of the last 13 years. As I reflect on my time here I realise that I have had an agenda. Really? Whoops!
Since my last visit I have qualified as a Counsellor, a Behavioural Scientist, and started my own consulting business where I facilitate conversations about death and dying through workshops and events. It's been a busy 4 years!
The main reason I facilitate conversations about death and dying is to help people with their unfinished business, the clearing up of old wounds and letting go when needed, so that people are freer to live fully before they die, whenever that day may be.
So, back to my agenda...my unfinished business. You guessed it! I have spent the last 20 years or so living in such a way that I minimise the business that needs finishing with the people in my life. And for the most part, this trip has been a clean one. Because on an emotional level I was complete, I knew that I wanted only one thing from my mum on this visit and that was to give and receive a hug. After four years of Skyping, I felt somehow incomplete until I shared that physical connection with her. But the first hug wasn't the hug that made me feel satisfied, it was a deeper hug that came somewhere in the second or third week that felt like a true heart to heart hug.
From the final closure of a long time unhealthy friendship, to seeing how each of my siblings have grieved the death of our dad, to my newly teenage son's reluctance to visit down memory lane with me, I am reminded that we each process our world differently...and we tie up loose ends in much the same way, our own unique way.
As I head to my favourite cafes, my old neighborhood haunts, or where I first learnt to ride a tricycle, I am reminded that these could be my last memories. The reality is I may die before I get back here again, my mum may die before I get back here to hug her again, many things or people may come to an end before I come back. This time, I have visited in a new way with new eyes and a new perspective that I didn't have four years ago. For that I am grateful. I feel that because I live so far away and don't get here often, each visit is precious. Each conversation I have with someone in person feels special and has a quality about it that may not be the same had I lived here all this time.
I love both of the places I call and have called home. Vancouver is a beautiful city...when it's sunny! I am one of those people who loves summer anywhere in the world. The rain and grey makes me want to dig a whole and hide there until the sun comes back. I feel pretty lucky that I get to visit Vancouver in her prime and live in sunny Perth/Fremantle, Australia the rest of the time.
I don't know when I'll get back to summer in Vancouver next, but I can appreciate more fully my time spent here this time more than any other. These memories will stretch far and wide...
And for that I am grateful, and passionately yours for another day,
It's funny, in that ironic-slightly-sarcastic-way, that someone who's business philosophy and name are all about finding the very thing that disappeared the same breath it began, has lost it. Not so funny when the very thing you want for people to find has picked up and left! What's a girl to do ?
Well, for a long time I didn't do anything! I am cautious before I take a dive into the deep end. I pause and take a deep breath but usually leap into the unknown anyway. That's what I did with my business. I'm all about passion, living passionately and hopefully, ideally, inspiring others to do the same with their lives as well. I usually do this with death as my vehicle! And it usually works really really well.
For many reasons, some based in the physical world of reality and some based in the fear space in my head, the wind stopped pushing the sails of excitement toward the shore of my work...and it wasn't smooth sailing. I knew this was happening. I knew that the boat set sail and at that time, all I could do was watch it disappear into the distance.
Why am I sharing this with you? Why would I reveal something that risks my professional standing, leaving me vulnerable and exposed?
Because you're the same as me, you're human and we all go through life with ups and downs.
It's in the revealing of a passionless moment in time where people who are also at their own private valley can relate. We connect through relating to each other, whether it be a time of joy or sadness.
I have been in this state for some time now but feel that my sail finally has some wind behind it and the horizon is looming in the distance. New business contracts when I come back home combined with a much needed holiday back to my family and friends in Vancouver have definitely paved the way! But mostly I needed to take a step back, to let that boat sail, not knowing whether the shore would be five days, five months or five years from now, and to trust that a shore would appear when it was time.
I've still got until the end of August to nourish this wind that is beginning to build again. I've taken a break from the winter of Western Australia and am enjoying long summer days filled with family, friends, beach and sun. I am catching up on writing and reading. I am filling my sails with a deeply energizing wind to carry me to the shore of September.
I hope you will join me, with your wind and your boat. Let's sail on for new adventure. Let's sail on for deepening what already is.
For another day I am passionately yours,
I am grieving for a time that has yet to come, the time when my mum is no longer living. It feels strange on one hand because, although she's had some physical challenges in her lifetime and she's coming up to 80 at the beginning of next year, she's still very much alive! She could easily live for another 20 years! I could die before her, such is the randomness of living and dying!
But I still grieve for the day I get the phone call or watch her take her last breath.
I did this with my dad when I moved across the planet in 2001. I moved from Canada to Australia with my then husband and our 2 month old baby boy. It was a daring adventure that has had its challenges but nothing I regret. Not even missing my dad's death and funeral by two weeks. I have written about his death in a previous blog and you can read more about that here. I began to prepare for my dad's death when, each time I saw him on a visit back home, I noticed his aging and slow decline into diabetic ill health. He had been treating it but I guess it wasn't enough to keep him going. He went for a nap one day, fell into a diabetic coma and died in his sleep. But because I had emotionally prepared for his death in many ways and many years before, I found it much easier to let him go. I felt complete with him. I had no unfinished business to grieve about.
I keep his memories alive in my heart and take him wherever I go. I know I will do this with each of my family members as and when they die.
It's been nearly 4 years since my last visit back home to Vancouver. I have missed many milestones and birthdays, many celebrations and losses, as well as a few upsets with ill health.
I really feel the fragility of the lives of everyone in my family and with my friends too. I feel the preciousness of life all too keenly, perhaps more so because I'm not just a stone's throw away.
After many precarious starts and stops with people, planning and finances, I'll be escaping some of our Australian Winter, as tough as it is (wink, wink) and heading home to see my family and friends. Visiting has never felt so happy and and felt so hard earned. Yet, there seems to be a tinge of bittersweet to it as well. It's not anything I've ever felt before, not this keenly anyway.
The work I do with death and dying has made me appreciate the people in my life all that much more. These are the relationships that will really count at the end of my life, or theirs if death comes to them first. Life is not about money, or status, or fancy cars and houses. It all boils down to who you've loved and who's loved you and how you've loved each other.
I cried with my mum (thank goodness for Skype) when it looked like I wasn't going to be able to visit. I was gutted! My mum and I cried together when she said she'd help me out. Neither of us wanted to go any longer without hugging each other! Four years is a mighty long time to go without getting a hug from your mum!!!
Anticipating the eventual end of my mum's life has just brought home to me how much she means to me. Just like my dad, I will carry my mum in my heart and memories for as long as I live. I will find peace in that.
Live now, love now and always be prepared to let go. This is something I've been saying for a while now. Preparing to let go, for me, is happening now with my mum.
It all comes down to love and the relationships we have with each other. I love all of my family and can't wait to give them all huge squishy hugs!!!
For another day I am passionately yours,
I recently asked someone I'd had a fairly big crush on to be my Valentine. I was met with his 'I'm flattered but let's just be friends' reply. I won't get into the details of who, why, or what...but I will talk about my reaction.
It's unlike any other I've had before and I pin it down to death.
In my work around the subject of death and dying, I teach and counsel people about living in the now, loving in the now, and always being prepared to let go. Little did I know that this would translate into a metaphorical death of a romance that wasn't going to happen in the first place!
It occurred to me that when I got the answer no one ever really wants to hear, NO, I was okay with it, disappointed, but okay. I wasn't devastated and I didn't feel hopeless. I was okay...
And then I got happy! Really happy!
Part of what I do with death is use it as a catalyst to inspire people to live fully with the lives they have and the time they have left, whether that's for 40 seconds or 40 years.
The fact that I am going to die one day means to me that spending even one ounce of time grieving over what could have been, but was now lost, was not 'walking my talk' and in that instant it made me happy...kind of giddy really.
Another part of what I do is teach that in ways of death and dying there is no right or wrong way to be with it. Each person has their own unique relationship to death, just as we do with life. Keeping the idea that each person comes from their own perspective is an easy way to not take anything personally. This man, my unrequited Valentine, was coming from his own perspective, his own life and how he wanted to live it before he dies. He may not have the relationship with his mortality that I do on a conscious level, but no doubt his instincts kicked in and he responded accordingly.
This experience, my relationship with my mortality, and how people view their world has taught me that death is more than an ending. It's more than just dying. Death can be an opening up to freedom as well. Death can be the ultimate detachment right here and now, while we are fully living our lives.
Letting go is another form of dying. Dying to an ideal. Dying to only one way of thinking. Dying to living in any other way than right here and now.
Have a look at your life and your living right now. Where can you see that death can open you up to freedom?
Live now. Love now. And always be prepared to let go...
For yet another beautiful day I am passionately yours,
Just over one year ago I wrote about revolutions as opposed to resolutions. I won't go into great detail here about how I feel about resolutions because you can click on the image to your left to read about that.
I will share with you how writing that post has impacted the last year of my life and how you might find inspiration for your own coming days of 2014!
As I reflect on 2013 I can see that despite my leg being broken from being hit by a fast running dog, having surgery to fix it and all of the time spent recuperating, I haven't been stopped in creating a passionate life and business!
While it is important to list achievements and blow my own horn once in a while, I won't do that here and now. I feel that 2013 was an absolutely amazing year filled with growing events/workshops, news articles, radio interviews, TV news stories and more! Some of it was because of the intention I set out at the beginning and others were due to right place, right time happenings.
I prefer using the word revolution when thinking about what I would like to achieve each year, or over my entire life for that matter! I love a good revolution. I love transformation and of course you may know that I love to be passionate about life and living fully now.
I'm not caught up in the finite details of how events will pan out, rather, I prefer to manifest then be open to how it shows up. I certainly didn't manifest a broken leg (at least not consciously), but what came out of my experience could not have happened in any other way, and for that I am grateful. You can read more about that here.
This year I continue to revolutionise conversations about death and dying. There is much to transform where Western society and death are concerned. I am very excited to make this happen in my corner of the world!
In 2014 I aim to create two e-books about death and dying, more details will follow as time allows for.
I will also continue to run the Death Cafe, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Death and Painted Stories. For dates and times of these events and workshops, click here.
It has been quite some time since my last blog! If I'm going to have any kind of resolution/revolution intention this year, it will be to write more regularly, be more consistent and follow through with new contacts!
May your 2014 be amazing, inspiring, and fill with purpose and meaning!
For another day I am...
As you may know by now, most of my blogs are about death and/or life in some form or another. I love sharing my passion about death with you but for today I'm going to veer off and then, in a round about way turn it back to living, and dying...in the end...hmm...
Today's longish blog is about blame because it seems to be at the fore of many conversations here in Australia of late. And without further ado...
Earlier this evening, I piped in on a friend's Facebook post about a topic of heated debate in this lucky country that I currently live in. I won't get into the details of what the topic was, but suffice it to say politics, power and the welfare of people from other countries had something to do with it!
What bothered me the most about the conversation, after I surreptitiously hijacked my friends post, was how easily it was for people to slip into blaming. Blaming the other person, blaming this country, blaming that country, blaming the government, or blaming just about anything unfit for the accepted 'normal' paradigms.
As Thich Nhat Hanh quotes above, we don't go around blaming lettuce for not growing well, do we? No! Because, well, that would be silly!
Just because the heads of humans are supposedly superior to the heads of lettuce, doesn't mean some people have a monopoly over others on what is the 'right' or best way to live.
And, because the dictionary is always right (smirk), I'll refer to the socially constructed definition of blame and break it down for you, my friendly reader...here we go...This is from Dictionary.com just in case you felt the need to check!
verb, blamed, blam·ing, noun verb (used with object)
1. to hold responsible; find fault with; censure: I don't blame you for leaving him.
2. to place the responsibility for (a fault, error, etc.) (usually followed by on ): I blame the accident on her.
3. Informal. blast; damn (used as a mild curse): Blame the rotten luck.
4. an act of attributing fault; censure; reproof: The judge said he found nothing to justify blame in the accident.
5. responsibility for anything deserving of censure: We must all share the blame for this deplorable condition.
6. to blame, at fault; censurable: I am to blame for his lateness.
1150–1200; (v.) Middle English blamen < Anglo-French, Old French blasmer < Vulgar Latin *blastēmāre, for Late Latin blasphēmāre to blaspheme; (noun) Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French bla ( s ) me, derivative of the v.
Blaming is always about the other person, place, thing, dog, cat, fence, tomato-but-never-the-lettuce, me, you, her, him, them...you get my idea...
What blaming does is stop a person from taking responsibility for their harmful/hurtful actions toward another. We don't go around blaming someone for loving us, right? And we can't blame someone for being brutally KIND to us either, right?
Blame is always about perceived injustices quickly followed by no account taken for responsibility on the part of the persecutor, or the victim for that matter. No one ever wants to be at fault for anything!
But, this type of behaviour leads to victim mentality and a way of getting out of being fully responsible for how we treat each other.
For some people, it's easier to blame someone for doing them wrong than to try to understand the deeper reasons behind their actions. And that even goes for murderers and rapists! Yes, I know, stay with me on this one! No one is born to kill, hate, cheat, steal, rape or lie. These are learned behaviours and where do we learn them from? The environment to which we are born and raised into, our family of origin, our culture, our country, our society with all their expectations placed upon us before we even have a chance to decide for ourselves who and how we want to be. But wait...there's more...
Back to my friends Facebook post...
I am a seeker of justice for all, even for the person who murders, for at some point in their lives something atrocious happened to them, too. All it takes, though, is one person to change the paradigm, for better or for worse. Rather than take personal responsibility for understanding their persecutors in some small way, they turned around to become one themselves. In some people's lives 'kill or be killed' is all they know.
Quite often a third party will step in and start blaming something or someone higher up, let's say a politician or group of politicians known as 'the government'!
Psst...government is only a group made up of people, some do good, some not so good, but it's not a singular entity and shouldn't be treated as such!
Or perhaps we could go even higher than people in governments and blame God, but I won't get into my feelings about religion or God here because that's playing with fire and I'm not quite ready for that pot of hot water!
Nonetheless, it all boils down to a lack of responsibility for how our actions affect other people. Taking personal responsibility, owning up to mistakes, saying sorry, making amends, paying back, paying forward, and the myriad ways there are to stop the blame game, count for something.
They count for the people at the other end of that pointing finger.
And you don't know their story.
You don't know, but if you ask with genuine care and curiosity, you might just find out that the person who can't live in the country where they were born may have watched as their whole lives shattered into a million pieces from a bomb delivered by another country supposedly there to protect them.
You might find out that they murdered their parents because they were brutally beaten as children and they'd finally had enough. This doesn't excuse them because they still need to take responsibility for their actions, but at least you may find some compassion or understanding for them without that pointy finger.
You may find out that the beautiful clothing they have on their bodies when you see them are the only ones they could bring with them and they wash them everyday to avoid shame and judgement from you and your pointy finger.
And in the end I am left with nothing else to offer but hope, that as you read this, you find compassion and not judgement, in my words and my actions. My intent is to inspire you to think twice before pulling out your pointy finger. Although, it would be misguided of me to tell you to do anything with what I have written here, for that would lead me to judging you for being or thinking differently. Kind of defeats my purpose and my blog, right?!
“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”
And now, we are at the end and at the beginning! Where I leave you to take responsibility for your life and the impact you have on those around you...this is your emotional legacy. In the next blog I will be writing about your emotional legacy so stay tuned!
But in the meantime...and...
For another day, I am passionately yours,
In my workshop, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Death, I ask participants to imagine their final day alive, to feel what it would be like to say goodbye, I love you, I'm sorry, and thank you. Along with other videos and exercises, it is my hope that participants walk away with a clear sense that their lives are fragile and to be lived fully and (my favourite) PASSIONATELY!
But I'm kind of thinking I may be taking this exercise a wee bit lightly!
Especially when you take a look at what it's like for the folks who visit Daejeon, South Korea, recorded as the highest rate of suicide anywhere in the world. An average of 43 suicides per day is a staggering statistic but it's not until we see the reasons why that makes it easier to understand. The immense pressure to work long hours for financial gain, as one of the documentary participants explains, is one of the main reasons.
In the documentary 'A Good Day to Die: Fake Funerals in South Korea', Yuka Uchida of JapanVICE visits with Jung Joon who facilitates the "final day" and experiences her own final day alive as she knows it. Throughout the day participants are asked to say goodbye to their loved ones, an exercise which brings many of them to tears.
Given that death acceptance is my big passion, I'd probably love this workshop, the whole experience of it! For now, those of us not visiting South Korea any time soon, can still have a taste of what it's like by heading over to the VIDEOS page here on my website to watch the FULL documentary which lasts about 20 minutes.
If, after watching the documentary, you are moved to experience your own final day, contact me here or head over to the WORKSHOPS page to find out more about what, why, and how I take people on their own journey to death and back!
For another day I am passionately yours,
Here you will find the musings of me...