Should We Discuss Death at the Dinner Table?

In the latest episode of 30 DAYS OF INTENT, Natalie and Iman join Laurel Lewis, Deepak Chopra, Mallika Chopra and friends for a “Death and Dying Dinner.” We interviewed Laurel on the significance of these dinners. Click here to read Part 1 of Laurel’s interview, on the importance of contemplating death.

The Chopra Well: The notion of a “death and dying dinner” is pretty unique! Most people will do anything they can NOT to think about death. Why do you think that is?

Laurel Lewis: Most people choose not to focus on end of life issues, certainly not their own. Our culture does not encourage this discussion. We have been conditioned not to consider death and dying. We try so desperately to avoid all things which we believe will cause us discomfort. Death certainly falls into that category. What people don’t realize is that by moving through the discomfort of facing their fears they actually free up some life force which can be used to fuel their present day experience. It takes courage, curiosity and willingness to examine one’s own end.

We all know, death is coming. It’s just a matter of time. I’m amazed that we don’t teach courses on death and dying in elementary school! We prepare for everything we want to succeed in in life. Having a peaceful death seems like something we should be preparing ourselves for with more discipline and interest. Death somehow did not make the list of things in which one can succeed at in life. A bit ironic, I know, but I aim to change that.

CW: So once you introduce people to the idea of a death and dying dinner, how do they react? And how does the event usually go over?

LL: When I talk about the death and dying dinner party people are generally either very curious or completely uninterested. I have not found too many people in the middle. Those who have a negative reaction to this themed dinner party are simply not ready to face this topic for whatever reason. I respect that. I am content knowing that this venue will be available to them when and if they would like to discover more about death and dying.

People who are interested think it’s a great, novel idea. They wonder what we talk about, how many people show up, what do they have to talk about, what qualifies them to attend and then they want to know when the next dinner is. These dinners have been ongoing monthly for over 2 years now. Hundreds of people have shown up not really knowing what they were getting into. People who show up with a bit of anxiety or fear always leave feeling more relaxed around the topic. They seem to leave offering words like: inspired, calm, grateful, content, connected, respected, surprised, elated, full and open.

No two dinners are the same, because the mix of people is different for every dinner. These dinners are for anyone interested to explore any aspect of death and dying in an intimate, safe, respectful place.

CW: You say the trick to dying well is living well. What can we do to “live well”?

LL: What I have seen is that, generally speaking, how we relate to the deathbed is how we relate to life. Knowing this can be a great gauge so that you might guess what kind of dying patient you would make. You can either be a victim of this life or be a unique expression of this life now coming to completion. I say if you want to die well, meaning with grace, patience, ease, wisdom, courage, confidence and love, then do your best to live well. Start with cultivating qualities that you admire in yourself or others that tend to impact not only your good but the greater good as well. Consider doing the following in order to live well:

1. Practice accepting what is, changing what you can, then letting the rest go.

2. Offer gratitude daily, for everything! Because even the most painful challenges we face can bring us our greatest gifts.

3. Explore your creative impulse, because you have something in you that no one else does and sharing it can feel so good.

4. Contemplate your death so as to live your life more fully, with more appreciation, courage, and compassion.

5. Share your love. Unexpressed love is one of the dying person’s greatest regrets.

6. Forgive yourself for all of the judgments that your mind is holding onto. Forgive others too! Not just in your head, feel it in your heart.

7. Be present. This is the only moment we ever have.

8. Be kind and compassionate with yourself. Give your inner critic and inner judge some time off. You are your best resource, learn to cultivate a loving relationship with yourself.

This is a good start for planning a graceful transition. And this list will have you feeling better about yourself and your life no matter how much time you have left. I have so much gratitude for the opportunity to share some of these ideas with you. I hope they enrich your life. I send big love to each of you and blessings to carry you through your journey.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss the final episode of Natalie and Iman’s journey on 30 DAYS OF INTENT this Thursday!

Visit Laurel Lewis’ website for more information on Death and Dying Dinner Parties.

Would you go to a Death and Dying Dinner? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section! And stay tuned for Laurel’s guest blog post tomorrow – “10 Tips on Dying with Dignity.”