Tag Archives: end of life

Deepak Chopra: End-of-Life Experience and How to Die Well

shutterstock_107006774Let me begin by reassuring you that this isn’t going to be a grim post. But it begins in an area people are uncomfortable with. We all must die, yet this is one inevitability that almost nobody feels comfortable talking about. That includes doctors and nurses, as was discovered in a newly published study from King’s College in London. It surveyed the staff that surrounded dying patients in hospices and found that they witness every common end-of-life experience (ELE). These fall into two types, and one of them will seem very strange.

The first type of ELE seeks final meaning. Near the time of death, people often want to be reconciled with family members who have become estranged, and this desire can be so strong that the moment of death is postponed until the estranged person visits. There is often a desire to put one’s affairs in order and to right past wrongs. It is observed that patients who have been semi-conscious will have a moment of sudden lucidity in which they express their dying wishes before lapsing back.

This whole category of ELE is psychologically intimate, and a significant number of doctors and nurses feel uncomfortable being present for it. Two inhibitions stand in the way. Doctors spend most of their energy trying to extend life, so learning about dying isn’t part of their training. Secondly, it is still considered a sign of weakness for a doctor to feel emotional about death, which leads to distancing himself from the actual experience.

The second type of ELE is labeled transpersonal, although the common word for it would be spooky. Dying patients, far more often than is acknowledged, have highly mystical experiences. They get visions of departed ones who have come to take them away. They sense the transmission of light and love from other realities and can visit those realities.  The study found that such ELEs could not be accounted for by the medical state or treatment of the person — the ELE occurred in clear consciousness.

Yet probably the most uncomfortable ELE in this category was observed by the staff, including seeing something leave the body at the time of death, finding that a peculiar synchronicity occurred, such as the clock stopping at the moment of death. It’s more common than you would suppose for relatives who were not present when the dying person passed away to have them appear at the moment of death. Needless to say, modern society is skeptical enough that ridicule and quick dismissal of these transpersonal experiences will arise, even though they have been reported continually in every culture since history has been recorded.

The study makes the point that ELEs, which of course do not occur with every dying person, bring comfort and consolation; they seem to be a natural mechanism that surrounds the climactic event of death. Which brings us to the paradox of how we die. In the 1930s, eighty percent of people still died at home; now more than eighty percent die in the impersonal setting of a hospital. Massive expense is involved in trying to cure the last disease each of us will have, the one we eventually die from.

As medical technology shrouds the dying process, as people become more and more discomfited being around it, nature doesn’t seem to care. Mind and spirit experience death the old-fashioned way. Happily, the paradox resolves itself in favor of death being much less scary than we imagine. There is every indication that we are meant to die at peace, and so we do.

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Originally published May 2011

Find Out What You Want – Step #9

include-death

 “Why does God allow children to suffer and die?” read the question.

To which I answered:

“Because God sees death as a beautiful transition, not a horrific disaster.”

And he responded: “Every torturer sees someone else’s torture and death as beautiful.”

And what did I say to that? I said this:

“What if death is actually quite beautiful, and the habitual terror of it blinds humans to that fact?”

You did, I am sure, notice that I did not speak to the suffering. Though maybe I should have … maybe I should have said that suffering is when we deny, refuse, and resist that which we are: nature, god, life, death…

Isn’t it?

10 Tips on Dying with Dignity

By Laurel Lewis

These tips come from my experience of being with hundreds of people as they have died and with the thousands of family members who have witnessed this event. Consider using these tips for dying well… and for living well!

10. Talk about what you do and don’t want.

Tell your family, friends and doctors how you want to be treated and what kind of treatments you want or don’t want! Consider a living will or other advance directives so that your wishes will be known prior to end of life choices. Consider your needs: physical, emotional and spiritual because they all impact your final days.

9. Have a life review. Recall significant and meaningful events .

Share your stories either verbally or written with your loved ones, in a journal or on tape. As you do this forgive yourself and others for everything! Let go of judgments. Judging people and events take up precious energy that could be spent loving instead. Release the judgments and allow yourself to be fully present to what is in your life right now.

8. Express gratitude daily – for something, anything!

This will help move you from the context of small self who is dying to connect with the bigger part of Life that is surrounding us always. Expressing gratitude creates a positive shift in our mental state, which in turn has positive physical benefits.

7. Connect with something more than yourself.

Connect with your family, your friends, nature, art, pets, your God, Spirit, your ideals. Allow yourself to belong to something more than yourself so that when you die, you will be connected to those things in which you invested your time and energy.

6. Be authentic and transparent.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Express yourself courageously holding nothing back. Your vulnerability will be rewarded with intimacy. Allow yourself to feel your feelings – all of them. You are allowed to be just as you are. Give yourself permission to explore this concept and to explore really being YOU! This is the time to do it.

5. Be optimistic and realistic about what is happening.

Expect the best while being prepared for the worst. This can be challenging but from my experience, extremely rewarding. Put your affairs in order. Write your will, choose a mortuary, talk about your funeral, talk about what’s happening in order to bring understanding to your experience and alleviate confusion for your loved ones.

4. Accept what is as it is happening.

No one can really know what you are going through. This is your private journey. All we can do is support and love you. It is true that we are all going to die, but not all of us have the experience of the deathbed. As you find yourself contemplating death and accepting this inevitability look for the places inside that fight against this reality. There is a quote I like that captures this theme, “When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless.” ~ Byron Katie

As you gracefully yield to your body’s end, you may indeed find peace, joy, and pleasures in the days you have left surrounded by love and loved ones.

3. Say please and thank you.

These words express kindness, respect, and appreciation and will elicit positive responses from everyone who is close to you. The energy behind these words is powerful and respectful. Even if someone has to wipe your butt in your final days you can still maintain a dignified experience simply by the energy of your presence.

2. Look people in the eye.

People generally don’t know how to behave around someone who is nearing the end of life. This is an opportunity to “get real”, to allow yourself to be seen, really seen. Gazing into someone’s eyes without words allows our hearts to connect at a very deep level and can be very satisfying and rewarding.

1. Breath.

While you have Life moving through you, allow it to move through you. When you feel tight or anxious: breathe. When you feel sad or tired: breathe. When you feel angry or hurt: breathe. Consciously breathe and open yourself up to the present moment. Allow Life to reveal its preciousness to you for as long as you can and with all of the awareness you have. Live until you die.

If you are interested to know more please contact me through LaurelLLewis.com.

I am happy to share more from my years of hospice work and research and my personal transformation of dealing with the sudden loss of my husband at the age of 27.

Thank you and bless you.

~

Laurel Lewis, a registered nurse and hospice provider who features on The Chopra Well show, 30 DAYS OF INTENT, shares her tips for dying with dignity. The end of life can be an extremely difficult time, as Laurel has witnessed in her many years as a hospice nurse. Her tips address the healthiest ways to confront death and meet a happy, satisfying end.

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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.”

How to Write a Eulogy… For Yourself

Here’s the latest from 30 DAYS OF INTENT! Iman and Natalie, accompanied by YouTube star Hannah Hart, visited Laurel Lewis for a lesson in death and dying. Laurel is a registered nurse who specializes in end-of-life care, and she is best known for her “Death and Dying Dinners.” We interviewed Laurel on the importance of contemplating death as a way of living life more fully.

The Chopra Well: Hi, Laurel! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. First off, can contemplating our own death aid in a spiritual journey?

Laurel Lewis: Contemplating one’s own death is a spiritual practice. It can certainly be the focal point of any meditation or journal writing. A Buddhist would say that we should examine it with every breath. That may be much for the beginner. How about we start with twice a day, upon waking and just prior to falling asleep.

The idea is to become more conscious of how you are spending your time, who are spending your precious time with. Is the way you live your life contributing to your overall happiness or depleting you? By contemplating death we learn to identify friends, coworkers, habits, family members, even thoughts that are no longer serving our greatest good, not serving our life’s purpose fully. The spiritual practice of contemplating death somehow gives us permission to live our lives more authentically and to live with more purpose and compassion. When we truly realize that death can come at any time, that nothing but death is guaranteed, we see that our life is so precious. It allows for an incredible feeling of freedom and personal responsibility to live life with beauty, connection, purpose, joy, compassion and gratitude.

CW: You lead Hannah, Natalie, and Iman through a process where they wrote and heard their own eulogies. Have you done this exercise, yourself? What’s it like? What’s the hardest or most interesting thing about it?

LL: I encourage writing your own eulogy as a way to measure how you’re living your life. You can actually google “how to write a eulogy”. Give yourself some time and some space and allow for at least 45 minutes. I did write my own eulogy recently. What I found and what the participants have echoed is that it is a great way to see if we are “on track” for the things that we want to accomplish in our lives. I have been in service for most of my life with my family and in my profession. What I found with writing my eulogy was that I am not dancing enough, or singing enough or playing enough with my friends.

I do feel happy about the care I have provided to people on their deathbeds and the families that I have served as well. But as I contemplate dying at the age of 41 I can see the spaces in my life that I would like to fill with more fun! So, this exercise is great for identifying: am I doing what I want to be doing, am I exemplifying the qualities in life that I value, am I sharing myself fully and authentically, am I spending time in ways that fulfill me or deplete me? I can see it now more clearly and now that I am aware of it, I can take responsibility for creating more of what I want in my life.

CW: Natalie found it easier to love herself and appreciate herself by writing her own eulogy. It sounds like a powerful exercise! How can we incorporate this into our daily lives?

LL: Writing your eulogy gives you a unique opportunity to think about what people might say about you, about the type of person you were, how you impacted the lives of those around you. This can be very provocative approach to looking at yourself from someone else’s point of view. You may realize that you would like people to say certain things about you but that you have not chosen to express yourself in a way that would encourage that. Or you may actually find yourself creating a beautiful list of affirmations about who you are and what you have created in your life thus far. This unique exercise allows you to consider yourself from someone else’s perspective. If you like what you come up with then it could be a very grounding spiritual practice to acknowledge those parts of yourself regularly.

Make a list of qualities and post them next to your mirror with the words I AM at the top of the list. This kind of practice encourages more of the same to come forward. If you want to take it to the next level, look at yourself in the eyes while you read over your love list. This is a simple practice, but it can create a great deal of self-love, self care, and self respect. And as you learn to regard yourself in a more positive light, you will start to regard others that way as well. In return, people will actually start to see you the way you are seeing and feeling yourself. Try it!

Try writing a eulogy for yourself, and stay tuned for Part 2 of Laurel’s interview on her “Death and Dying Dinners”.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well so you don’t miss a minute of Iman and Natalie’s journey on 30 DAYS OF INTENT!

photo by: martinak15

Deepak Chopra: Helping a Dying Parent

Question:

What do I have to do to help in the dying process of my father.  I mix massage oil with some drops of essential rose oil and massage his head, forehead, hands and feet.  I do it sometimes praying others in such a caring way that he sleeps like a baby.  Sometimes I feel that he is getting out of his sickness (getting better) and sometimes I feel that he is getting in peace with himself.  Please tell me if am I doing what I have to do?  Should I bring him flowers and play him music?

Answer:

It sounds like you are tending beautifully to your father. I’m sure he appreciates the massages and loving prayers. Whether he returns to health or not, your efforts are a great support to his soul’s journey. The music and flowers will most certainly lift his spirits.

Love,

Deepak

 

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