Somehow, "working with dying" seems to be part of my shamanic medicine.
Believe me, I never planned to specialize in something as ominous sounding as death, and I've tried to step away from it several times. But like a good friend who always has my best interest at heart, death work calls me again and again to remind me just how important its teachings are.
I just returned from a stunning journey to Peru working with Ayahuasca, or the vine of the dead. The vine helps you to let go of what needs to die so you can come awake. I'm still hearing the Icaros, or ceremonial medicine songs of our shaman, Don Guido, in my head. He invited us to record the Icaros and meditate to them at home. I'm honored to share them with you. You can listen here.
Death knocked at my door again with the recent passing of my friend, roommate, deep Earthkeeper and fellow shaman, Lisa Dyer. Lisa's kids and mine are close in age; over the years we've shared many conversations about life, what we track, ethics and dying.
It takes a special person to explore dying...and who are shamans, really, but special explorers? Death is our medicine; yours, mine and everyone who is an energy worker, healer or visionary.
It is important to become familiar with all the faces and nuances of death. You have to appreciate all the aspects of dying - including grief, transition and letting go of the ego, or who we think we are if you want to assist another or even yourself in being AWAKE.
And we need people to be awake and present right now.
Shamans have always had the privilege of being their community's death midwife. Simply put, they are the ones who help escort others across the dimensions. This is the time of ascension or moving to other realms. Many believe that last breath is where we choose our next step. But it is really every moment of being awake, while we have the body, that enables us to consciously choose the direction of that step. Please step beyond the belief that the ascension will only happen at that last breath. We are getting ready for it now.
Being AWAKE is our goal, and death is the doorway to that goal.
An Exercise in Being Awake
I'd like to share some core dying practices that allow you to be awake:
Step 1: Question Yourself
What is your unfinished business? These are the weeds in your garden of life.
This may show up as:
What burdens that are not yours are you carrying for your parents or kids?
What family patterns or roles are still there? Are you always the funny one, the responsible one, the black sheep, the crazy one?
Are there curses that seem to "haunt" or stop you from soaring, or ascending?
Is there old Karma that still needs to be cleared?
Andrew Holecek, in his book Preparing to Die, suggests a practice to help remind us to keep looking at what weeds need to be pulled. Try this: Write on sticky notes "I'm going to die," and place these notes inside various drawers in your home, or even on the bathroom mirror. The notes are meant to surprise you when you see them and to remind you to awaken again and clear your unfinished business.
The side benefit? You get a more delicious, yummy vital life right now. Stay awake and pull those weeds of unfinished business. universe will show you what is happening. Awareness practices are key. Be awake so you are the conductor of your own life.
Step 2: Practice Gratitude
As you clear your unfinished business, you will find your attention and thoughts are able to turn more often to gratitude. This is the gratitude of the beauty your garden of life is growing. You may notice the sunrises and sunsets, snow and rain, and laughter and joy. You may begin to take the time to hear the birds and the sound of the earth breathing through the wind. You may also feel the pain and ecstasy of being in this physical form for such a short time.
Feel like your gratitude practice is still developing? Practice through these simple steps:
Each morning before you get up, think of three things you are grateful for with your family. In your mind, thank each person.
Then think of three things you are grateful for with your body such as being able to hike or do a specific yoga move. Thank your body.
Then think of three things with work, or three things of financial abundance. Thank each of these in your mind.
Then three things spiritual, which may as simple as the earth and sky or your meditation practice, or your music, dance, or the trees outside your window.
Finally, identify three "other" things you are grateful for, like the beauty of spring or your goofy dog or the companionship of your cat.
Gratitude waters what you are growing in your garden of life.
Step 3: Raise Your Vibration.
Connect to and surround yourself with things that keep your vibration high.
My oldest daughter recently shared a YouTube video entitled Oh Wonder - All We Do. In it, the filmmaker asks a variety of people about what it means to be human. Their responses are inspiring.
Or check out Celebrate What's Right, an amazing film made by a former National Geographic photographer to help folks approach life with confidence, grace and celebration.
You can see them both on in an earlier blog post here.
Keep up the being AWAKE and a being of "light".