“One does not need to evoke theological or religious arguments to defend
the case for life after biological death. In the world of particle physics, all
annihilation means transformation, not into nihilism, but into something radically
new and vibrant. “ Diarmuid O’ Murchu
Dawn, I do appreciate our on-going conversations about death and dying, especially the need to confront our issues …. before ….. we can really get on with living our lives fully. I like your thoughtful questions, a person could ask, such as: “What will happen when we die, what do I need to do, believe, change …. etc. Following are some of the thoughts and insights that are guiding me these days. I would like to think they are enriched by the learnings coming out of the IFS work around the higher Self.
I recently completed a series of classes entitled “Sacred Living and Sacred Dying” (primarily designed around the needs of those in Hospice care). One of the guiding principles comes from the Egyptian Book of the Dead ….. “we must learn and prepare for dying now, so that, we don’t have to die when we die”. This idea directly supports the call to deal with our death and dying issues now, so that we can truly learn how to live fully in the NOW of each day. A “preparing to die” seminar is not super popular for many folks, however, now that I’m in my 75 th year, I confess it feels right on!
All of this reflection has prompted my thinking around the classic models of aging, and the stages of life ie; Jung, Erikson, etc. I have noticed that , for me, there seems to be a stage missing. It is a stage that has not been articulated much, and feels very fertile. I’m calling it stage “X”. It is that unique time, after retirement (and AFTER a person has had the time to do a lot of the things they have always wanted to do, ie; bucket list, etc.) and BEFORE a debilitating major illness sets in, which becomes a very time consuming project of it’s own. Actually, the preparing to die work can be done in Hospice, or ICU, but is harder because of all the medications, procedures and distractions. The Sacred Living and Sacred Dying program teaches that , at the end of physical life a person is either experiencing significant periods of spiritual pain, or spiritual peace. If a person is experiencing spiritual “pain”, typically the issues are one of, or multiples of; a feeling of not having led a meaningful life, a sense of being out of touch (lack of relatedness, with family, friends), needs for forgiveness (giving or receiving) or, finally, a deep sense of hopelessness.
In the light of these issues, and building on the insights of the healing powers of our higher Self, I have been developing a class called “The Journey of the Soul” to compliment the healing work needed in the missing stage “X”. The core of the class has been organized around the four universal questions : Who am I ?, Where did I come from ?, Why am I here ?, and Where do I go when I die?. I did one test run last year, and I currently have a pilot program scheduled for Jan 2012 ,for 12 people. It will cover 10 hrs over 5 weeks. It will be a combination of presentations and conversations. I hope to build upon the feedback coming from the participants. I expect to learn a lot 🙂
One of the guiding questions, I am using in the Journey of the Soul class, is taken from the work done by Wayne Muller, and outlined in his book (and which is also it’s title), “How then shall I live, now that I know I am going to die?” This awareness, coupled with the profound influence of the book “Denial of Death”, written by Ernest Becker, (1973), and all the holistic work around becoming a whole person, lays the groundwork for exploring the journey of the soul. What comes up, again and again, is that, on-going soul development and continued learning, on the “other side” , is not just wistful thinking, but rather, key development issues that we all must face in eternal life. To not take on the work of learning to live fully, (learning to love), ……. Here and now ….. will leave us still developmentally stuck ….. There and then !!
You know Dawn, all of this inner musing has led me to two personal transformation insights that are currently challenging my work and my daily life, regarding the issues of death and dying, and living into the fullness of life. The first insight is around the question : ” Are we just physical beings, with some spirituality stuck in somewhere, …or … In fact, are we truly spiritual beings, currently having a physical/ worldly experiences? At this point in my physical life, I am feeling called to choose one or the other, and to have “The Courage To Be”, (asTillich says) …… which means to dare to believe that we each are whole persons, Mind, Body, and Spirit, with a unique thinking soul/self … ! I am choosing to have faith that this is the truth.
The choice to imagine ourselves as higher order spiritual being not only sets the pace for experiencing spiritual peace ( the peace that passes all understanding), but it also leads to the second insight. This insight is ; if I am going to try and say something about the Journey of a Soul, I will, by definition, need to see the journey …”through the eyes of the soul”! Because the soul is an individualized aspect of the Holy Spirit, I will, therefore, need to learn to see (with God’s help) with new eyes 🙂 ! Given that I’ll need to see “more” than I can with my physical eyes, the new question can be: ” How do I learn to see with the eyes of my soul?”. I shall pass on some wisdom of those who have gone before …. “The eyes (I’s) of the soul include; IMAGINATION, INSIGHTS, INSPIRATION, INTUITIONS and INTENTIONS .
Finally, the definition of Faith is: “The assurance of things hoped for, and the certainty of things unseen”. So, with the eyes of the soul, and Faith, another question arises, which is…. When I die, what are the things my heart HOPES for ? ”
Dawn, Thanks a lot, for inviting me to be a guest blogger on your wonderful website. I look forward to our continuing conversations, and shared interests, and workshops. Bill
Questions for reflection:
To what extent does this resonate with your own life experience?
How would you nourish the need for interiority and discernment in your life?
Article by Rev. Bill Sell-Lee, retired Episcopal Priest
Permission to use photo of Art work by Rev. Bob Luckin, Center for Spiritual Living
Quote and reflection questions by Diarmuid O’Murchu, Catholic Priest and social psychologist,
Author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics