It has taken awhile to get back in the saddle and write the next segment of my Conscious Living series. But I have thought quite a bit about this segment, wanting to address more in depth the elements of Conscious Dying. I have mentioned earlier that a key part of Conscious Living is the ability to let go of, or let die, old forms that no longer serve us.
If we evolve in our life journey there will likely be numerous opportunities to do this sometimes very painful task. For example letting go of a marriage or a career that no longer feeds our soul can be a difficult challenge. Many stay stuck in old forms and the evidence of this is a long list of complaints in old age. Those who live unconsciously need to find other people, places and things to blame for a life dictated by conformity and convention.
Conscious Living demands that we let go of any form of victim mentality. We come to realize that we are, and always were, 100 percent responsible for our life choices and their consequences. And here is where our ability to surrender into Conscious Dying plays its role. We grow in both humility and gratitude when we learn to accept that every life circumstance has been a valuable lesson that the universe has so generously bestowed upon us.
The one great thing about Conscious Dying is that it is never too late to apply this principle to the whole of our lives. Now for many, this reality will only come as we approach our physical death. But the result can be miraculous. There have been so many cases reported of one on his or her deathbed who suddenly open to grace, bringing true forgiveness and blessing to everything.
One of my very favorite films is American Beauty. In this film the character played by Kevin Spacey has an epiphany several months before his murder. He knows that he is going to die, but he realizes the exquisite beauty of everything in time to truly enjoy what his life has become.
Coincidentally, Kevin Spacey also played the title character in a small but important film named The Life of David Gale. The film is based on a true story of a respected college professor who is on death row for his participation of an assisted suicide (he has been charged with murder). The film challenges the conventional belief that we must be a victim to our death, allowing it to come when it will, rather than take 100 percent responsibility for how, when and where we die. Our Conscious Dying program offers guidance and support for those who would choose the circumstances of their death.
In my opinion, how we die is the most vivid testimony to how we have lived our lives. I have always applauded the courage that it takes to commit suicide, and I have long been an advocate of assisted suicide. It pleases me to see the strides and success of the organization formerly known as the Hemlock Society, now called Death with Dignity. Little by little, states in the U.S. are changing their laws in regards to assisted suicide, but still it requires that the patient has been diagnosed with an incurable disease. In certain other countries the qualification for assisted suicide and even euthanasia is much more generous.
I think that there is a large percentage of people who would choose an alternative to what the mainstream medical and “end of life” process offers, but for objections from the law, the church and often times family members. It is a challenge but one I am open to exploring, how we can orchestrate an end of life process that is beautiful. After all, if a life has been well lived it deserves to be celebrated with death seen as a certain liberation and birth into something profoundly magnificent.
No matter what “mistakes” or “failures” we might have experienced in our lives, there is still the opportunity for radical forgiveness and the invitation for a peaceful death marked by love and celebration.
Louis Bourgeois lives in Cuenca with his wife and baby. He teaches courses in Conscious Living and Conscious Dying. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org