So you must do the work first before helping others?
I don't know if you MUST do the work first before helping others. I've seen some good work done by people who live with extreme fear. No kidding. I no longer assume that just because you are a doctor or counselor you have embraced your own mortality. But I do think that by starting this work for yourself will make you an even better professional to patients and clients. The old saying is true still: "Our clients/patients will only go as far as we go."
Sounds a little scary.
Death itself is no laughing matter. Why do you think that in our culture there is a strong collective resistance toward the natural: aging, illness and death?
Is this sort of work for everybody?
No. There are some that I would discourage from participating. Anyone diagnosed by a physician with Major Depressive Disorder or some anxiety disorders are a few examples.
Are you afraid of dying?
I am afraid but to a much lesser degree than, say, five or ten years ago. You see, it isn't all about getting rid of our fears. It's about courage to face the inevitable. And the inevitable, the raw existential truth for you and me is this: No matter what diet you take on, how often you exercise or how positive you think, you WILL grow old, be tagged with a terminal illness, and die. To live content with this truth in mind is in my book true courage.
Why is Conversing with Death geared for professionals?
We are all going to die, professional and lay alike. Yet many--and I feel pretty safe to say many--who work in healthcare, mental health or as clergy do not have a reflective practice around their own dying and, instead, have been heavily influenced by cultural phobias. I've seen it with my own eyes. Some very good and dear professionals who work with chronic or terminally ill patients could not even enter a funeral home. Others are somewhat aware but all too often take the road of not thinking about it.
What's the benefit of Conversing with Death?
If practiced, CD has a number of things to offer us. First, our relationship to death changes. When it does, we tend to take life less for granted. Second, CD provides us with a death awareness that helps us prioritize what is really important, which influences my level of compassion for self and the world. Third, by helping me work around my own existential angst I can carefully and compassionately bring clients deeper into the experience they have long pushed away and, I believe, has contributed to some degree to some of their reported problems.
What exactly is Conversing with Death?
Conversing with Death (CD) is a method of processing mental and emotional experiences that I observed many times over during my fifteen years of working in hospice.
What does that processing consist of?
I developed imaginary and simulated exercises that come somewhat near to the dying process as I saw. These exercises primarily awaken our own felt-sense of mortality or as I like to call it last breath awareness.