Since I started working with dying people and their families, I've become acutely aware of how much we all need to share our death stories. Sharing these stories helps us explore what we've been through, and start to re-process our grief. In our modern culture, we don't talk nearly enough about death, and this takes a toll. When we experience the death of a loved one, we are struck with an overwhelming amount of grief. It's like you've got a jagged, heavy boulder sitting in your gut, and it hurts. You don't know what to do about it, so you ignore it and hope it will go away. It doesn't, but you get kind of numb to its presence. In time, you forget about it, but it's still there, under cover, influencing your choices, squashing your freedom and feeling like a shadow you can't name.
In our Embodied Grief workshop, we explored what happens when you turn toward grief instead of avoiding it. We practiced sharing our death stories and feeling our grief soften as we became more curious about it. We prepared with a guided visualization, and then did flow yoga with Quamay Sams to get grounded and collectively commit to our shared intention. Then we paired up and told our stories, in most cases to a stranger who listened to us actively, so we felt heard. After that, we all closed our eyes and danced our feelings out, allowing the energy that was dislodged and stirred up by the storytelling to move through us, floating up and away like a cloud.
Next, we imagined what it would be like if we had a way to work with death when it happened in our own families. Just think about how much thoughtful energy goes into planning a wedding, but when it comes to death, we give it zero attention. In fact, we pretend it's not going to happen at all, at least not to us. In our workshop, we spent some time journaling about what we might want for our own deaths, and planted a seed to share these feelings and ideas with loved ones.
Of course no healing workshop is complete without a sound bath. Serena Malkani led us through a wonderful active vocalization session and then bathed us in healing tones as we took our final repose of the evening.
I chose to end the workshop with a quote. It's a common 18th century epitaph that I found recently in Steven Levine's priceless book, A Year to Live.
"Remember, friends, as you pass by, As you are now so once was I. As I am now, so you must be. Prepare yourself to follow me."
I want to give a huge shout out to Kerry Lange at Reimagine for encouraging me to host a workshop for their amazing end of life festival, and also to Laura Camp for donating her space Flying Studios to our cause. Also to Quamay and Serena for being the willing and amazing collaborators they are, and of course to all my wonderful attendees who were brave enough to take the journey with us. Embodied Grief: Death Stories and Flow Yoga was a great success and my heart is full. Thank you all!