Welcome to this weekly bonus series of brief stories designed to touch your heart and offer you comfort, joy, laughter, and inspiration as we face uncertain times together! Remember always to choose LOVE over fear!
Learn how to find more clarity about your life’s purpose and why it’s not just about choosing the right career path.
In Part 3 of the Mortal Wisdom Series I’ll discuss the lesson of Purpose and how we can unravel the mystery of why we are here in this sometimes crazy world. These are the lessons we can learn from our mortality and how to thrive in life while knowing that death awaits. Listen to Parts 1 and 2 first if you haven’t heard them yet!
This episode includes:
- The difference between “inner” and “outer” purpose
- Why it’s important to recognize that there is a larger reason for our existence
- Why we must change ourselves before we try to change the world
- Steps to discovering your inner purpose:
- Awaken to the fact that you are here to learn
- Look for recurring themes in your life so far
- Journal about the pain and suffering you have experienced since they often center around your inner purpose
- How the Japanese concept of “ikigai” can help you find your outer purpose
- What you love
- What you are good at
- What the world needs
- What you can be paid for
- Why your outer purpose should align with you inner purpose
- Why you need to let go of attachment to your outer purpose and accept change in your life
If you touch one thing with deep awareness, you touch everything.
– Thich Nhat Hahn
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Ikigai article and graph
- Mortal Wisdom Part 1 and Part 2
- Join the team at Patreon.com/eolu
- Make a one-time donation here
- Get access to the EOLU mug by becoming a Patron:
If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on Patreon.com/eolu, especially my new patrons and faithful donors Lynda Richardson, Molly Byock, and Jozie Rabyor!
Learn some tips for starting important conversations about death with people you are meeting for the first time!
In this episode I’ll share with you some stories about my recent yoga retreat and the many amazing conversations I was able to have with strangers about death and dying. I’ve got a few tips for you about starting up your own conversations about death with random strangers. (Here’s a photo from a sunrise hike I took during the retreat!)
Links to articles mentioned in this episode:
You can still sign up for A Year of Reading Dangerously online reading group and read one book each month about death, dying and the afterlife. Click here to learn more.
This episode is sponsored by the album Healing Chants by Gia! You’ll love Gia’s angelic voice and ethereal music for meditation and relaxation. (Full disclosure: Gia is my daughter!)
Stay tuned to the end of the podcast as I’ll play her song Evocation as the Outro today!
A HUGE THANK YOU to my latest supporter on Patreon.com/eolu: Karen Van Hoof! I appreciate your support very much. Thanks also to all of the other patrons – sign up and join the team for as little as $1 per month at Patreon.com/eolu!
Today I’ll tell you about my recent 5-day retreat at a yoga center where I went to relax, do yoga and finish revising one of my books. While I was there I had the pleasure of talking with many other visitors to the retreat center about death and dying, which was fascinating. Normally I don’t find many people out in the general public who want to talk about death. And while the people I conversed with weren’t necessarily interested in death before our discussion they each seemed to come away with a new understanding or sense of peace.
In order to confront our society’s fear of death we need many more conversations like this to happen every day with people who are not already tuned in to death awareness.
Each of us needs to step up and reach out to others to start a dialogue about death that might prove very helpful to our conversation partner and very informative for us.
Here are my tips for talking with strangers about death and dying:
- Choose the right time and place: my conversations generally took place at the table while I was sharing a meal with various strangers. Breaking bread together creates an automatic sense of connection and safety since we usually associate mealtimes with positive feelings. There is also often some free time between courses where conversation can happen naturally. It may also work well to talk about death during other shared activities like hiking, gardening or cooking. Watch for the right opportunity to arise.
- Find common ground first: make sure you have established a basic connection by talking about the meal (or the garden, or the hike, etc.) Since my conversation partners were also there for yoga classes we had an automatic common subject to begin chatting about while we established a connection.
- Perfect your “elevator speech” which is a very brief story you tell whenever someone asks “What do you do?” The idea is that your answer is so brief you can complete it during a short elevator ride from one floor to the next. So think of one or two sentences you can use to answer that question and give another person an idea of your work. My answer at the yoga retreat was: “I’m a retired hospice physician who now writes books.” Tell them enough to garner their interest and curiosity and lead naturally to more questions. I purposely avoided mentioning death and dying in my initial introduction so that I wouldn’t frighten anyone away before we even got started. But most individuals I encountered were intrigued and asked more either about the hospice work or about the books I’m writing. Both of those questions led directly to a talk about death and dying. On several occasions the other person immediately brought up a story of a loved one or friend on hospice. Many times it was a story that desperately needed to be told and also came with questions about death, dying and hospice. I was amazed by the quality of conversation that occurred in these instances and the need for accurate information. I’m convinced that many people out there really do need to talk about death and dying but rarely encounter anyone they can speak to, which is where you come in!
- Hone your listening skills: for these conversations focus on listening rather than telling your own story. Watch for cues from the other person that there is a need to say something and encourage them to talk by asking a question or two and stopping to listen attentively. We are all passionate about our work and other endeavors and there will be opportunities to share that at some point in the future. Initially it’s more important to just listen and hold space so that the other person can ask questions and get the support they need. Rely on your intuition to tell you when that person is ready for a little nudge or encouragement to go deeper into their feelings.
- Share just enough information: again it is important to be a good listener so when you do describe your work don’t go overboard. Use simple and accurate terms to convey what you do but pause and allow the other person to ask for the information they need.
As you’ll hear when you listen to this episode I was able to have meaningful conversations with different people every day while I was at the retreat. These are some of the most important discussions we can be having right now so take a chance and strike up a conversation with a stranger about death and dying!
There will be a new episode every Monday so be sure to tune in again! And if you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes.
Until next time …
Learn about a beautiful documentary film that you can include in a community workshop on home funerals and green burial.
In this episode I share a “legacy interview” with two of the directors of the documentary film “A Will for the Woods” – Amy Browne and Brian Wilson. This is one of my favorite films and I encourage you to consider bringing it to your community for a screening and discussion about home funerals and green burial.
Sign up for A Year of Reading Dangerously online reading group for 2018 here.
This episode is sponsored by my supporters on Patreon.com/eolu. Thank you today to Holly Randall for increasing your monthly pledge! I appreciate all of the donors who have been chipping in over the past year-and-a-half to keep this podcast on the air! You can join the team for as little as $1 per month at Patreon.com/eolu.
Filmmakers Amy Browne and Brian Wilson discuss their award-winning film, A Will for the Woods, the story of a man near the end of his life who prepares for his own green burial. This film has been named “One of the 9 documentaries you must see this year” by the TED blog and has won numerous awards at film festivals around the country. In this interview you will learn:
- what inspired 4 young filmmakers to spend 4 years filming this end-of-life journey
- what the movie teaches us about death and burial customs
- how this film can change the funeral industry
- how to plan your own green burial and create a “green will”
Co-Director/Producer, Amy Browne, grew up in Australia and moved to New York City to study theater at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and film at The New School University. Her film credits include Associate Producer for Crazy & Thief (LA Film Festival 2012) and I Used to be Darker (Sundance 2013), as well as work on The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Berlinale & Tribeca 2011). She also recently commenced work as the Producer on upcoming documentary As Worlds Divide. When her sister Sophie introduced her to the concept of green burial, which connects the profundity and beauty of nature with the cycle of death and life, Amy was inspired to further explore the idea through film.
Co-director/Editor, Brian Wilson, graduated from Brown University with a degree in Comparative Literature and History, and works as an editor in New York. Passionate about the natural world and its protection and restoration, he is pleased to be exploring and raising awareness about green burial with A Will for the Woods. He became interested in developing deeper insight into death after his mother died in 2008, and has been grateful to find it through working on this project, which he hopes will offer similar comfort and understanding to many viewers.
Remember there’s a new episode every Monday! If you enjoy this content please consider leaving a review on iTunes. Until next week –
Learn how the practice of yoga can help heal acute and chronic grief.
In this episode I share an interview with yoga teacher Paul Denniston who has created a special workshop for healing grief using yoga and movement. He’ll share stories of his own journey through grief and how his workshop is helping others.
The Thanksgiving Holiday is approaching in the U.S. and I want to wish everyone a week of gratitude and generosity as we reflect on all that life has given us. My family will be celebrating with our Annual Thanksgiveaway: handing out care packages to the homeless. This is just a small gesture of kindness as a way of expressing our thankfulness for all of our blessings of the past year. I hope you too find a special way to share with others on this holiday!
I am especially grateful for all of my supporters on Patreon.com/eolu! Your generosity helps me feel connected to my audience and lets me know that you like the content I am creating. If you would like to become a patron you can sign up to contribute just $1 or $2 per month at Patreon.com/eolu.
Barbara McAfee has generously offered to share the following music video with all of us! She wrote the song Living Dying Man for her friend Jamie Showkeir as he faced the end of his life from ALS. Learn more at Barbara’s website: http://barbaramcafee.com
I hope you enjoy listening! Thank you Barbara for sharing with us!
In this interview yoga teacher Paul Denniston will discuss:
- his use of yoga as therapy for grief
- how various types of yoga can help release grief that has been stored in the physical body
- tips and strategies for moving through grief
- why laughter yoga is especially healing.
Paul Denniston teaches Grief Yoga to bereavement groups in one of the largest hospices in Los Angeles, and has taught for several years at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. He offers techniques and exercises to therapists, counselors and health care professionals in the United States, England and Australia. Paul has studied with some of the world’s leaders in grief work, including David Kessler, William Worden and Elisabeth Kubler Ross.
Tune in every Monday for a new episode! If you enjoy this podcast please consider leaving a review on iTunes – it will be greatly appreciated!
Until we meet again remember …
Learn why you should write your story and Joanna’s tips for getting it done and out to the world.
In this episode I interview Joanna Penn, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fiction and non-fiction, about why and how we should each feel empowered to tell our own stories, even when they focus on difficult subjects like death and dying. Joanna’s website TheCreativePenn.com is regularly voted one of the top 10 sites for writers and self-publishers.
I’ve recently returned from my amazing month-long trip to Italy and have so many great photos and stories to share with you!
Check out my Instagram feed to see lots of photos from our journey and soon I will begin posting stories on my blog at www.eoluniversityblog.com where you can read about some of our adventures. The purpose of this trip was to gather information for my next book: A Grief Pilgrimage Through Italy. Stay tuned for more information!
I’ve created a workshop on “Resilience for Death-Care Workers,” which I just presented to the entire field staff of Denver Hospice. It was a profound experience to talk about the mindset and self-care practices that help us avoid burnout in our work. If you are interested in learning more about this workshop contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or use the form below:
This podcast is generously supported through your donations at Patreon.com/eolu. When you contribute just $1 or $2 per month it not only helps defray the costs of creating this podcast but it also lets me know that you appreciate this content and would like to see and hear more! A huge THANK YOU to all of you who have been supporting the podcast for the past year! Go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more.
Joanna Penn writes thrillers under the name J.F. Penn and she also writes inspirational non-fiction for authors. She is an award-winning creative entrepreneur and international professional speaker who talks with us today about how to write the stories that we are carrying inside of us so that we can help others with our words.
If you have been wanting to write a book (as most Americans say they want to do) then this interview will help you get started – especially if you want to write about the difficult subjects of death, dying and grief.
In this interview we’ll talk about:
- How writing our stories can change us
- How to overcome self-doubt as a writer
- How to actually finish what you’ve started
- How to handle the vulnerability that comes with telling your own story
- How to get started writing your book
Joanna is an excellent resource for information on writing and self-publishing which she shares through her blogs, podcasts, books, and courses. Check out her website TheCreativePenn.com to learn more and connect with Joanna.
Remember there will be a new episode every Monday! If you enjoy this podcast please consider leaving a review on iTunes – I would greatly appreciate it!
Until next week….
Would you like to bring your community together to talk about death? Here’s how …
In this episode we will deconstruct a large-scale death-positive community event and share with you the lessons learned from that experience with guest Holly Pruett, founder of Death OK: Let’s Talk About It. The goal of this discussion is to inspire others to create events in their own communities. Below you’ll find some previous podcasts with helpful resources.
- Episode 28: Action Steps for Improving EOL in Your Community
- Episode 32: How to Plan an EOL Event
- Episode 29: How to Start a Death Cafe
- Episode 33: How to Create an EOL Book Club
- Episode 52: How to Start an EOL Film Series
This podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series are supported by the generous contributions of listeners through the EOLU donation page at Patreon.com/eolu. To thank you for your donation I will mention your name on a future podcast episode and promote your EOL-related website, business, organization, book or cause! Go to Patreon.com/eolu to learn more and contribute $1 or $2 per month!
In the news:
- The staff in the ICU at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario have been connecting with patients and their loved ones by creating “word clouds” for each patient, using the patient’s name plus adjectives and phrases suggested by loved ones and staff members (see the example of a word cloud in this photo.) Healthcare staff say the word clouds help remind them of the humanity of each patient, allow them to get to know the patient better, and stimulate story-telling about the patient. Families often take the word clouds home with them to help with their grieving process. (Make you own word clouds at www.wordle.com)
- A mobile palliative care team has been providing care to terminally ill homeless people on the streets of Seattle. The team receives referrals from shelters and drop-in clinics then tracks down the patients, evaluates them, and gets them connected to appropriate care. The program is similar to the PEACH (Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless) Program in Toronto. Results of the pilot project show that hospitals stays for the homeless patients have been reduced by 25% and ER visits by 50%.
Interview with Holly Pruett:
Holly Pruett is a Life-Cycle Celebrant, Home Funeral Guide, and the founder of Death OK: Let’s Talk About It, a ten-hour day of inspiration, information and connection in Portland, Oregon. She is also the founder of DeathTalkProject.com and the co-founder of PDX Death Cafe.
In this interview she breaks down Death OK and shares the process used to create this community-wide event along with the lessons learned.
This highlights include:
- Why a small team of organizers is best
- The benefits of a private, intimate venue for such an event
- The importance of sustaining volunteer commitment
- How to structure the financing for a large event
- The benefits of choosing an engaging and provocative keynote speaker
We hope you’ll be inspired to create your own community event! Find more information at www.DeathOK.com.
Be sure to sign up for End-of-Life University mailing list so you’ll receive notifications about the latest EOLU interviews other upcoming events!
Until next week:
Face Your Fears. BE Ready. Love Your Life.
In this episode Dr. Wyatt shares some ideas for helping others during this holiday season. The best antidote to despair is to care for someone else!
If you’d like to support this podcast and the End-of-Life University Interview Series you can visit our donation page at Patreon.com/eolu.
Here are some suggestions for reaching out to others in need during the holidays:
- Visit a patient in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Bring music to a nursing facility with a choir or band
- Visit an elderly neighbor in their home
- Take a meal to a shut-in
- Help elderly patients address holiday cards
- Put up holiday decorations for a frail or ill person
- Care for a pet for a hospice patient
- Shovel snow for an elderly neighbor
- Prepare a meal for a grieving family
- Read holiday stories to patients at a nursing home
- Help a hospice patient find gifts to give to loved ones
- Provide childcare for a family dealing with grief or illness
No matter how you spend the upcoming holidays (Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza), or with whom you celebrate, may you have an abundance of light and joy and love in your life. Many blessings to you and those you love!
In this episode Dr. Wyatt thanks her latest supporter on Patreon.com/eolu, Suzanne O’Brien RN, founder of Doulagivers. If you would like to help support this podcast and End-of-Life University Interview Series for the small contribution of $1 or $2 per month, go to Patreon.com/eolu and sign up to become a supporter!
In other personal news, Dr. Wyatt just reached the 50,000 word goal on her novel-writing challenge for the month of November! Stay tuned for more information on Starry Night, a novel about living and dying!
Go to DeathExpo.com if you are interested in getting the downloadable filed from Death Expo 2016. Tune in to Episode 65 to hear the highlights and take-aways from this fantastic educational event!
Next Dr. Wyatt shares the latest news and information about end-of-life issues that caught her eye during the month of November:
- Survey of seniors in the U.S. shows that 27% have done absolutely no planning or preparing for the end of life. Those least likely to have prepared correlate with the following characteristics: age between 65-74, black or Hispanic, low-income, low education level, and diagnosis of Alzheimers.
- Canadian study shows that for seniors who have completed Advance Directives, Values and Choices do not always align, showing a lack of guidance for choosing end-of-plans and confusion about basing choices on underlying values
- a paper cited in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management calls for improved consistency in honoring the EOL choices of patients in nursing homes and hospitals
- Go Wish Card Game found helpful for patients completing their advance directives; helps them identify their values and priorities
- Home-based Palliative Care shown to lower healthcare expenses in last year and 3 months of life, decrease hospital admissions and increase hospice utilizations. 87% of patients who receive palliative care at home are able to die at home, compared to only 24% of all Medicare patients who die at home
- Review of 43 palliative care clinical studies shows that palliative care improves quality of life but does not extend life
- UC Santa Cruz has started a program to pair pre-med students with hospice patients
- Study shows doctors are reluctant to discontinue routine medications that are no longer indicated for their patients at the end of life due to lack of awareness, low priority, and fear of causing patient to feel abandoned
- Colorado became 6th state in the U.S. to approved medically aided dying during the November election
- AARP and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging have a launched a campaign to identify seniors suffering with loneliness and isolation in order to connect them with community resources; 43% of seniors report loneliness which leads to medical consequences
- new movie Collateral Beauty deals with grief and death and will be released on Dec. 16th
- Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died on November 7th at the age of 82
Tune in every Monday for a new episode! Subscribe and leave reviews on iTunes by going here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/end-of-life-university/id1033282990
Until next week remember:
Face Your Fears. BE Ready. Love Your Life.
Today Dr. Karen Wyatt thanks her supporters on Patreon.com/eolu whose generous donations help keep this podcast on the air!
She talks about the Death Expo 2016 which starts this week on November 10th. You can sign up at DeathExpo.com and read about all 12 of the speaker for this FREE online event.
Next Dr. Wyatt shares some thoughts about the upcoming presidential election here in the U.S. While she doesn’t take sides or share any particular political beliefs she describes the fact that the U.S. electorate seems maximally polarized and divided over this election, with each side predicting “doomsday” if the other side wins. She goes on to say:
- the day after the election will begin a period of grief for each candidate and their “teams”: the losing candidate will grieve over all the money, time, energy and life force spent in this costly battle; the victor will hardly celebrate the win because the “prize” is to take on responsibility for re-uniting the whole and to embrace those from the opposing side who now must be governed with reason and compassion.
- the irony of this election process is that no matter how different others appear to be from us, we are actually far more alike that we are different. We are all mortals–human incarnations of Spirit–just trying to survive here on planet Earth. But each of us will ultimately die and that is our most powerful common bond. We each share mortality and an innate fear of death.
- Death is the most uniting force we have if we look at it from a higher perspective.
- Sogyal Rinpoche said, “Life is nothing but a continuing dance of birth and death, a dance of change.” Ultimately change is what we seem to be seeking through our political process: we want others to change, the government to change, the system to change–all so that we don’t have to change ourselves. But the only meaningful change is the change we create within ourselves.
- Here is a recommendation for a daily practice:
- contemplate your inner landscape and seek out the parts of you that fear change; the parts that harbor anger, hatred, negativity
- seek to understand your own pain and your wounds that cause you to react with anger and fear; journal about them and spend time contemplating them
- be aware of your behavior in relationships: what triggers your negative emotions? what causes you to lash out or shut down?
- embrace the wounded parts of yourself so that they can heal
- find the still point of equanimity within you and cultivate that; learn to operate from that place so that you can bring peace and healing to volatile situations
- No matter how different you feel you are from your neighbors, family, and Facebook friends remember that Death ultimately unites us all as one. Contemplate your own death and allow the small deaths, the thousand changes that come to you every day, to move you forward. That’s how you will help the nation and our society heal again.
Check out the book The Tao of Death which has verses to help you contemplate death every day in your practice!
Sign up for Death Expo 2016 now so you won’t miss a single interview! Tune in every Monday and until next week remember:
Face Your Fears. BE Ready. Love Your Life.
Today Dr. Karen Wyatt discusses several “Action Steps” you can take in your own community to help improve end-of-life care. Change begins with the individual and if you want to ensure that your own dying is handled with respect and dignity then you should start now to help implement change. This podcast offers tangible steps you can take–some are easy, some will require a lot more effort–to get your community talking about and making changes in how death and dying are managed. Some of the tips include:
- Starting a Death Cafe
- Creating an End-of-Life Book Club
- Presenting a film series on the end-of-life
- Volunteering for hospice
- Teaching a death and dying class
- Hosting a Death Over Dinner event
- Facilitating a 5 Wishes workshop
Get the handout for this talk at http://tinyurl.com/eolaction