Have you noticed how much change is going on these days? We are moving through a huge shift in consciousness, and people are feeling the effects. It is as if the whole world is “on hospice,” and many, at least here in the United States, are oblivious to the larger vision of all the changes taking place. This is sometimes causing great confusion and unnecessary depression, sorrow, and grief.
The following are some timeless reflections that have come out of my work with hospice. I believe that they may be helpful to us as we face the ravages of a dying and rapidly changing culture.
I. TRUTH: The Truth Shall Set You Free
The truth is that one day, we will all die. Once we are born into this blessed Earth, we are on some level getting ready to return to the Spirit world. The Tibetan Buddhists say that all of life, especially all the changes and “letting go’s” we have to go through in our lives, are preparation for the Great Letting Go at the very end of our lives.
It is also true that the time of our death need not be a scary time. Rather, if we are mindful and prepare for it in a good way, death can be a joy-filled time of looking forward to our “graduation” from this earthly life to the next adventure of life.
I. BEAUTY: The Divine Presence in All Living Things
Where do you find beauty? I find it most often in nature, in my daughter, and in the best of humanity. I love to gaze into my cat Midnight’s mysterious eyes, wondering what her soul looks like, and what she’s seeing through my eyes.
I have learned that everything is about energy. Every living thing on the planet vibrates to a certain vibration, based on the energy it “sings” to. Like attracts like, and we are drawn to people and places whose energy is similar to ours. At the core of each one of us is the spiritual, the divine presence of who we are. Most of the time we may not be aware of our divinity which lies within, but there is no mistaking our connection to the divine. This is why a world peace organization in Japan uses the mottos: “I am a divine being,” “You are a divine being,” and “Humanity is divine.” The more we become aware of this divinity within and live it, express it in our lives, the higher our vibration becomes. Through this growing awareness of the divine, we also become aware of how we are connected to every other living being.
III. LOVE: The Only Real Power
Have you ever imagined life on Earth without love? Love is so synonymous with life that it is difficult to imagine life without it. Talking with people and families on hospice, I have learned a new appreciation for an open heart. When our hearts are open to the love that is available to us every moment, it is so much easier to face the challenges as well as the joys of life.
Love connects us with joy. As I write this, I am synchronisticly seeing a hummingbird – a symbol for joy – out of my window! What love and joy the beauty of the Earth continuously shines to us; what open hearts our children share with us. My prayer for all of us is that we learn how to open our hearts wider and wider to all the love that is available to us. This way we can move more fully to embrace the whole experience of life which is awaiting us with open arms.
IV. JOY: The Source of Life
Recently, I spent a day in the presence of a woman who expressed tremendous joy. This experience created in me a feeling of great uplift; the joy was definitely contagious. In fact, four days later, I’m still able to tap into the experience and delight of that day.
Joy, along with love, is our birthright as human beings. Many children, especially those who have grown up in a loving environment, exude great joy. They also naturally spread this joy around. I bet that you’ve experiences what I’m talking about: You have probably found yourself gazing at an infant or enjoying watching children at play or talking animatedly to a parent or loved one. We all understand the beauty and value of joy on some level, and we yearn to have more of it in our lives.
Two ways we can express more joy are through humor and thanksgiving. Wonder also brings with it a sense of joy. I have also heard it said that the fastest two ways out of fear is being grateful and being creative. What do you do in your life to sustain joy? Or how might you change your life so as to create more joy?
V. TRUST: Healing into Wholeness
Why is it so difficult for us humans to trust the unknown? When we go through an expansion period in our lives, dying to the old is inevitably part of the process; and being able to trust the unknown (future) is key.
I am observing my own teenage daughter deal with this exact issue these days. One of the things that is helping her is prayer and connecting with the divine – connecting with her imagination, I might add. She is also a writer, and the more she feels the flow of ideas and inspiration “from the Other Side,” the more things get easier for her. If you are experiencing a faith challenge or crisis at this time, I would invite you to do whatever “floats your boat” or whatever expands your sense of imagination. These creative and joyful endeavors will more deeply connect you to the divine. They will probably also help you connect with your innate intuitive guidance. Now, all you need do is follow the guidance … (Make certain that you do not talk yourself out of it!)
VI. REFLECT: Dealing with Unfinished Business Is Our Hope for the Future
Most of us are carrying around much more unfinished business than we are aware of or than is good for us. If not personal unresolved grief and pain, there is the collective business of wars fought, abuse and torture perpetrated, and other challenges we would rather not think about.
Having walked through hospice with many people and their families, I am convinced that the more we can deal with our unfinished business now, rather than later, the better. When our slate is clearer, we can think and be and act much more clearly – out of our true nature. How much happier we could all be if we were not carrying around the heavy burdens we get so used to carrying. How might you lighten your load today? What forgiveness might you offer, to yourself, or to another? What judgment might you release? I invite you not to wait until you are on your “death bed” to begin to deal with your unfinished business. Life Is Good, and gets lighter and better when we carry around less baggage.
VII. AWARENESS: Cultivating a Higher Vibration
A very simple way that we can be more mindful in our daily living is to breathe more deeply and pay more attention to the details of what is going on around us. Life is simply a series of moments we are experiencing moment to moment, and we can treasure each moment we have. As we breathe deeply and tune in to the beauty and love around us all the time, we can learn to appreciate the fullness of each and every moment. You might even want to delve into learning or practicing some kind of meditation. (Ken Wilder, the prolific philosopher of our times has said that people who meditate for several years can raise their consciousness a couple of notches just through their practice.)
VIII. HOPE: Reflections on the Afterlife and Understanding the Interconnectedness of All
Without hope, without a vision for the future, we cannot live. One of the things that has given me the most hope from my hospice work is the clear vision that there is an afterlife. I believed this even before I started doing hospice work, but now I have personal and profound evidence that there is so much more than meets the eye in this world. And without a doubt, I am convinced that there is a life after this one. In fact, death is only a turning of the page at the end of a chapter in life!
IX. SPIRITUAL PATH: Receiving Strength from Our Faith Traditions
Living life with out a spiritual path can be hazardous to your health. Although I have come to honor many spiritual and religious paths while working with hospice, I also see the value in having ones own path and practice to follow. People who are faced with death and do not have a spiritual direction are often caught off guard. They wish that they had taken a look at their spiritual lives sooner. They ask me as spiritual counselor, How can I develop my spiritual life now?
It is virtually impossible to develop a spiritual life overnight. Ones spiritual life takes time and energy to develop, usually over the course of a lifetime. So, I invite you to begin looking into spiritual matters today or tomorrow, not next year, or the next time you become very ill. That may be the exact time you will need to have the foundation you have time to build now. So no matter how small and insignificant, I invite you to follow the nudge of Spirit in your life. Read that book you’ve been meaning to read, or visit that church, mosque, synagogue, or community of faith you’ve been meaning to visit. Have that conversation with the Divine that you’ve been yearning to have. You’ll be surprised at the doors that will begin to open!
X. GRACE: The Transforming Power of Grief
Hospice has taught me that the more I can become aware of my grief, then express and release it, the more whole and joyful I become. Also, by expressing my grief as it comes up, I can live in the present moment. I have also learned the value of tears. When we have a good cry, we feel so much better, so healed. Therefore, as difficult as it is to honor grief in our society, I want to invite you to honor it and invite it in to your life. It is there as a gift for you to grow and learn from. As you move through your grief in creative ways, you will find that it will guide you and strengthen you all the way. After all, as Ram Dass once said, it’s all about “compassion training”.
XI. RESOURCES for Healing and Further Inquiry
We are so blessed in our abundant and varied society here in the U.S. There are numerous resources we can turn to when we are faced with a mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual crisis. Thanks to the coming together of East and West, besides the gifts of western medicine, we have the gifts of eastern medicine and the “ancient” modalities of healing that are re-emerging on the planet. Many of these gifts are tools for relaxation, to help us breathe more deeply so that we can face and work through the things we need to face and work through. As a hospice worker, I came across numerous modalities of healing and relaxation that people were using to help themselves and their families cope. Through my own journey of healing I have come across even more tools for healing and relaxation.
For more information on all of the above, I invite you to visit my website: www.thelastadventureoflife.com, where I share much more around a book I have compiled to help people go deeper into the spiritual life.
The Rev. Maria “Dancing Heart” Hoaglund has been doing some kind of spiritual work for most of her life, with the foundation of a cross-cultural perspective because of her birth and upbringing in Japan . After graduating from Yale, Maria attended the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley and the Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago . For ten years, Maria served as a parish minister with the U.C.C. Church in Hawaii and the Great Northwest. She then transitioned into hospice ministry twelve years ago. Dancing Heart self-published her first book, The Last Adventure of Life: Sacred Resources for Transition, in July of 2005. Through her various work and interests, Maria has become knowledgeable in many “alternative” healing and spiritual practices, and she incorporates these in her practice. She is recognized as a broad-based spiritual and bereavement counselor, bridging traditional religion with the new spirituality being birthed around the world.