✨“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” ✨
-Dumbledore, Harry Potter & the Sorceror’s Stone
November Tidings Friends!
So…last summer I attended my own funeral.
More on that later.
But ever since then, I’ve thought – we should talk more about death.
I mean, we’re all afraid of it on one level or another, right?
We may share the more lighthearted sentiment of Groucho Marx on trying to simply avoid death:
“I intend to live forever, or die trying.”
Or perhaps we fully resonate with the darker feelings shared by Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace:
“Everything ends in death, everything. Death is terrible.”
But what if it wasn’t terrible, what if it wasn’t the absolute worst-case scenario that we spend our whole lives fearfully trying to avoid?
Wouldn’t it feel better to talk about why we fear it, learn that maybe we have less to fear than we thought, and face the fear head on – rather than let it endlessly control us in the background?
There’s a book I’ve referenced quite a few times recently called Dying to Be Me, about author Anita Moorjani’s near-death experience where she temporarily dies and returns.
Of her brush with death she says:
“…I was no longer afraid of anything. I didn’t fear illness, aging, death, loss of money, or anything. When death holds no horror, there isn’t much else left to be afraid of because it’s always considered the worst-case scenario. And if the worst doesn’t faze you, then what else is left?”
Maybe we should trust – at least listen to! – the people who have actually been there, actually tasted death and returned to say – you know what? It’s not that bad. In fact, it felt pretty amazing.
Because what are the rest of us even basing it on? Really nothing.
And yet, because there’s such a stigma around actually speaking about death – unless you’re actually at a funeral, and even then we try to avoid it – I’ve held off.
But I knew that there isn’t any better time to discuss such dark topics than right now, in the middle of Autumn, the season that flaunts death right in our faces whether we like to think about it or not as we’re deliciously crunching on all those dead leaves.
Or watching snow fall on top of dead leaves if you’re in Minnesota where the weather just had a massive shift over the last few days.
And – while we’re still in Scorpio season, the sign with the reputation for all things dark or taboo.
I planned it carefully – I happy bombed you last month with a newsletter all about the joyful practice of PLAY (read it here if you haven’t already OR listen via the podcast links at the end of this newsletter). I wanted to butter you up with something that just makes ya feel good.
So that this month I could carefully bomb you with the topic of death, and hopefully not lose you right away. You’re welcome.
And, instead of sending it next week, just days before you have to, you know, see people and act cheerful at Thanksgiving – I gave you a whole week before then to really mull it over.
But honestly, I’m just being silly and overly dramatic for you – although all my planned efforts above are completely serious – because my point is actually quite the opposite.
It’s not that a topic like death needs to be a bummer.
It actually can help us to feel better about life – if we just allow ourselves to remove the topic from the darkness where it’s been festering and decaying, and bring it out into the light.
And by the end of this article, you’ll have 10 practices to work with – and make peace with – the elements of death and letting go in your own life.
But before we even get into talking about death, maybe we should allow ourselves to feel about it first.
As the wise Dumbledore reminds us, “death is but the next great adventure.”
So I bring you a Moondance Musical Adventure, or whatever you’d like to call it – a carefully curated list of songs to help you get in touch with this month’s theme: death and letting go.
A big thanks to the hubs who is a walking encyclopedia of musical knowledge who curated this list for us! All I did was some light organizing to enhance the storytelling feel of the adventure. As you learned last month, I like to organize lists.
If you’re like the hubs, you might enjoy listening to this list WHILE you continue on reading – he finds it enhances the experience. If you’re like me, you might find you literally cannot read and listen to music at the same time, so you might enjoy doing one first and then the other to enhance YOUR experience.
Whatever method you choose, may you enjoy the adventure!
“Given the emotionally charged nature of music, it can be an incredibly effective way to express ourselves and cope with challenging life circumstances—because sometimes, life is really hard. Really, really hard.” -Psychology Today article
Exactly, Psychology Today, exactly . Sometimes life IS hard.
So may this musical playlist serve as a comforting friend for the hard times.
On Death, Autumn & Letting Go🎶💀🍁
1. Let Go – Frou Frou
2. Peer Pressure – from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Jon Brion
3. Oblivion – M83, Susanne Sundfor
4. Campfire Kansas – The Get Up Kids
5. Digital Sea – Thrice
6. What a Heavenly Way to Die – Troy Sivan
7. Dark Side of Me – Coheed and Cambria
8. Twenty-Three – Faunts
Working with Death: On 3 Levels✨
When we think about the idea of death, I want us to think of it in relation to three different levels:
1. Letting Go – the practice of “little deaths” as in releasing the old that no longer serves us, in order to create the space for new growth and magic in our lives.
This might occur every day, once a month, every year – this is the part of letting go that we *can* control, and we’ll feel better once we make a conscious practice out of it!
2. Autumn – the yearly season of dying and letting go within the greater ongoing natural cycles of nature.
We can’t control death at this level, but for the most part aside from some grumbles about the cold, we seem to make peace with it – and can engage in some super helpful practices for letting go on a deep emotional level gleaned from the wisdom of this season!
3. Death – what we see as the final stop, but is really just one stop on the wheel of life within the Great Cycle of life and death.
We can’t control this, but we desperately want to. By working with the practices below, we can engage with this level of death that scares us the most, and learn to make peace with it!
Level 1 – Letting Go
Death on this level takes on many forms. It is the idea of shedding, releasing, letting go of what no longer serves us.
As the wise Lao Tzu has said: “To attain knowledge, add things everyday; to attain wisdom, remove things everyday.”
This removing may be in the form of people, places, things. It may be giving less of our energy to draining relationships, friendships, jobs. Or removing stuff lying around our house that we no longer use.
It may be shedding limiting beliefs, old behavioral patterns, outgrown values.
It may be releasing our attachment to certain roles we have outgrown, or labels that keep us feeling small.
It may be letting go of what other people think, in order to better access our own inner wisdom. Or letting go of doing things that feel like they are killing our soul – even if it goes against societal ideas of what we ‘should’ be doing.
No matter what form it takes, a “little death” at this level is always in service to the greater idea of making space for that which does serve us. That which lights us up, and allows us to grow and shine.
And “little” though they may be in comparison to the greater death we go through at the end of our time, a death at this level is by no means inconsequential or even easy.
But the most tangible, perhaps simplest entry point to letting go on this level is at the level of our things.
We live in a world where we’re made to feel that we always need more in order to feel whole – more information, more friends, more followers, more beautiful things to fill our homes with.
But we’re not taught the importance of letting go of the old.
I’m at a place personally where my closets are completely full and I’m always running out of hangers. My basement is cluttered to the brim with the same ridiculous piles of ‘things to go through later’ from four years ago when we first moved in.
And while I do love to pretend I’m Ariel from The Little Mermaid in my office singing in my cave of wonders, “look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you say my collection’s complete?” I have enough tiny treasures to fill every surface.
There’s nothing wrong with having things, let’s be clear. But how do the things make you feel?
There can be a correlation to how we feel on an emotional level and the condition of our physical space.
It’s hard to say what comes first. Do we feel chaotic in our lives and that’s why there’s stuff strewn about in total disarray? Or does the disarray make us feel emotionally chaotic?
Do we feel stuck or stagnant in our lives and therefore lack the motivation to clear out our overflowing closets? Or do our stuffed closets make us feel stuck and stagnant every time we look at them?
For me there was an a-ha about this sort of connection when my shamanic teacher mentioned a correlation between the levels of our house and the levels of our consciousness.
For example, the basement can be linked to the subconscious as well as to emotional baggage in the past. In real life, the hubs and I keep trying to get a fresh start on our relationship dynamics and yet the ghosts of our past continue to plague us. At the same time, “clean out basement” has been a running to-do list item for the last four years.
Is there any correlation?
Can the question of, how do we clean out our emotional baggage from the past become – at least partially – a matter of cleaning out all the junk sitting around in our basement?
What is the room or area of the house for you where stuff tends to endlessly accumulate? How does it make you feel when you look at it? What if you could let go of that feeling by letting go of some of that stuff?
It’s not a silver bullet – we’re not going to solve all our problems simply by cleaning our houses. But we do have an effect on our surroundings, and our surroundings do have an affect on us.
So you can expect a shift on some level.
And as we remove the stuff that surrounds us, and remove some of the emotional stagnancy and baggage connected to that, we can start to access deeper and deeper levels of letting go.
✨Personal Practices for Letting Go + Shedding the Old✨
1. Clear Physical Clutter – to shift how we feel on an emotional level. From physical clutter and emotional stagnancy – to physical space and emotional freedom. Read above for more examples.
2. Shed Soul-Killing Practices – run a soul check-in, ask yourself: Does this thing/role/belief/practice/
Decide if it’s time to completely let go of that soul-killing practice, of if you can at least start putting less of your energy into it, or change your relationship to it.
This frees up space for those practices that make your soul come alive!
3. Let Go of What Other People Think – to make space to care about what YOU think, feel, intuit, and know. For us chronic people-pleasers this is a hard one, but it’s SO important.
You may feel like you’re dying if you’re not getting the approval you crave, but you’re actually killing your soul a little bit every time you go against what YOU feel, intuit and know to be true for yourself.
4. Release Attachment to our Roles/Labels – to make space to be your true self. It’s easy to place ourselves into comfortable roles – mother, father, daughter, sister, teacher, accountant, manager, healer, coach. We also place ourselves into disempowering roles – perfectionist, people-pleaser, anxious, depressed, sick. In actuality, NONE of these roles are who we are.
If we get too used to being the sick person, what happens when we get healthy? Who are we now? What are we supposed to be doing? What happens when we’re the mother and our children go off to college leaving us in our empty nest? Who are we now? What are we supposed to be doing? My shamanic teacher Amy says she doesn’t introduce herself as, Hi I’m Amy and I’m a teacher, healer, and shaman – she just says Hi, I’m Amy.
So – hold all of your roles and labels gently off to the side as something you can step into and out of fluidly as needed – and instead step fully into being YOU, in all of your glory, with all of your flaws and perfect imperfections, with all of your many facets and talents, with everything that you’re working on and everything that you already are. And let’s try this: Hi, I’m Angela. Who are you?
[**Working with Soul Purpose Archetypes can be a great way to address your relationship to your labels/roles and define those that are keeping you stuck or small and are ready to be shed – reach out for more info or to set up a session!]
Level 2 – Autumn
“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to.” –Tao te Ching chapter 74 (Stephen Mitchell translation)
Death on this level is our yearly reminder that all things change – and are meant to.
It’s our reminder that in the cycle of life there is always death, and through death new life is brought forth.
As we watch the leaves fall from the trees, we can find comfort in knowing that we don’t actually have to try so hard to control everything, because it is all flowing along in grander cycles according to a plan larger than us.
It’s a good time to take a seasonal inventory of your life in order to complete a series of “little deaths” in your own life as outlined in all the suggested practices above.
Because although it can be helpful to always carry a spirit of letting go with us throughout the year, I find that Autumn and Scorpio season bring it to a whole new level of depth.
There’s something about this time of year that always seems to pull the skeletons out of the closet, seems to dredge up the darkness hiding out in our shadows.
How have your last few weeks been?? Is it just me?
And we can either resist it, keeping its power over us, allowing this old programming to run our lives unconsciously…or we can work with it, bring it out into the light.
Even though it can be painful and uncomfortable to do so, it’s the only way we can transform it into more wholeness, or release it to free up more space for living as our true authentic selves.
In Chinese Medicine, Autumn is also associated with the organs of the Lungs and the Large Intestine.
The Large Intestine is a major organ of elimination, clearing out the waste products that no longer serve us.
The Lungs draw in the pure, the new, the very breath that replenishes and cleanses us.
These two work together energetically, in harmony – to clear out the old, and welcome in the new.
When our Large Intestine energy is balanced, we may enjoy smooth and effortless digestion, organized thinking and ease in decision making, as well as a sense of flow in life especially in relation to money and relationships.
But when out of balance, we may experience digestive ailments, skin issues, sore throats and stuffed sinuses, toothaches, or chronic pain in the arm and shoulder.
We may find we have cloudy thinking and impaired decision making. We may feel stubborn, angry or resentful in relationships. And instead of a healthy sense of flow and letting go, we may discover we are hoarding resources or holding in emotions like grief.
While an imbalance of blocked or stagnant energy in the Large Intestine energy channel can be an underlying factor in the ailments listed above; keep in mind that living our lives in this way in an extended manner – experiencing ongoing anger or resentment in relationships, or holding in deep emotions like grief – can also be the contributing factor to creating an imbalance in Large Intestine energy, which can lead to the ailments listed above.
It’s a circle, and the influence can go both ways, keeping us locked in these unhealthy patterns.
Whether we find ourselves experiencing any of the ailments listed above and desperately want to break the cycle, or we just want to support our overall health and wellbeing at this time of year – an excellent practice that builds on the wisdom of Autumn is the practice of deeply letting go.
We see the trees do it every year, in order to be birthed anew in the spring – and we can too.
✨Autumn Inspired Practices for Deep Emotional Cleansing✨
5. Address Anger & Resentment in Relationships – to remove the strain on our Large Intestine chi (energy). Easier said than done, but the first step is awareness. If you’re not allowing yourself to be aware of the anger and resentment, then you’re giving your power away to it and letting it control you.
There’s a social stigma around experiencing anger, especially for women, and also a certain level of resentment that seems socially acceptable in relationships. But know that it’s more than ok to feel anger (how you express it is another issue, but the feeling of anger is completely natural) and while it might be common to feel resentment, it isn’t necessary, can be healed, and is only hurting you in the meantime.
Be kind to yourself by noticing if these feelings are present and deciding you want to do something about it. Oftentimes anger and resentment are present because there’s a need going unmet – what need is going unmet for you?
6. Allow Grief to Flow – to remove the strain on our Large Intestine & Lung chi. So often we keep grief locked away, wreaking havoc on our bodies.
Find a safe space, maybe alone or with a trusted companion or journal, and allow the tears/anger/grief/sadness to flow. Know that this is one of the most natural, healing, and cleansing things you can do for yourself physically, emotionally, and energetically.
[**Shamanic Energy Clearing and Spiritual Life & Wellness Coaching can assist with moving blocked emotions like anger, resentment & grief if you’re finding it hard to move this energy on your own. Reach out to learn more or set up a session.]
BONUS – while working on emotional releasing at this very deep level, know that the practice of Yin Yoga can also be especially supportive because of it’s ability to balance our energy channels. So you can support your Large Intestine and Lung energy at the same time that you’re doing the work above to decrease the negative strain on them. Currently Yin Yoga can be integrated into a 1-on-1 coaching program.
Level 3 – Death
As I mentioned earlier, last summer I attended my own funeral.
That may sound funny, seeing as how I am still alive and well – but it was quite an eye-opening practice.
You may be thinking of that Friends episode where Ross throws himself a funeral just to see if anybody really cares, and is so pleased by the nice things that people are saying about him that he jumps out from his hiding spot in the corner, sure that everyone will be delighted. The surprise doesn’t go over so well.
So don’t go about it that way – we shouldn’t have to actually fake our own deaths just to hear the nice things people have to say about us!
My “funeral” was part of the shamanic training program that I went through. It was our first week where I barely knew these people who were now standing huddled around my body lying on a massage table where I was doing my best version of playing dead.
Someone had just read the eulogy I’d written for the occasion, and now everyone was taking a turn remembering a funny or heartwarming memory from the last three days or saying what they liked or admired about me.
It was actually quite lovely and I barely knew these people. Imagine doing this with those you’ve known your whole life! If you’re looking to shake up your family Thanksgiving ritual of going around the table and saying what you’re grateful for…have each person play dead while the rest shower them with nice things. I’m kidding, but also not kidding.
Consider some version of it! Don’t save all the nice things to say about each other for after that person is gone. Consider what you could share with them now, while they’re still here.
About a year later back at my shamanic training, I found myself once again lying on a massage table playing dead. This time I wasn’t dead yet, but practicing those moments on our deathbed just before we cross over.
The most impactful part of this experience was the deathbed convos I had with individuals playing my family members, as well as playing other people’s family members and having tearful convos with the almost departed.
Just like we tend to save all the great things we have to say about people until after they’re gone, what else do we tend to save for the end of our lives?
All the hard things we want to say, the repairs and the amends. It’s actually lucky if we even do get the chance to make these repairs and amends on our deathbed, because it’s just as likely we could pass unexpectedly.
But just like we don’t have to save all the nice things we have to say, we also don’t have to save all the hard things we want to say.
We can choose right now to make the repairs and the amends – either with the person, written to the person, or written into our journal if that person isn’t alive anymore or if it would be unwise or unsafe to reconnect with them.
Having unfinished business can keep our soul tethered to this realm after we cross over. If you can finish that business now, you can free your soul to be fully released to the light on the other side.
This is letting go on a whole other level.
These aren’t easy things, because saying the nice things and saying the hard things can feel extremely vulnerable – but they are do-able things.
And it’s nice to know we have those options to make peace with these practices now, instead of having to wait for the surprise of death to determine when we do them.
“Our true nature does not fear death. Our conditioned mind creates this fear in a futile attempt to control events and keep people in line.” –Tao te Ching chapter 74 (William Martin translation)
✨Conscious Practices to Engage w/the Great Cycle of Life & Death✨
7. Write Your Eulogy – writing it as though you died today, what would it say? What character traits would it include? What great accomplishments? What challenges or hardships that you persevered through? What funny or touching stories? Then reflect: are you satisfied with how your life has gone? Do you have any regrets? Is something missing? Allow that to inspire you on your path as you take your next steps.
Knowing that you (likely) aren’t dying today as you write your eulogy, take comfort in knowing that you still have time to influence your course of events. What is still inside you that aches to come out? What creations, what achievements, what steps of personal growth?
Begin taking steps to let this out!
The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
8. Share the Nice Things w/Others – instead of saving it for after they are gone. Read about it above, a new Thanksgiving practice perhaps? 🙂
9. Life Review & Deathbed Convos – review your life from the moment you were born up until this very moment. Usually we see our life from the perspective of how everything has made us feel; but review your life from the perspective of everyone you may have negatively affected.
Then make the repairs and amends now, either in person, in writing to the person, with a trusted companion willing to listen and witness without judgment, or in your journal between you and your soul.
10.Create an Altar – for those loved ones that have already passed. This might include photos, objects that remind you of that person, sacred items like healing stones, anything that feels special and right. Talk to your loved ones that have passed – out loud, in your journal, to your altar, in your mind while you’re trying to fall asleep. According to Anita Moorjani and her experience of being dead, they can still hear you – and keep your connection alive.
BONUS – Read about near-death experiences (NDEs). Suggestion: Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing by Anita Moorjani. Expose yourself to the possibilities of life after death.
BONUS – Listen to the Death, Autumn & Letting Go playlist to allow yourself to process this topic on a level that’s even deeper than the mind.
Even Death Cannot Disturb Us
Chapter 50 Tao Te Ching
Life and death are inseparable.
One is form and the other is formless.
Each gives way to the other.
One third of people concentrate on life
and ignore death.
One third obsess over death
and ignore life.
One third don’t think of either
and just pass on through.
Each clings to conditioned ideas.
Walking this path
we become skillful
at living without suffering.
Life and death have become the same;
therefore even death cannot disturb us.
Happy November & Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
From the deep work of emotional healing to the practical work of cleaning out your home…from shedding the behaviors that no longer serve you, to reflecting on your life up to this point –
May you experiment with any of the 10 practices listed above and in so doing, find some peace with the circle of life & death.