March 03, 2017
"The last thing Steve Jobs said before he died was, 'Oh wow! Oh wow! Oh wow!' Thomas Jefferson’s final words were, 'It’s very beautiful over there,' and they are not alone in that people all over the world speak final words that are beautiful, mysterious, and sometimes more than a little confusing every day," says Smartt. The common theme from all of these statements seem to imply that death is indeed not the end but just a transition from one reality to another.
Collaborating with renowned author Raymond Moody, MD, who coined the term near-death experience in his book Life After Life the mid 70's, Smartt established the Final Words Project to gather detailed information about the language of those nearing death.
Inspired by her own experience with her terminally ill father in his last days, Smartt says: "Words at the Threshold is an investigation into the remarkable things people say at the end of life. Over a period of four years, I collected accounts and transcripts from health-care providers, friends, and family members of the dying who generously shared what they had witnessed. Through the Final Words Project, its website, Facebook, and email, I gathered data from across the United States and Canada while also conducting interviews in person and by phone. I gathered over fifteen hundred English utterances, which ranged from single words to complete sentences, from those who were a few hours to a few weeks from dying." These accounts form the body of this compelling book.
Words at the Threshold is truly a book for everyone as we will all face death at some point in our life as well as the possibility that we will be with a loved one as they near the end of their life. Having an understanding of the language used as one nears death fosters greater understanding, connection and the ability to be more comforting for our loved ones and those close to them.
Smartt invites those facing the death of a loved one to write down the words they hear, without editing, fear or judgement, as "jewels" often emerge that allow greater connection to our loved ones and even greater connection to Source. Just as a foreign language can sound like "nonsense" to those who don't know the language, those nearing death sometimes speak a language that seems nonsensical to us. Dr. Moody uses the term "nonsense", not in a derogatory way, but in a way that means it does not make literal sense to those who hear it. The "nonsense" Moody refers to is a language imbued with metaphors, symbolism and experiences beyond the everyday left brain language we are accustomed to.
Chapter Six, titled "Nonsense or a new Sense? Making Meaning out of Unintelligible Language at the End of Life" hones in on the range of nonsensical language often encountered with those nearing death. From linguistic and situational nonsense to nonsense that transcends our everyday experience, these types of language make more sense when viewed from a broader perspective. Moody believes that nonsensical language is used as an intermediary language between the two worlds of acquired language and a universal telepathic language that seems to exist in the afterlife as described by near-death experiencers.
Smartt relays that "zen masters use nonsense as a means of spiritual enlightenment" in the form of koans. Koans are questions "designed to move students away from understanding life only in a logical way and to connect them to something that is ineffable, not of the ordinary world as we know it. Koans invite us to enter into another way of thinking, and they seem to baffle our minds while bringing us to a greater understanding."
All of those who explore consciousness through the many methods available, such as meditation, prayer, dream work, astral travel, binaural beats and other altered states of consciousness, will recognize a familiarity between learning the language of those nearing death and their own experiences in the non-physical dreamlike states of awareness. Just as Carl Jung was required to learn a new language to understand the symbolism and meaning of his dreams and mandalas, we too will see the familiarity of this language of metaphors, symbols, and perception that differs from how we normally perceive with our five senses. Not only is Words at the Threshold a must read for hospice workers, those nearing death or those with loved ones nearing death, but also for those who seek to understand and perceive the many realms of existence beyond the physical.
Get your copy of this fascinating book here:
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January 17, 2023
Cultivating mindfulness is the key to overcoming suffering and recognizing natural wisdom: both our own and others'. How do we go about it?
In the Buddhist tradition and in Contemplative Psychotherapy training, we nurture mindfulness through the practice of sitting meditation. There are many different kinds of meditation. For example, some are designed to help us relax; others are meant to produce altered states of consciousness.
Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.
Mindfulness, paying precise, nonjudgmental attention to the details of our experience as it arises and subsides, doesn't reject anything. Instead of struggling to get away from experiences we find difficult, we practice being able to be with them. Equally, we bring mindfulness to pleasant experiences as well. Perhaps surprisingly, many times we have a hard time staying simply present with happiness. We turn it into something more familiar, like worrying that it won't last or trying to keep it from fading away.
When we are mindful, we show up for our lives; we don't miss them in being distracted or in wishing for things to be different. Instead, if something needs to be changed we are present enough to understand what needs to be done. Being mindful is not a substitute for actually participating in our lives and taking care of our own and others' needs. In fact, the more mindful we are, the more skillful we can be in compassionate action.
December 19, 2022
It's easy to lose sight of the beauty of the world in the midst of tragedy, political upheaval, injustice and suffering. While we continue with our practice, working to ease the suffering of others and living a life of compassion and Love, we also need to be mindful and grateful for the beauty of the world that still surrounds us when we choose Love. Like Pops says, "Love baby. Love. That's the secret."
"What a Wonderful World" [1970 Spoken Introduction Version] along with Oliver Nelson's Orchestra is a song written by Bob Thiele (as George Douglas) and George David Weiss. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released as a single in 1968. Thiele and Weiss were both prominent in the music world (Thiele as a producer and Weiss as a composer/performer). Armstrong's recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Intended as an antidote for the increasingly racially and politically charged climate of everyday life in the United States, the song also has a hopeful, optimistic tone with regard to the future, with reference to babies being born into the world and having much to look forward to.
November 04, 2022