Living Life Backwards or dying before you die

Looking back on the journey of life while still travelling forward.

This life review influenced my Advanced Care Directive.

My quest has been to arrive at my end of life destination (death) with as little baggage as possible and with a sense of meaning and connectedness to where the eternal part of me (soul) came from.

Looking back the following images are the basis for who I am today. The body can live without food easier than the soul can live without meaning – Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5

A little kitten gave the 3 year old me my life direction and led me to work with those who were dying and grieving for 3 decades. My father used drowning as a method of kitten control on the farm and as a three year old I would follow mummy cat as she cried and searched for her kittens.  My little heart was made aware of the needs of those who were grieving at this early age.

My inner life has become my home

  • Creating emptiness (in meditation) allows one to drop life’s baggage 
  • ‘Christ’ is the name for the very shape and meaning of the universe
  • The more I study Science, the more I see GOD! —Albert Einstein
  • Walking in nature I find healing – observing plants and trees grow flower and die
  • Watching the different moods of the sea
  • Feelings the strength of mountains

Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross taught me about  balance in all areas of my life

Maslow’s Triangle of Needs reminded me of the soul's need for beauty and truth.

Finding meaning – The Desire to Know

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              Elisabeth Kubler-Ross writing to 9 year old Dougy

 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross writing to 9 year old Dougy

“When we have done all the work we were sent to earth to do – we are allowed to shed our body – which imprisons our soul like a cocoon encloses the future butterfly…”

Self Actualisation—reaching one’s potential

“Real guilt or emotional and spiritual pain comes from a person’s failure to live up to his or her own potential”  —Maslow

  •  How well did I try?
  • How well did I accept change?
  • What life purpose was pursued?
  • Was the career choice the right one?
  • What principles (moral compass) were upheld?
  • How well did my personality serve the soul’s needs? 

Erikson’s Final Stage of Development in the Eight Stages of Man is Maturity

This is a time to be through having been and to face not being.
The ideal is to experience a sense of accomplishment, pride in one’s efforts, being useful, involved, optimistic, at home with self and the cosmos and able to go alone.
The opposite to these feelings include disgust, despair, hopelessness, having nothing to strive for, being bitter about perceived losses, pessimistic about most of life’s circumstances, unwilling to acknowledge and accept reality or limits, sensing meaningless and self-rejection.
“When parents have the courage to die – children will have the courage to live” –Erikson

Confucius (6th-5th) century BCE

Death and life, duration and destruction,
misery and glory, poverty and wealth,
wisdom and ignorance, blame and praise,
hunger and thirst, heat and cold,
these are the alternating troubles that make up Destiny.
Those who do not let themselves be affected by these events
keep their soul intact.

Jean Houston introduced me to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin —visionary theologian and scientist

We are not human beings
having a spiritual experience
We are spiritual beings
having a human experience.

From Carl Jung - Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist

When I die, my deeds will follow along with me – 
that is how I imagine it.  I will bring with me what I have done. 
In the meantime it is important to ensure that
I do not stand at the end with empty hands.

What is soul?

“The soul is your innermost being. 
The presence that you are beyond form.
The consciousness that you are beyond form, that is the soul. 
That is who you are in essence.”
Eckhart Tolle

My learnings on energy

We are a local concentration of energy within a larger field often called the Universal Energy Field
When we are aware of this connectedness we achieve a sense of peace and harmony
The connectedness is felt when we are centred or in the NOW or present moment
From this consciousness we can touch others – e.g. for me the complementary therapy of Therapeutic Touch
When we image each human interaction as an energy exchange we become aware of the subtle nature of the interaction.

Exploring Soul, Personality and Reincarnation

People often see the world not as it is but how they are – the mind is like a parachute which functions best when fully open!
Esoteric Philosophy would have us believe that we have a soul and a personality for a life between lives.
The soul is the keeper of our identity and is consciousness on a journey through lifetimes.
In this philosophy there is a belief in reincarnation and the opportunity to evolve over many lifetimes.
There is always choice.

Soul is wrapped up in a symbolic language

A sign says what it is while a symbol invites us to explore depth and significance.
A picture speaks a thousand words when we relates to it with personal meaning.
“Home” resides deep within the soul – homesickness is a yearning to “go home” and to live in alignment with our true nature (soul).
Eg a billboard of a half finished apartment frequently caught the attention of a woman who felt her life was incomplete.
I feel my life is about building bridges – between the world’s wisdom traditions and between allopathic medicine and an integrated approach to health care.

On a soul’s journey

The law of karma decrees that every thought, word or action that emanates from man must produce a definite result – either good or bad – and that result must be worked out by us in our lives on the physical level.
A Soul’s Journey —Peter Richelieu

The Christian teaching has it, ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’ and ‘do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you’

For a Muslim, the object of life is to live in a way that is pleasing to Allah so that one may gain Paradise.

Death comes to the individual man, in the ordinary sense of the term, when the will-to-live in a physical body goes and the will-to-abstract takes its place. This we call death.
Alice Bailey

Ancient Egyptian Ritual

One of the roles of Anubis was as the "Guardian of the Scales." This scene depicts the weighing of the heart.
The heart, the source of good and evil, was weighed to determine the person’s worthiness to enter the land of the dead.

I share Florence Nightingale’s spiritual beliefs

Her evolutionary approach to mysticism called for human imperfection to move towards perfection and this she believed needed more than one lifetime. She did not believe in atonement or eternal damnation believing God (Universal Laws) was just and it would not be fair to damn for eternity what was done in the blink of an eye (this lifetime). She saw statistics as sacred science in which the thoughts of God could be read.

Florence Nightingale on death & beyond

“I cannot pretend to speak of death as a misfortune…Death is the arch of triumph under which the soul  passes to live again in a purer and freer atmosphere.”

Nightingale’s beliefs continued

Men and women have souls to unfold. As each individual embodies unique qualities that cannot be duplicated, it would not be consistent with God’s benevolent nature to obliterate that being.  Because it is God’s plan to raise mankind from imperfection to perfection, death must initiate a different mode of existence, one that allows for continued development.

How I think of God

Oneness (non-duality) Pure Goodness (g/od)

That which cannot be named (Tao) The Great Integrity

Universal Laws (Florence Nightingale)

Divine Love, Divine Energy – (the highest vibration of energy)

The Divine Feminine which creates and gives birth (seeds to sprout, flowers to open and fingernails to grow) expresses itself as unconditional love and compassion.

The Divine Masculine which is represented in archetypal energies that drive thoughts, emotions, desires, and behaviours culminating in one’s sense of right-relationship.

Meister Eckhart – 14th century German Philosopher, theologian and mystic

You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion.
Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us.
The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.
To be full of things is to be empty of God. To be empty of things is to be full of God.
The outward man is the swinging door; the inner man is the still hinge.

Time as a circle – John O’Donohue in Anam Cara

Deep within the human mind, there is a fascination with the circle because it satisfies some longing within us.
It is one of the most universal and an.cient shapes in the universe. Reality often seems to express itself in this form.
The Celtic world was always fascinated with circles; they are prevalent in so much of its art work;  the Celts even transfigured the Cross by surrounding it with a circle.
The Celtic Cross is a beautiful symbol. The circle around the beams of the Cross rescues the loneliness where the two lines of pain intersect; it seems to calm and console their forsaken linearity.

Wisdom from the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu  father of Taoism  6th century BCE

Tao means path - to living in concordance with the unity of the universe.
To live life in accord with the Tao is to be in harmony with others, with the environment and with one’s self.
The Tao, the Great Integrity cannot be known.
Lao Tzu feared that human beings had lost the Great Integrity, exchanging our natural harmony with the universe for ego-oriented life styles.
The Tao Te Ching: Commentary and Introduction (2006) by Ralph Alan Dale, Watkins Publishing.

On death - Sogyal Rinpoche, the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

There would be no chance to get to know death at all if it happened only once.  But unfortunately life is nothing but a continuing dance of birth and death, a dance of changes. These changes, these small deaths, which happen so often and dominate our lives, are our living links with death.  They are death’s pulses, death’s heartbeats, prompting us to let go more and more of all the things we cling to, inviting us to become wiser, kinder and more generous.

Understanding Death

There is no need to be afraid of death. It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we're alive—to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.
—Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

On death – an Islamic mystical tradition from a Shift network webinar with Andrew Harvey

The mystical Sufi poets Hafiz, Kabir, and Rumi encourage us to talk about dying and to learn the art of dying and letting go early, so as to not miss out on the peace, contentment, and liberation of life lived in your Larger and Lasting Identity, which most of us call God.

Conference of the birds – long poem by Persian mystic Attar in 13th century  taught to me by mystical scholar Andrew Harvey

Describes the stages of the soul’s journey:
1st The search to be purified from the world
2nd The valley of love and its expression
3rd Apprehension seeking deeper revelation - meditation
4th Detachment when love of God deepens and wraps the soul
5th Unification becoming the mystic lover of the formless vision of the Divine
6th Radiant Bewilderment when the soul is blinded by Divine Light
7th Valley of Annihilation when the human self merges in radical union with Allah

“Conference of the Birds” – Excuses for discontinuing the soul’s journey

Nightingale – became drunk on the rose and found romantic passion sufficient
Parrot – wanted to drink from the ordinary stream of a comfortable life
Peacock – wanted a spiritual experience while not risking or taking action
Duck – didn’t want to leave the pond of security.  Happy learning concepts of meditation and preening feathers
Partridge – longed to find beautiful explanations of mystical path but didn’t want to risk
Homer – had great clairvoyant experience but was trapped by worldly success
Hawk – obsessed with powers, rank and how it must be done

"Nothing is easy about life on the other side of the Rubicon, but once you've crossed that river there is no turning back. You can't decide to become unaware that your attitudes influence your physical health, or decide that chakras don't exist or that you don't have a soul. You can influence only the speed at which you want to engage with your own transformation, and even there your influence is limited."
Carolyn Myss

My Archetypes – from work of Caroline Myss who is a pioneer in the field of energy medicine

  • (Wounded) Child
  • Victim
  • Saboteur
  • Prostitute
  • Duchess
  • Advocate
  • Shape - shifter
  • Seeker
  • Mother
  • Rebel
  • Persephone
  • Pioneer

Socrates (BCE 469-BCE 399) Greek philosopher

“Death may be the greatest of all human blessings” 
His friends offered to rescue him after he was sentenced to death but he believed such a flight would indicate a fear of death, which he believed no true philosopher has
Socrates advises us to ‘practice death’ daily in order to look fearlessly at the things which truly matter to us and to be open to what seems hidden
“An unexamined life is not worth living”
“Know thyself”

Understanding personality – MBTI, Enneagram (ENFJ & No 8)

EG.  Extraverts
Communicate energy and enthusiasm
Respond quickly without pausing to think
Prefer face-to-face over written
Good in groups

EG.  Introverts
Keep energy and enthusiasm inside
Prefer to think before responding and need to be drawn out
Prefer written over face-to-face
Like one-to-one 

Left and right brain considerations—Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks AM

The left sees detail, is precise, with an objective narrow focus;
The right is open, patient, empathetic, more interested in process than results.
The Western World has given primacy to the left side; it values a scientific, reductive, evidence-based reality .
But the right side is really the Master, it accepts a different reality filled with complexity and uncertainty, and deploys the left side.

  • We need clarity and precision, with intuition and faith
  • We need science and we need the arts
  • We need facts and we need metaphor

Different planes of consciousness – Diane Bellchambers – educator, author, dream power specialist

The first is the Astral plane which has some of the characteristics of a dream world. It replicates, in its own way, the features of the physical world – an astral landscape of people, animal, plants, rocks…
On the Astral plane there is liberation and release and a clearer sense of values – we are own judges of unfinished business and are met and taught by spirit guides.
Soul is the agent of God and asks: How well? It is driven by service and seeks to unify - Oneness.
Soul becomes infused with aspects of the personality during each lifetime.  Personality (ego) dies with death of physical body. Soul dies into Oneness.

Ideas on life after death – from a presentation by Diane Bellchambers

The physical body’s energies, leave the body when it dies and travel first to the Astral plane which is governed by thought and we can creates our desires without physical limitations.
When we sleep the inner consciousness accesses the astral plane and leaves the physical body.
 Energy cannot be destroyed – only transformed.   The body has 7 main energy centres or chakras (The Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disk).

My understanding of Energy Centres

We interact with the energy fields of those around us

  • Spiritual connection
  • Insight and intuition
  • Will and communication
  • Love and connection
  • Self-esteem and personal power
  • Creative expression and relationships
  • Tribal origins and security

There are seven main chakras of the body:

7 crown (violet) representing spiritual connection
6 third eye (indigo) representing insight and intuition
5 throat (blue) representing will and communication
4 heart (green) representing love and connection
3 solar plexus (yellow) representing self-esteem and personal power
2 sexual chakra (orange) representing creative expression and relationships
1 base chakra (red) representing tribal origins and security.

What happens when we die? The Myth of Er (around 380 BCE)

Is a legend that concludes Plato’s Republic. The story includes an account of the cosmos and the afterlife that greatly influences religious, philosophical, and scientific thought for many centuries.
Socrates tells Glaucon the "Myth of Er" to explain that the choices we make and the character we develop will have consequences after death.
When Er revives on his funeral-pyre he tells of his journey into the afterlife
The tale introduces the idea that moral people are rewarded and immoral people punished after death.
With other souls Er had come across an awe inspiring place with four openings – two into and out of the sky and two into and out of the earth.
Judges sat between the openings but Er was instructed to listen and observe and report his experience to mankind.
After some time Er and the souls he observed came to the spindle of Necessity and in order were asked to choose their next life. Many chose a life different to their previous experience.
Then they travelled to the Plane of Oblivion and the river of forgetfulness (Lethe) when they drank some of the water before their rebirth… 

Performing a ritual with Jean Houston in Greece

For Ancient Greece belief in the afterlife was a lived experience of connectedness with their gods and goddesses.
Rituals to connect with the deep world included libations.
Because they did not believe in reincarnation, the ancient Greeks created Limbo.
Pericles, the ancient Greek Statesman (495-427BCE), wisely said: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved on stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Lessons from the Golden Age of Greece

The gods and goddesses were companions for the deep world and provided guidance and teaching.

The God-Self or soul cannot die.

Rituals and symbols were important.

Health was integrated – body, mind and soul.

Plato’s unconscious ‘pool of ideas’ equates with CG Jung’s Collective Unconscious to enable a Cosmic partnerships between mortals and the gods (From Hinduism the Akashic Field).

Souls have choices to make and lessons to learn (myth of Er).

In ancient Greece Asclepius was the god of medicine

He was raised by the immortal god Chiron who was a Centaur who loved hunting, medicine, archery, astrology, gymnastics and prophecy.

He is the personification of the miracle working medical physician .

This powerful archetype is still invoked today by many patients - many people place a powerful, almost religious, faith in their doctors.

The most famous temple of Asclepius is at Epidavros  4th century BCE

Has been inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Asclepius, the god of medicine,  believed that the cause of illness lay in the psyche, and the manifestations were both physical and spiritual.

A Goddess with a myth for end of life - Demeter

Earth mother – the fertility goddess.
Goddess of agriculture, the prime sustenance of  mankind.
She presided over the Eleusinian Mysteries which promised its initiates the path to a blessed afterlife.
These Mysteries revolved around a belief that there was a hope for life after death for those who were initiated – however initiation rituals never recorded.
She embodies the mysteries of human nature, the changing seasons, the ebb and flow of our emotional and spiritual lives.

My goddess archetype is Persephone

Goddess Queen of the Underworld, bride of Hades who abducted her.
This caused her mother to suffer and to search.
As the daughter of Demeter she learned to guide humans to the treasures that lie hidden in the dark places of their spirits.
The earth lies barren during half the year when she is in the underworld.
She has a dual nature – she is both life and death.

I was passionate about my work and honoured death


My Mental Body - Thinking can create the false self, the ego self, the insecure self

Emotions are felt in the body e.g. - nervous tummy, trouble breathing, sweaty palms, trembling legs, tears, headache, nausea, backache, muscles spasms, smiles and frowns

Feelings are recognised in the mind e.g. – anxiety, nervousness, grief, shame, stress, fear, guilt, empathy, stuck, frustrated, tense, overwhelmed, sad, happy and bewildered

Lessons for the Mental Body – Fr Richard Rohr

“The mind wants a job and believes that its job is to process things by its own criteria. The key to stopping this obsessive game is, quite simply, peace, silence, or stillness.”

One of the signs of nondual consciousness is that you can actually understand and be patient with dualistic thinkers, even though you can no longer return to that straight jacket yourself. The many individuals who have charted the development of consciousness all agree that the lower levels are dualistic and the higher levels become more and more nondual.

The nondual mind is open to everything. It is capable of listening to the other, to the body, to the heart, to all the senses. It begins with a radical yes to each moment.”

On the Mental Body

“People are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.”
Epictetus 1st century AD

“Happiness depends not on what happens but on how we handle what happens.”
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life's Purpose

The Mental Body with mind patterns chooses the response to the ‘bad’ news of a cancer diagnosis

Negative thinking 
“It is going to be an awful time for him.  He will die in agony.  I will never be able to care for him.  He has just retired – it is not fair! He should have given up smoking.  It is all my fault for wanting him to work harder, to earn more money…”

Neutral thinking
“I know that there are treatments available and I know that he has a good attitude. We will wait and see. Cancer is generally not a quick death and that will give us time to put our affairs in order and to say “goodbye” if need be.

Sayings from the Bible I like

“Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?”
Corinthians 3:16 English Standard Version (ESV)

“and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it”
Ecclesiastes 12:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

"I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.“
Jeremiah 1:5  New Living Translation

Ego is no more at the time of death

Ego and all the things attached to it are a part of form. Some of these parts of ego include thoughts, power, wealth, reputation and even time.

These ego needs include thought forms like expressing strong judgements, being deserving and entitled as well as having an identification with possessions and status.

Sogyal Rinpoche writes that ego, or the small self, is defined as incessant movements of grasping at a delusory notion of “I” and “mine” and all the concepts, ideas, desires, and activity that will sustain that false construction. Pain and suffering come with attachment and aversion. 

What happens at the time of death?

“When you die, what dies is your false self because it never really existed to begin with. It simply lives in your thoughts and projections. It's what you want yourself to be and what you want others to think you are. It's very tied up with status symbols and reputation. Your real self is your soul”
—Fr Richard Rohr

Soul for me is consciousness gained from journeys over many lifetimes.

Mindfulness meditation and living in the NOW bring me peace.

On my Emotional Body

I needed to examine ‘unfinished business’ and release old blockages.

Grief follows loss and is work. My losses include possessions, health, divorce, friends and family by death, not being supported, betrayal…

I needed to forgive myself and others.

I needed to be thankful and create rituals for saying ‘thank you’.

I needed to invoke my archetypes when I needed courage, creativity, guidance, understanding and insight to remove the darkness of fear and guilt and the need to seek approval…

On my Physical Body

I needed to consider:

  • The benefits of a healthy gluten free (for me) diet
  • Keeping hormones in balance
  • Having adequate sleep and rest
  • Doing regular exercise – for me in nature
  • Learning lessons from physical pain and stored – knowing that

“What the soul can’t handle manifests in the body” – Caroline Myss

  • Remembering that stress results in the fight-or-flight response…

On reincarnation

American industrialist and philanthropist Henry Ford:

…When I discovered reincarnation…time was no longer limited. I was no longer a slave to the hands of the clock… I would like to communicate to others the calmness that the long view of life gives us.

Max Muller (1823 – 1900) a founder of Comparative Religious studies shares this insight:

I cannot help thinking that the souls towards whom we feel drawn in this life are the very souls whom we knew and loved in the former life, and the souls who repel us here but we do not know why, are souls that earned our disapproval, the souls from whom we kept aloof in a former life. 

The Three Fates in Greek Mythology

Lachesis gave choices and measured the length of life.

Clotho was responsible for spinning the thread of human life.

Atropos – cut the thread of human life.

Their lessons:

Don’t deviate or waste years or have regret – learn the things you were born to do – eg the acorn becomes the oak tree.

Mortals experience trials as pruning for purifying the personality.

Then there is a return to the joy of birth

Sogyal Rinpoche on the fear of death

“Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are. We believe in a personal, unique, and separate identity — but if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up: our name, our "biography," our partners, family, home, job, friends, credit cards… It is on their fragile and transient support that we rely for our security. So when they are all taken away, will we have any idea of who we really are?"

— Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying