By Rob Dorgan
My friend Cheri is living with a foreign entity in her physical being these days. She received one of those diagnoses that we would all dread. “You have cancer”. It is a scary thought for all of us. Maybe you have been through it already or have shared the experience with someone you love. The word Cancer conjures up some intense emotions inside us because it can mean many things on the spectrum of reality. Is the Cancer curable? Is it at least manageable if not curable? Is it giving me a certain amount of time?
This kind of diagnosis brings us face to face with something most of us avoid and some of us run away from at full speed. Death!
It is inevitable. Death is inevitable. It is important to use the word itself so we can take some of the intensity out. Intensity is the cover word for “fear”.
Scientifically looking at our bodies, our cells, we are dying every moment. We are also living and creating new cells all the time in our bodies as well. It is a process our body goes through every moment of our breathing existence until we take our last breath. It all ends with that final exhalation. One Day, we will all breath out and we let go. But, what do we ‘let go’ into? That is the question that lingers in our conscious mind. What’s next? If we had proof - real scientific proof, not faith or belief, but tangible proof that at our last breath we knew we would move to a tropical paradise or to a place much like the heaven described in religious writings, would we have as much fear of this ultimate transition?
Could we imagine actually being excited about the “new move” for ourselves or for others? If we truly know in our being that energy is “neither created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another”, why are we dreading death so much? Can we shift into excitement about “what’s next?”
Excited might be a stretch for most of us but we can help each other out with making it more comfortable. First and foremost, when you or someone you know and love gets a “diagnosis” do not pity them. My friend and teacher, Bobbie Corbean requested that we “brief” each visitors to her hospice room. Her requests- 1). “Do not send pity.” 2). When you are looking at me, see me, Bobbie and not CANCER. She often said, “I am not a disease. I am the ‘Me’ you have always known. Relate to me in that way.”
These were hard lessons to comprehend at first because I believe most of us confuse Pity with Compassion. Pity is tapping into our fear about our own life and in some way relieved in knowing that this situation is not happening to us, at least not yet. Compassion is knowing that it is happening to us because we are all connected and therefore we send energy for health, healing and happiness even when we know it might be someone’s last week, day or moment.
This was one of the greatest lessons Bobbie taught me. And, Bobbie taught me many. My partner Steve, her daughter Mikki, and I, alternated being with her the 10 days she was in hospice. One of us was always present. On my first “shift” I sat alongside her bed, she awoke. I reached for her hand and patted it. My head tilted and I gave what I thought was a little smile of understanding. She looked me directly in the eyes and said, “F**k you, Rob!”
It was a verbal slap in the face. Most importantly, I got it. If I was truly honest I could feel that behind my patting, my doe eyes and slight smile, I was saying “poor thing, you’re dying, I feel sorry for you”. Ok, maybe not verbally or even in thought but in energetic transference that was the message I was sending and my astute friend knew it and called me on it . In the situation of death and dying, energy is felt loud and clear. In that moment I understood what she meant early in the process, sitting in her flat after the initial diagnosis when she said to Steve and me, “Remember this process I am now going through, is as much about you as it is me.”
Boy was she right. Her process opened me up to the fact that there are possibilities in the way we can transition or die. We have choices and therefore some freedom in how we want the process to go. Instead of fearing the process and avoiding it, think about it and discuss it openly with loved ones before you are forced to do so.
For so many years I would shut down on my Mom when she would bring up her death and what she wanted. One day she said, “Rob do you think I am going to live forever? I need to talk about this with you.”
My mom, Dottie, as guru, also gave me a verbal slap in the face. She needed to talk about her death. She needed me to move out of my own self pity so I could understand what she was facing and to assist her where I could. In retrospect, her planning and discussions with me made the process easier. I knew she was getting what she wanted. There were no questions left unanswered to add to the grief I was naturally going to experience. She actually gave me more freedom.
Death is part of our existence. We see it in nature. The trees let loose of the old leaves to make room for the new. We can look at our own lives and see that as certain situations end, newness, growth and beauty open up to us. When we accept the whole process, that death is part of living, and we agree that our first inhalation is just as important as our last exhale, death is not so scary. We don’t need to dwell on death but acknowledge it and be at peace with it as part of our process.
My friend Cheri is an incredible human being. She sends email updates that are factual about her tests and what she is experiencing in her body and her mind. These emails are incredible gifts to the few of us she includes on them. She is inspiring me. In return I make sure I have no pity for Cheri but instead I hold her tight each morning in my meditation. In that space we are smiling at each other. We recognize our common humanity and we sit and enjoy the experience of a place with no fear about the next moment but the loveliness of what is, right now.
By: Rob Dorgan
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
Rob Dorgan considers himself a spiritual anarchist. He is experimenting with setting himself free from the inside out. He is not accepting what anyone tells him about the meaning of life with out personal experimentation.
His spiritual quest lead him to a deeper love of life and wants to encourage everyone to experiment with their own road to freedom.
“One truth, many paths”
Rob has an M.A. in European History, he is a registered yoga teacher and personal trainer. He and his partner, Steve Bolia, host retreats called “Personal Training for the Body and Soul” in various places around the country.