Being Present with Death

I spent this past weekend teaching a roomful of students about the shamanic beliefs around death and dying. We went very deep into the work and explored the ways in which we might be present and helpful with a person who is actively dying.

Modern times have distanced us from the natural order of the dying process. As shamanic practitioners we have both the duty and the honor of bringing the ways of our ancestors forward into the present…including the ways of dying.

Being fully in the now with someone’s dying process and to witness the end of the human life cycle can be as mystically inspiring as being present at a birth. The death of a loved one is, of course, fraught with grief and myriad other emotions. Yet, at the same time, when we are spiritually present and engaged in being a death doula there is a mysticism and magic that is beyond language…despite any grief we may feel.  

What does it mean to be spiritually alive in your shamanic power while with a person who is dying?  In my experience being fully—without any hesitation—spiritually present with a dying person requires three vital elements:  observation, attentiveness and surrender.   

When you can accept that death is part of the life cycle and at the same time focus your attention on observing and being fully present, without ego attachment to the outcome, you are ready to not just be a witness, but also to be actively available to the magic of the soul’s journey as it begins its flight outside of the body. 

Attentiveness to the dying person’s needs to talk about their fears and anxieties is an essential ingredient of being fully present. Hopefully, as a shamanic practitioner, you have had the personal experience of knowing first hand where the soul goes at death. Being a comfort and a guide into another dimension provides a soothing remedy to the weary and frightened traveller. Imagine if you did not know where you were going…no map…no destination…fearful about the road ahead...it would be overwhelming, right? Being fully present and unafraid of death is essential to being of service to one who is dying. 

Being a death doula means not obstructing the natural order and being 100% willing to assist the spirit of the dying person to take flight. You are, in effect, an aid in the surrender to the arms of Spirit when the time comes for take off. What greater honor could someone possibly experience than to guide a soul to its destiny in another dimension of reality.

Not all shamanic practitioners are called to this sacred work; if you are, then do it with assurance and courage. The rewards are too many to mention here.