Reflections of a year of living and dying December 18, 2016

” ‘Transpersonal’ refers to an interdisciplinary approach, where the
purpose of assimilating scientific, historical, psychological, and spiritual
concepts is to create a broader, more inclusive knowing.  
Here is a larger context that acknowledges multi-layered levels of
consciousness that can transcend mere personal identity.  
It is an expanding and encompassing view of humankind, which addresses
body, mind, spirit, and the dimensions of human nature.”

Mary Anne Sanders, Nearing Death Awareness, 2007.

I dedicate the last month of the year to reflection and remembrance.  Reflection regarding how well I’ve lived my life during the preceding months, and remembrance of the presence of God in my being (although this is something not just relegated to the 12th month).  Living as I and many others do, as a world within a world, brings many challenges and this year has been no different.

Health and wellbeing hurdles, unexpected twists and turns professionally and privately, personal insights, the letting go of certain worldly attachments (not an easy thing to do), Death Cafe (always a joy), a return to academic study (the promise of new things), and the learning of the art of surrender. At times I felt overwhelmed by that which the behaviour of others revealed to me, always mindful though of my own psychological buffers and ‘blind spots’.  At times, and because of the ever-present maliciousness and unkindness of others, and the burden of crushing responsibilities, I reached out for help and was able to endure the torment and the horror of it all.

I’m particularly reminded of a quote by Carl Jung because it seems to capture the essence of what has been an intense period of emotional, psychological and spiritual growth, “The more veiled becomes the outside world, steadily losing in colour, tone, and passions, the more urgently the inner world calls us” (cited in Jacobi, The Psychology of C. G. Jung. An Introduction with Illustrations, 1962, p. 149).  There were many times when I asked myself, “Surely there’s more to life than this?”  Of course I know there is, but what I realised was that I wasn’t making enough effort to answer that question.

It is difficult to be in the world, but not of it.  To be engaged externally with a busy life and to be of use to others is necessary, however this year has taught me that its just as important to be of use to oneself as it is to others.  The sleep state is pervasive, suffocating, alluring.  At times it is so subtle that we’re hardly even aware of its presence in our lives, until something suddenly jolts us into a momentary state of wakefulness, but then that too passess, and we succumb without even realising it, to sleep.

I’ve been caught up with the groundswell of change regarding attitudes toward death.  This is not necessarily negative because it seems that when we think about our mortality we think about how meaningfully we’ve lived our lives.  Perhaps, as a result, we make changes.  Perhaps we become kinder to others, less judgemental, and less harsh in our behaviour toward them.  Perhaps we ask ourselves, or begin to ponder, those ‘big’ questions; “Why was I born?”, “What am I doing here?”, “What happens when I die?”, or the big one for me, “Surely there’s more to life than this?”.

It has been a year of living and dying for many people in the world.  Some have lived for values or ideals, or for a purpose, while others have died honouring them.  Some have lived with hope, while others have died hopeless, perhaps in despair and anguish. Some have had their lives taken from them, either intentionally by their own hand or that of another, or unintentionally due to accident or an ‘act of God’.  And through it all the universe in all its majesty has been witness; planets and moons have orbited, stars have been born and died, and life has continued unabated in all its wonder.  And ever so slightly, the outside world lost a little of its colour, tone and passions, and ever more increasingly, the inner world called.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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