by Woody Winfree
In less than two months, I will take my first steps to join the growing numbers of conscious-death practitioners in North America. I will enter this privileged position as a Sacred Passage End-of-Life Doula trained and certified, by the host of this blog, the Conscious Dying Institute.
Like those before me, I come to this rich opportunity to serve the dying and their families through life experiences that are distinctly my own. Yet, with this training, I am joining a collective of peers and future colleagues with whom I imagine I already share something quite profound: a comfort with mystery.
As a registrant to the new, two-phase Florida program, January 12-14 and April 25-29, I have gained access to the class materials that reinforce this point - but more to that further down the page. First, I am inclined to stretch myself in an attempt to scratch out an idea about the mystery that I reference. Mystery, so-called coincidences and other forces beyond the physical plane that – as best as I can articulate – work “magic,” inspire “awe” and create a sense of “wow” in order to benefit humanity.
With that supersized idea typed out, I return to my story as a new registrant for training as an End-of-Life Doula and the bridges and connections with others out of which most all personal development takes root. In taking the steps to this training, I also have connected with Carol, another Florida woman, who will be joining me in the sunshine-state community of End-of-Life Doulas.
On a recent fall afternoon, I sat under an utterly cloudless, crystal blue sky on the phone making friends and talking magic and mystery with Carol. Our deep chat revealed the individual paths we each had taken to find and further our interest in work around death and dying. The easy conversation also illuminated our consummately similar unequivocal response of saying “yes” to the training. A yes so strong and clear, that no other choice seemed possible – as if an invisible tether of destiny pulled us to this very moment.
Carol and I shared existential stories of arriving to this training path, not through a string of coincidences but rather by seemingly organized synchronicities, a core difference of thought process in this age of expanding consciousness. And we spoke of a highly specific but remarkably unlikely (read mysterious) detail that underscores the shared pull to the “yes” to show up to do the hard work of becoming guides to softer dying.
This “mysterious” detail of “no-coincidence,” was that both of us had met the same person in entirely different contexts but with the same result: nudging us closer to the call to death and dying work. Participating in a conference on death, Carol was introduced to a New York University medical Ph.D., who specializes in clinical interventions to assuage fear and unresolved issues of the terminally ill. Stunningly (or organized synchronicity?) this psychiatric academic was the gifted and impassioned man who guided my best friend to her entirely peaceful if way-too-young death from breast cancer.
My moving contact with this man during my friend’s memorial service, and the indelible impressions he made on Carol, reflect to me the workings of mystery – of a hand, a force, behind the veils of the physical plane. I comfortably state that I can hold this unverifiable truth about our similar encounters - that the unifying field of consciousness worked its mysterious hand to draw Carol and me together in a meaningful way beyond the more common day-to-day experience. A connection in some ways so subtle that we more typically write it off as mere coincidence, but one that when viewed through the eyes of unlimited possibility, things look different.
When I look through those eyes, I see an undeniable force of beneficence that bends to move humanity forward. And, my particular walk in the world, along with the rare but growing number of others, tells me that the more of us who take our inevitable leave more consciously would be a substantial benefit to the evolution of humanity.
To that end, Carol and I, along with the couple dozen others who will gather with us in Florida, will draw on our comfort with mystery to dive deeply into the doula training. With this comfort, we are uniquely prepared to incorporate the training and instructional material that, like dancing with mystery, is at once objective and subjective, tangible and intangible, evident and indiscernible.
My first reading of the training material informs me that it is work drawn from years of research and the practicum of experience with patients. And, yet carrying it into service work in support of the dying and their families will be subjective and personal on so many levels. Top of the list will be standing stalwartly, even faithfully, in the unknown while abiding a deeper truth: we will skillfully midwife the dying having been trained in a concrete field of knowledge and experience while holding that love, compassion and spiritual openness are what really do the heavy lifting of supporting the dying to a peaceful end.