Dying to be Born as a Doula


In preparation for my training in the new Micanopy, Florida program launching January 12th, I am filled with wonder. I wonder about all that awaits, and feel some trepidation about the dying that I will meet me there. As I contemplate the training, and read preparatory materials, I am seeing that these are two dynamics fundamental to navigating both inner development and outer leadership in the conscious dying movement.

The supersized wonder of it all  -- the belief that we can affect evolutionary change in humankind, through small steps towards a big idea – is pretty hardwired in me. But I find that it’s more the small wonders of launching on this path that have my attention.

I imagine all of us who have newly made the commitment and investment in the training, wonder what will meet us there? How might we be different on the other side? My ruminations on these questions were sweetly spoken to when CDI founder Tarron Estes shared this email from a Vancouver woman having completed Phase 1 training:

“My life has been totally blessed since putting my heart and soul into this amazing program. Everything I read before I attended has completely fallen into place. This program has been a mind, body, spirit awakening unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Thank you for gracing me with your friendship and mentoring. I am SO looking forward to Phase 2.”

Having these sentiments of awe and gratitude swirl in my psyche and within my being over the past week, have settled my projections of what, what, what is coming? In fact, more potently, they have allowed me to begin what I think is essential to this work: dying into the process of my training, a shift in awareness that both challenges and inspires.

As part of the required reading, I am working my way through “Who Dies?” by Stephen and Ondrea Levine.  From the very first page it is informing me that, to be effective, to be “real” in this work, I must die and die again along the path. To die more authentically into actively living and embracing ideas that inform my life. Ideas and concepts that are ingrained in me, but will be called by this work to move from any part-time practice into a fuller discipline.

The dedication page (yes, page 1!) of this book, speaks to conscious dying (and living) requiring letting go of the mind and dying into the heart. Yep, definitely a part-time practice in my life. I relate strongly to this premise as fact, and this simple, clear declaration in the opening page of this book, informs me that a “more” heart-centered, mindfulness, even awakened level of myself will be called forward. To make room for her, other habits of mental “certainty” and intellectual folly will have to die – or, at the very least to take their place in a smaller space.

Page 2 begins the Preface written by Ram Dass, articulating that, culturally and medically, we almost exclusively treat death as “unfortunate” and that any progressive movement in the service to the dying, has been to make the best of an “unpleasant” situation. He surmises that this prevents us from embracing the totality of who we are. In turn, this tells me that I must die into my own unresolved issues around death – specifically my habit of compartmentalizing the abstract and the personal.

There is a certain sadness felt around the end of any life. Yet, I admit to a sense of being, not just saddened, but feeling personally cheated when someone close to me dies. This truth teaches me that this personalized “yeah- but” has to die in order for me to work with the utmost integrity as a death doula.

To walk this path, I must die into this truth: no matter how special, how loved, how young, how old, how close to me, how important, how simply regular anyone is in my dying care or circle, my call is to hold both the universal beauty and mystery of death and the celebration of life in equanimity and balance.

The early pages of  “Who Dies?” have opened my eyes (and heart) to a more concrete expression of an intuitive knowing: my doula training will parallel the dying process.  I will be called again and again to surrender assumptions, projections and habits that reinforce illusions about myself, my world, and dying.

Woody Winfree is a Life-Cycle Celebrant © specializing in supportive family ceremonies at end-for-life,  a home funeral guide and the Florida Program Manager for the Conscious Dying Institute.