As we approach it ever more closely, we avoid thinking about death to our peril and to our great loss. The more we engage with dying and its opportunities, the more we are likely to learn and benefit. This is often called “conscious dying,” harnessing the dying process as an opportunity to become more self-aware and reflective, for profound healing and spiritual awakening.

Eastern traditions such as Hinduism and particularly Buddhism, as well as shamanic traditions, have explicit teachings that guide the dying to a conscious and graceful death. In the West, however, death has mostly become hidden, feared and denied, spoken of in hushed terms or ignored.

Things began to change in the late sixties, when Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying was published. Death started to come out of the closet, and a few people began to talk about death openly and honestly. Today conscious dying is firmly on the agenda for those seeking to learn and listen; it is a unique opportunity to know more about yourself.