I am departing today for Germany, taking my heart across the ocean in service of a dear friend receiving treatment for metastatic breast cancer. As I sit at the airport on this overcast morning looking out on the tarmac, at people coming and going, I’m feeling a strange combination of excitement and sobriety for the unknown I’m stepping into. Feeling a bit unsettled, and yet clear and grateful.
I’ve been reflecting often in the past week about roles and what I bring with me as I journey — as a friend, as soul family, as my authentic self. As an end of life doula.
At the heart of my doula work is creative engagement — being present with and willing to explore what is happening in our experience, and getting creative about how we are in relationship to it.
A bit like what I’m experiencing as I sit here writing, awaiting my flight. Neither here nor there. Liminal space.
How do we lean into what is happening rather than turning away, befriending it, rather than resisting it? How do we sit in the discomfort of what is, knowing we can’t change it, and create a sense of ease with it? How do we allow whatever emotions arise in us to pass through, becoming one with us and teaching us as they go? How do we stay curious and approach our own impermanence with a sense of wonder, inviting the experience to draw us into a deepening sense of our own wholeness?
Creative engagement is a dynamic process of presence and curiosity, of active inquiry. Ask-Listen-Learn.
What am I feeling — a whole jumble of things…excitement, fear, anticipation, sadness, peace — ah, yes, I feel you…I hear you…thank you for sharing.
When we open to experiencing what shows up, feeling the feels and letting it inform what’s next by allowing it into who we think we are, allowing it to rearrange our inner landscape a little (or a lot) into a new configuration that our soul knows we need to in order to thrive. This is life’s work on us. The gift and the struggle of living this human life.
As I write this, I can’t help but think about the magical Rumi poem, The Guest House:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
The opportunity to take this trip, to be with Laura at this sacred time, is an invitation to me to experience this process of creative engagement from the inside out — not only in witnessing her process as she works with all that shows up for her while navigating this illness and treatment, but also in engaging my own process as I step into this new experience of companioning a dear friend. As I’ve prepared to go, and as I journey, I actively turn the inquiry in on myself so that I am able to be present for her in whatever comes…
– what are my hopes?
– what are my fears?
– what makes me want to turn away?
– what makes it possible for me not to?
– what do I need to let go of (beliefs, roles, past programming, conditioning…) in order to lean in? In order to show up fully as myself with no answers, accepting and allowing that this is enough?
Embarking on this adventure furthers my work both personally and professionally in ways I both want to and don’t want to imagine. This is an education I would have never chosen. AND I have profound gratitude and joy for it, in being able to be taught by her, heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul, as we share this rich time together with no agenda but to see what unfolds. This, to me — the willingness and curiosity to stay close to what’s important even when it’s unspeakably hard — is the essence of creative engagement. As we practice creating space for whatever arises, we are offered opportunities to remember that this dying, whenever it comes, is a natural process that we are all going to experience, and that we are all fully equipped for. We know how to hold the wholeness of life — the joys and the sorrows — in both hands, gathering it all in, letting it utterly undo us, and then allowing it to weave us together again stronger and more beautiful than before. Moment by exquisite moment.
Life is always teaching us and bringing us opportunities to become more fully ourselves — approaching death is no exception. Engaging creatively with my own life in this way, especially as it wends towards death in the vibrant life of someone I am deeply connected to, is the way I practice living in alignment with exactly those things that I am here to share with my clients. And my family.
And my friends.
With that…it’s time to go. My ride’s here! See you on the other side.//