The Dying Before You Die Workshop I led on Sunday at the Meetinghouse in Wendell, MA, explored a number of ways to understand and be more deeply conscious of death so that we can live more joyfully.

If you are curious about dying before you die, here is the program of my recent retreat. Many of the questions and exercises can be completed alone, with another person, or in a group. I invite you to experiment with the ones you are drawn to.

We began the workshop with the following prayer, “We ask that all the spirits, guides, and beloveds on this side and the other side be with us today so that we can see, hear, and feel all that we can see, and hear and feel, for our highest good and the highest good of all other beings.” This prayer brought us into alignment with each other, with our guides, and with all beings.

After introductions, each participant drew an Osho tarot card. I suggested that the card each person drew would be their personal medicine for the time of the workshop and also would be the medicine for the group. The cards we drew were
Turning in             Playfulness
Change                Rebirth
Experiencing        Healing
Ordinariness        Conditioning
The Dream           Ripeness
Celebration          Postponement

Each of these cards offered an opportunity for healing and a lens to explore how these energies related to our experiences and beliefs about death.

We created a bicycle chain where each person could share a two-minute conversation on a specific question. Some of the questions included
1. When was your first experience of death?
2. What beliefs emerged from this experience?
3. How have those beliefs changed over time?
4. Would you want to live forever? Why or Why not?
5. What would you consider to be a good death?
6. What would you like to leave behind after you die?
7. What would you like to happen to your body after you die?

A group discussion ensued about why it is so difficult to talk about death in our culture.
Some of the reasons we explored included —
Conditioning                                         Denial
Fear of being a downer                         Fear of upsetting others
Resentment                                         Fear of our own death
Thinking we can outsmart death           Fear of not doing it right

We then discussed the things that we want to do before we die but are postponing.
Some reasons offered for postponement were —
Fear of failure                  Fear of Dying
Feeling unworthy              Fear of Loss
Fear of not fitting in          Distractions
Not having money             Guilt because others are suffering
Ignorance Working to live, rather than living

In dyads, participants shared a dream they wanted to fulfill and strategies to stop postponing, given some of the obstacles we discussed.

I invited the participants to walk around the room. When they met another person, they stopped, looked into that person’s eyes, and said, “I know that in a few years, I will be dead, and a few years after that, no one will even remember my name. But I am alive today and will not waste it.”

We then read through a checklist of important actions to complete before one’s death.
1. Do you have an up-to-date will?
2. Do you have a durable Power of Attorney who will take care of your affairs if you are unable to make decisions for yourself due to mental or physical incapacitation?
3. Do you have a Living Will? Do you have a health care proxy?
4. How will you know when it is time for you to stop driving?
5. How will you know when you can no longer care for yourself without help?
6. What would you want to do When you can no longer climb stairs or care for a big place? Would you want in-home care? Would you prefer moving to an assisted-living facility, and if so, to anyone in particular? If your plan is to stay put, you may need to talk about whether the house is built for senior living and, if not, how to retrofit it.
7. Do you want to be cremated? If not, what do you want done with your remains?
8. Would you like a Celebration of life or a funeral? Is there a place where you would like this to be held? Are there certain people you would like to be invited? Do you have a burial plot? If you are cremated, what would like done with the ashes?
9. How do you imagine your ideal death?
10. How would you like to be remembered?

After this discussion, I again arranged the participants in two lines, facing one another. I asked each person in the pair to look into the eyes of the other as if that person had died many times.

We gathered together in a circle with a big OM, and the workshop was complete.

I hope you will find some of these exercises useful so that you can create your own Dying Before You Die workshop.