Conscious dying: How to say Goodbye with Loving Awareness


There are many goodbyes at the end of a life. Sometimes you have to say goodbye to a dying friend, sometimes you haven’t said goodbye and your bereavement takes a long time, or it’s your turn to say goodbye to those who remain.

In fact, there isn’t any difference, as this Zen story tells us:

“A student asks his Zen master what the Buddha taught about how to care for others.

“The master answers: ‘What others are you talking about? Care for yourself!’

“The student insists: ‘Ok, then, how can I care for myself?’

“‘By caring for others.'”

The Empathic Care of the End of Life method refers to the point of view of quantum physics:

Any phenomenon appearing to be separate, independent and permanent is, in fact, the opposite: it is part of the quantum field from which it “collapses,” under the combined effect of all the universal strengths on this very phenomenon in each instant. The causal strengths of the universe are immeasurable and continuously changing, therefore, all phenomena are unstable and cannot last.

Hence, we die not once but continuously: in the two minutes it takes to read this page, you will have lost more than 104 million cells.

Information and awareness
Our mind is part of the “knowing” aspect of the quantum field, which many scientists call “information field.” As part of it, we are constantly fed information, but we are rarely aware of it. In turn, we feed the field, but — again — we are rarely aware of it.

If we want to bring awareness to this process, we need to train in becoming aware of things of which we are usually unaware.

Meditation can be used for this. When you train in becoming aware of your breath — usually an unconscious activity — you develop a special part of your brain that, in turn, will make you be mindful of other things of which you are usually not mindful.

The sadness inherent in a goodbye is reduced when both are aware of all the above. Then, you experience the other and yourself as part of a Whole, and that the sad sense of separation is mainly due to the limitations of our perceptions.

The way you are
Now, remember that the dying are already empathic: death acts as a training for them. They feel your state of mind directly, as children do. It means the way you are is more important than what you say or do.

If you want to help, be peace. Listen to them from a cultivated empathic state where you feel less separated from them; then, a direct communication becomes possible. It will work even when the person who dies cannot hear you anymore. No projection. Total understanding. A way of listening that is direct, deep. Experience directly that we are not just these impermanent bodies and minds, but also part of the universal consciousness of the quantum field. If you experience this, won’t your fear of death disappear?

From both sides, the goodbye will be enriched by love and awareness, and it will be far less painful.

In this empathic relationship, there is no one who gives while the other receives, no one who cares while another is being cared for, no one who knows while the other doesn’t. Once you establish yourself in this cultivated empathic state, the strength, the beauty, the greatness of the other is revealed. You won’t need to look into your resources for something to give the other. You will help them by exalting theirs. You won’t feel satisfied, but grateful. The caregiver and the person dying will really be companions to each other: from the latin CUM PANEM, “sharing the same bread.”

How, then, do we train our mind for this approach? Tibetan thanatology (the science of death and dying) gives us a complete training on transforming our mind, and it has been rigorously tested by Western neuroscientists.

We know now that a certain part of the brain can be developed by a certain kind of meditation. We also know that direct knowledge (empathy) and loving compassion correspond to different parts of the brain, which are traditionally developed through different trainings. And we need both: ethically-oriented awareness (through compassion, or love) — and love, made intelligent, by awareness.

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Daniela Muggia
Daniela Muggia is a thanatologist and the winner of the prestigious Terzani Award for the Medical Humanities. For almost 30 years she studied the Tibetan tradition of death and dying with Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the groundbreaking Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. She also trained with Cesare Boni at Naples University, Italy. After more than 20 years of working with the terminally ill, she has developed the method Empathic Care at the End of Life, one of the most popular courses taught in hospitals, hospices and for Master's degree programs at universities in Italy and other countries. She co-authored The Impact of Empathy -- A New Approach to Working with ADHD Children, and just published Paw in Hand: Empathic Care of Animals at the End of life. Daniela lives in Italy.


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