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You’ll hear us at End in Mind talking about engaging creatively in conversations about end of life. For those of us who believe we don’t have a creative bone in our bodies, this might be off-putting, or even feel a little bit scary.

But it is so much simpler than you might realize.

Creative engagement is cultivating a mindset of…

  • Being curious
  • Letting go of outcome
  • Being willing to explore
  • Embracing uncertainty
  • Entertaining possibility
  • Releasing expectation
  • Opening to inner wisdom and guidance
  • Being gentle and compassionate with yourself and your fellow explorers
  • Allowing yourself to be surprised

So when we say “engage creatively in hard conversation”, what we mean is, let’s be willing to explore what is uncomfortable with the mindset of, what might this look like, how might this turn out without the worry of having to have any idea where the exploration might go?

This can be exceedingly difficult, heavily influenced as most of us are by our death-phobic culture that avoids hard conversations as a matter of course. Which is what makes the essential question behind End in Mind’s mission and vision so important:

How might we engage differently with end of life issues in order to both prepare for our version of a good death, and open to living life in this moment (and every moment) more fully?

Ignoring the fact of our mortality stems from a fear that will only chase us and consume valuable space and energy, if left unchecked. When we are always looking over our shoulder to stay away from it, it hampers our ability to have a clear forward focus on the life we really want to be living, free from the worries that consume our precious bandwidth and limit the choices we make. The fact is, when we deny the darkness and do everything we can to stay away from it, it casts a long shadow upon how fully we’re able to recognize and live in the light.

It is completely normal to be afraid of death and dying; our brain is hardwired to avoid threat not only to keep us safe, but to keep us ALIVE. So, even though the hard conversations we have about death and dying won’t actually kill us (yes, really…), the stress of talking about and imagining our impermanence, or the absence of those we love and depend on can feel to our system like a threat we must escape.

We can choose to work with the impulse to turn away, by practicing having hard conversations and weathering the emotions that arise, reminding ourselves that we are safe, breathing through the fear until it subsides. When we make a commitment to befriend our fear, when we practice staying rather than running, we increase our system’s tolerance for things that feel like a threat to our survival, but actually aren’t

This is creative engagement – being willing to engage in the process of exploring for its own sake, not for any particular outcome. Yes, there may be the goal of discovering what is most important to you and making your end of life wishes known. Yes, there may be the goal of engaging this way in order to live a more inspired life. But as to achieving any particular outcome? The truth is, when we engage in the exploration itself, we have no idea where it will lead us or what we will find along the way. This is where the juiciness of life resides – in the possibility of the unknown.

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