Living Well and Dying Well
A few weeks ago the Raison d’Etre (RdE) team attended a talk in London about ‘The Healing Self’. Dr. Deepak Chopra spoke about how the fear of death is one of the greatest forms of stress that affects our health and wellbeing. He emphasised that apart from good and sufficient sleep; meditation, nutrition, yoga and pranayama, a greater sense and understanding of our place in and relationship to this world, was vital to maintaining a strong sense of wellbeing. However a clear lack of this was evident in our non-acceptance and fear of death.
The topic of our relationship with death does occasionally surface in the media. In 2015 The Huffington Post published ‘6 Positive Ways to overcome your fear of death’ and in 2017 The Guardian asked ‘We fear death, but what if dying isn’t as bad as we think?’
And yet, it seems that the two greatest and most impactful events in our lives, our birth and our death, have been reassigned. What used to be a social and often celebratory event, supported and attended by our families and friends’, is now more often than not experienced in the anonymity and sterility of a hospital or hospice ward.
Our innate fear of dying has turned into an eternal quest to look and feel younger. As a result, the beauty and wellness industry offers a plethora of anti-ageing products, tips and tricks- but is this just making our fear worse? We are constantly being told about how we can extend our lives, appear younger and if we are lucky, hold off the inevitable a little longer.
Last month, Ian Bell, Senior Project Manager at Raison d’Etre was invited to represent Raison d’Etre’s Wellness Think Tank and visit Sukhavati in Bad Saarow, just outside of Berlin, Germany. Sukhavati is a Buddhist house of both the living and dying. People go there to attend seminars, visit as part of a growing spiritual community, take time for private retreats, convalesce after traumatic events or as a place to rest and die with dignity. Sukhavati offers a safe and loving atmosphere where this can be done with professional support and compassion.
Sukhavati opened in 2016; however in 2018 they found themselves on a cusp of change. Whilst debating their situation and the restructuring of their teams, they grew curious about how the wellness industry is influencing our understanding of our world and ourselves. With that, they decided to start a dialogue with Raison d’Etre on the how principles of wellness could apply not only to living well but dying well too.
Ian, explains: “I was deeply moved by my visit, which also made me realise that I had in fact never seen a dead body, let along witnessed a death. 100 years ago communities were smaller and closely knit, so birth and death was a natural experience of everyday live but today many people reach mid-life without coming into direct contact with either
“To put this into perspective, within the next 100 years over 7 billion people will die. However the majority of deaths I will hear about during my lifetime will be violent deaths or the death of celebrities reported in the news. My time at Sukhavati reminded me that dying with dignity should be a birth-right for everyone.”
After three days at Sukhavati he took his impressions back to the Raison d’Etre Think Tank group to present the topic of how their understanding of wellness could support somebody who was close to death. During their first creative session, the team voiced their own fears of death and their experiences with dying, which then formed the foundation for our first meditations and creative processes.
Engaging with this topic has impacted the team deeply and they will continue the dialogue and offer focused suggestions on how wellness principles can support visitors and residents at Sukhavati on their journey to living well and dying well too. With awareness of cancer in the spa industry a focused trend, Raison d’Etre has also decided to extend and deepen the training about the awareness and sensitivity of working with elderly guests and guests with potentially debilitating illnesses and cancer. Especially with the launch of one of the company’s latest spa developments, the world Viking Cruise, which will take 245 days to complete.