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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Conscious Death: The Doorway to Spiritual Awakening

Jan 31, 2017 04:41PM

by Juliette Jones 


As a prelude to this article, the author has professional experience in the field of death and dying which spans over 25 years. As a clinically trained chaplain for hospice, she has met with thousands of people during or around the time of death. She acknowledges this experience as among the most valuable chapters of her life. Dr. Jones also served as a co-author of the National Hospice and Palliative Care publication, Guidelines for Spiritual Care. 


The most deeply entrenched superstition about  

our world is that it is three-dimensional.”     

––Michio Kaku, Physicist 


As we approach the phenomenon of conscious dying, we must first give deeper consideration to conscious living because these are two sides of the same coin. Material cultures lack spiritual resonance. In our culture, the prevailing perception of “reality” remains stuck in a material assumption that a physical body is the beginning and end of life, with minimal understanding of life beyond the ego. This is true, despite the fact that Christianity remains the dominant religion of the Western World and teaches––as does the super string theory––a presence of higher dimensional reality. 


Radical inner transformation of humanity and the rise to a higher  

level of consciousness may be our only real hope for the future.”   

––Stanislav Grof, Psychiatrist 


In the material minded, there exists an extremely pervasive fear of death which fosters a cultural climate of denial. According to Dale Borglum, who co-founded a conscious dying movement with Ram Dass and Aldous Huxley, this fear leads to the distortion of life. In his own words, “The denial of death is at the root of the fundamental imbalances in Western society, and until this is addressed with openness, honesty and consciousness, the poverty, hunger, homelessness, greed and environmental degradation will continue.”  

Hospice has done a great deal to support an emancipation of the dying process. In the past 30 years, hospice has championed end-of-life palliative care and provided healthcare personnel and services to support both patients and their families. Hospice is among the few business institutions in our culture that integrates the spiritual dimension of human life, as set apart from physical, mental and social aspects. I will always be grateful to the hospice movement ––and my fellow travelers on this path––for the extraordinary opportunity to expand my own vision of death and spiritual practice. 

While hospice brings service and enlightenment to our community in various ways, I must agree with Ram Dass when he stated the hospice movement still has a long way to go in the delivery of spiritual care. If there was ever a time and place where spiritual gnosis should be the guiding impetus of an event, it is during the dying process. Few events in life offer such a profound and consistent opportunity for psycho-spiritual healing and spiritual awakening to occur.  

The practice of conscious dying continues to be largely missing within the hospice movement––in other words, the practice of the dying process as a means to awaken consciousness expansion through realization of the transpersonal nature of reality and dynamic possibility for psycho-spiritual healing. Conscious dying is not yet openly addressed in the institutional curriculum. 

For many people, the phenomenon of conscious dying seems impossible. In fact, a physician once told me it was impossible for people to die without fear, a comment that flies in the face of my experience.  However, for most people including caregivers, it is extremely difficult to regard death as anything but a tragedy. Even the famed founder of hospice Dame Cecily Saunders was quoted as saying, “Death is an outrage.” 

Death, like birth, is a natural part of physical life. I deeply respect and feel profound compassion for the fear or pain that can be involved in the loss of mortal life, but my own growth experience in the work has awakened me to another side of the coin––the transpersonal side of death, through which one can real-ize (literally) a transformed experience of the nature of life and death. My observations were made possible due to the extreme number of exposures to transpersonal events witnessed around and during the time of death and an ability to open the inner door to my own higher self. 

In the final stages of physical life, when the veil between spirit and matter is thin, there is frequently an element of numinosity, However, it is essential during the process that participants remain open to feelings beyond fear, doubt and grief, as these emotions block the receipt of higher phenomena––as does a denial of death. 


Grim Reaper or Angel of Light?   

It is difficult for dying people to approach death as a cycle for growth and initiation when the people around them project a deeply entrenched vision of death as the Grim Reaper to be avoided at any cost. Unfortunately, the mainstream healthcare system perpetuates this latter view. Nevertheless, many people experience a peaceful death, while some may even undergo euphoric death which is an utter privilege to witness.  


One who dies before he/she dies, does not die when he dies.” 

––Augustine Santa Clara 


The process of conscious dying benefits from the support of someone who is experienced as a catalyst in this art, as well as the presence of people who consciously support death as a process of spiritual transformation and awakening. Again, an atmosphere of fear, doubt, tragedy or extinction can exude a resonance which closes the door to spirit.  


If the Door Is Not Open, the Spirit Cannot Enter. 

The only way to know anything beyond a shadow of a doubt is to have gnosis from within. If the higher dimensional software isn’t yet installed, you can’t bring up the program, so to speak. To Know Thyself is a matter of individualized self-initiation through transformation of consciousness which is best served as a lifelong pursuit. The modus operandi is different for everyone, but preparation is life-giving in every respect: 

  • Find an authentic spiritual path, then live fully and authentically.  

  • Explore change as an invitation to spiritual evolution. 

  • Adopt a spiritual practice that focuses on inner life, such as meditation. 

  • Consciously practice an inward desire for the divine to guide and assist you. 

  • Explore dreams, signs, synchronicities and any numinous experiences. 

  • Open your heart to loving actions—an open heart transcends ego. 


Change Your Programming, Change Your Life––and Death. 

The phenomenon of death––especially conscious dying––is largely hidden from view in the Western World. Anyone who genuinely seeks the development of higher consciousness might want to consider becoming a hospice volunteer familiarizing themselves with the work of Ram Dass, Steven Levine and Sogyal Rinpoche.  


“I want to know all about death because death may be reality; 

 it may be what we call God––that most extraordinary something  

that lives and moves and yet has no beginning and no end.   

––J. Krishnamurti 


For more information on conscious dying, contact [email protected] 


Natural Awakenings of Sarasota March 2020 Digital Edition