Create a Life to Die For and a Death Worth Living For!
Stephen Garrett: Thanks Colette. I am really happy to be here and I actually chose my diva start to be with you all the skills I am offering to teach so
Stephen: I’m so glad I made that choice; it’s great to see your face and I am so excited about what you and I are going to talk about and share with your friends and colleagues.
Colette: Thank you so much. The moment I met you I absolutely loved you and it was meeting on Skype as I have not actually met you in person yet so yeah, this is what I am used to about Stephen Garrett. This is fantastic. Okay, so let’s get into it.
Stephen: Great! Great!
Colette: Now death isn’t a topic that many people are comfortable with. I’m sure you are aware of that
Stephen: I am.
Colette: So how do we start to get comfortable with death?
Stephen: Well, that’s the odd thing that I have been looking at is the only way I found to get comfortable about death is to talk about it and our culture I discovered in talking with hospice executives, hospice volunteers, palliative care workers, we’re a death-denying culture. We’ve been trained that death is bad and wrong; it should be prevented and it’s the enemy. Because of that, there is a real reluctance to even have a conversation about what death could be so the only way I could see really is to do exactly what you and I are doing is to talk about it openly, lovingly with a little bit of humour, and a bit of joy believe it or not.
Colette: Okay. So let’s talk about that.
Colette: So how to we talk about death in a joyful way?
Stephen: Well, for me, death is like a double-edged coin. It’s life and death; you can’t have life without death and death without life. The 2 work together so for me, when my sister died way back in 1988, I was in the old mind set of “Oh my God, her death is bad, Oh my God it’s deplorable, Oh my God I’ll miss her”. Those things are true but I didn’t realize along the drawbacks of the death were tremendous benefits. The benefit I gained from my sister’s death was I got my own life back and I kind of woke up from a stupor I was in like on automatic pilot. I came back into my body and just woke up and, for me, even this many years away, I look back on my sister’s death and I am thankful for her and sad that I miss her, sad that I can’t hug her; disappointed we can’t share Christmas presents or birthday presents ongoingly but my goodness, the gift I got from her death was my life back.
Colette: Tell me about that. What was the situation before she passed away? Had she been ill for awhile?
Stephen: No, sudden death
Colette: Yeah right.
Stephen: So sudden death is quite shocking to the family that’s remaining because there is no preparation.
Stephen: But what it did was shocked my family back into life.
Colette: Aaah. I see. I get it. So, basically what you guys had been doing was running life on auto-pilot and not rally living and then this big unexpected death happened and it’s like ‘Whoa, what am I really doing here? There’s more to this than acquiring the cars, money, the things
Stephen: Exactly. And, what we noticed in my family even to this date is that we always thought we had tomorrow to say I love you. We always thought we had tomorrow to go for a visit. We always thought we had tomorrow to send a card or present. We always thought we had tomorrow but it is not necessarily true.
Stephen: Now, that’s not a morbid thought for me; that’s actually an inspiring thought.
Stephen: Because what do I want to leave my friends with today? For example, you and I, this could be the last time we are with each other. Right?
Stephen: And that’s fine but because it could be, I’m inspired to give you as much of me as I can in this short talk. Just in case.
Colette: It’s all about being in that present moment. That’s basically what you’re talking about.
Stephen: That’s right. Absolutely! As Eckhart Tolle says “Be here now” and oddly enough, death has a habit of having life come quickly around it. If you notice people who are dieing or dead, there’s a whole lot of live going on to counter-balance death because we have a world of opposites. So, if there’s death present, there’s got to be a lot of life present. That’s what I would like to train people to look at is the life remaining while honouring the life that has been lived. Does that make sense?
Colette: Yes. It makes a ton of sense because it is true; we are in a dualistic world you know. There is right-wrong, truth-bad, right-left, black-white so yes, wherever there’s death, there’s life so let’s bring out the life whenever there’s a death. I guess that’s part of, and you are going to have to help me here as I am not big on religion, but there are certain religious cultures where they do celebrate death. Is that not right like in the Jewish community or something, they’re ones that do.
Stephen: Well, I’m Irish by descent so the Irish have these amazing wakes which is a huge celebration of life. I know when my father passed away; we just had a big party. We got out his golf clubs, we got out his cribbage board, we got out his friend Jack Daniels, we told jokes about my dad’s life, we had a whole history thing and a huge party and celebration to remember the life lived as opposed to solely mourning the death.
Colette: That’s right. So, with you going into teaching people about how to embrace death so that they can truly be living, has your family also been able to accept the death of your sister and are they at the same place you’re in or …
Stephen: Yeah, this is interesting you know. It’s a very good question because we each have our own pace and our own way with death because in reality Colette when I face my sister’s death I was also facing my own.
Stephen: My own mortality came right to the end of my nose. My brother, as an example, is a bit opposite to me. He was unable to embrace my sister’s death as an opening door and he’s closed his own life to looking at death and now he’s struggling with cancer himself. So, it’s kind of we each have our own way and our own pace. My mom is great with it, my other sister Susan is great with it but my brother peter is having some trouble. That’s just the way it goes.
Colette: Would you say because of that difficulty with it, does that have anything to do with the struggle with cancer?
Stephen: Yes. It’s an energetic thing and my brother is unwilling to face death so in a way he’s, I’m not saying consciously, but energetically and deeply spiritually, he’s in a way bringing to his own face death.
Stephen: We’ve all got to deal with it.
Colette: Exactly. The inability to accept it is bringing it sooner in a way.
Colette: So, I’ve got a question here. Why does embracing death actually make life more exciting to live? We’ve talked about it a little bit but do you have any extra things to add?
Stephen: Well, yeah, it’s about that now moment that Eckhart Tolle speaks about – most of us most of the time live slightly off the now moment in the past worrying and feeling guilty about what we’ve done or we live slightly off that moment in the future worrying about what may yet come. So we tend to be out of now moment and, so for me, when I hold death on my right shoulder as a dear friend and an ally, that reminds me each breath I take may be my last. Each step I take is a reminder to enjoy the moment because I’m here
Colette: That is beautiful.
Stephen: And, I’m breathing!
Colette: That is awesome because I’ll say I love Eckhart Tolle. He was sort of the big mentor of mine back in the day although we are not going to put leaders up on pedestals anymore. Back in 2002, I read ‘The Power of Now’ and just being here now, being in this now moment, but gosh, how the heck do I remember to do it? This is awesome because this is a totally new way of looking at things. It’s like ‘Yes, I am projecting into the future or I’m way in the past but if I had death happily sitting on my shoulder reminding me Colette you know this could be your last one, your last breath … pay attention.
Stephen: That’s right! And, also Colette, I want to reframe death a little bit. It’s not just death of the body, it could be death of a relationship; it could be death of a job; it could be death of financial abundance; it could be death of friendship. There are all kinds of different deaths that we go through in our live. For example, lying down at night and going to sleep, it’s the death of the day. So, death is not just a physical death; it’s also mirrored in other areas of our life.
Colette: Totally. So let’s talk about that for a second. I know a lot of us, I know I did, struggle with the death of a relationship. So, when it comes to an end and you’re r4eally sad because it wasn’t something you wanted, how does the embracing of death help you with that?
Stephen: Well, what I do and what I’m teaching is to help people recognize that with every closing door there’s an opening door. With the death of a relationship, there are drawbacks but there are also benefits. For example, I was working with a woman in Edmonton the other day and her stepfather died. So there was a loss, there was a loss of a father figure but I said to her, “Who’s come into your family to replace that father figure?” Somebody must have come in somewhere to pick up the father things he was doing. She looked around and said, “Oh my God! My father of origin, my natural dad, has come by and he’s actually been helping me with the kids for the last 3 months. I didn’t even notice that.” So though there was a loss of a step-father, there was a gain of a father figure. So, when we balance it that way looking at the drawbacks and the benefits, it tends to balance out the event.
Colette: So, that’s something there was a teacher I once used to listen to and he explained life and I can’t remember if it was a 10×10 grid or a 100×100 grid but he basically said, you know, on this grid everywhere where this is a cross-section, imagine that is a place in your life where a person, place, time, thing, or event and when it’s full, you’re full – you’re at capacity so you can’t let anymore in so when something leaves whether it is through the death of a relationship or you’re letting something go … maybe it’s still to do with relationships … you know sometimes when you are on a spiritual path and people that you’re with aren’t coming along so they fall away from your life, well that opens up a place on that grid. Is that kind of what we’re talking about?
Stephen: Absolutely! You know I am a bit of a watcher of nature because I take nature as a great teacher. If you watch waves coming up on a shore, a wave will always bring something new up and take something old away always. I’ve watched thousands of waves, thousands of them … because I’m a slow learner you know, and I always thought new stuff coming in with the wave and old stuff vanishing unfailingly so in life, we will always lose something but gain something because we are in a polar, bipolar environment so if there’s a loss, there’s got to be a gain by simple physics.
Colette: That’s cool and you know I just got back from Mexico and I wished we would have had this conversation before I went because I would have paid attention. That’s funny. Okay, before this call, I asked some people who are mutual friends, people who know you and who know me, questions they might like to ask you if they had the opportunity. So, I’ve got a couple here so ‘How do we use the news of death and both fear and despair so death creates fear and despair in a lot of us, right? So how do we use fear and despair to transform the new s of death, the experience of death, in our lives?
Stephen: Well, first I would feel both the fear and despair. I wouldn’t push anything away. There’s nothing wrong, nothing to get rid off – only to embrace. Now, you will notice there’s always opposites so what’s the opposite of fear?
Colette: It’s love.
Stephen: What’s the …aah, freedom actually.
Colette: Okay, alright, I like this.
Stephen: Freedom because there is no opposite to love.
Colette: Aah, love is everything. Love is all there is.
Stephen: Love is everything, that’s right. So if there is fear, then the opposite to fear is freedom. If there is despair, the opposite to despair is likely joy. So, you fully embrace the despair; you fully embrace the fear. You feel it; you let it be; you express it while at the same time, you look around for its opposites. Where is the joy? Where is the freedom?
Stephen: And, you’ll find it because it’s got to be there.
Colette: Right. It’s always there.
Stephen: What happens is we … it’s always there! But, what happens is we tend to get drawn into the fear; we tend to get drawn into the despair and we become blind to what else is there.
Stephen: So I would intentionally … yeah, I would intentionally go looking for the joy and freedom …
Colette: Yeah, at the same time.
Stephen … to balance that process.
Colette: Yeah, but at the same time, fully experiencing the despair.
Colette: Yeah. It’s so true too; it’s like that shadow work a lot of people talk about … about how we have our shadow side and rather than stuffing the angry self or the irritable self, or pretending like they don’t exist you know … fully feel that anger that you feel; allow it to be expressed because it’s going to continue to come up until you accept that it’s there. Right?
Colette: Yeah …
Stephen: And our body minds are storage containers so if we keep on stuffing stuff , stuffing down, stuffing down, stuffing down; we become toxified and then if you’ve ever seen anybody blow their stack over their charge card being refused, that’s the typical result. We have the last straw blows up the bank rather than express the fear and dismay immediately when it’s not toxic but when it’s a gift or offering.
Colette: Awesome. Very good. Okay. Now this whole thing about embracing death, does it have anything to do with reincarnation?
Colette: Do you need to believe in reincarnation in order to
Colette: Okay. Good! That was a question somebody else asked. How do you help someone through the grieving process?
Stephen: The most important thing I’ve discovered is to really hold them in my heart as fully as I can. It’s also sometimes with body contact sometimes not, but to really get them and their grief and their fear and their despair to really receive them fully for their sake.
Stephen: I have my own particular perspective on death. I embrace it lovingly and graciously because I’m not afraid of it.
Stephen: But others are and they need to be allowed and honoured for their place with death.
Colette: You know I think this is a whole huge conversation and we may have to have this conversation later again in another episode because I, in my counseling practicum I did when I finished my Masters in Psychology, we had a fellow who was a hospice counselor for like 20 some odd years and we had a big discussion about this one day and it was about like when you’re helping someone accept death, you know somebody else who is going through the grieving process. Everybody has their own way of going through it right and we really almost need to find out what is your way; what does serve you; what do you need in order like do you need to just vent, do you need to just talk; would you rather me give you a card versus come and visit you with food. You know, like all these kinds of things … right. So, it’s almost like getting to know the person …
Colette: You know, like what can I do for you? And, not being afraid to ask what to do for them
Stephen: Exactly and one thing I would teach and encourage people to do around death is ‘not to know’. If somebody knows, the hospice worker knows, if a support worker thinks they know what to do for you, it’s likely an error …
Stephen: They may have a broad basket of tools that they can use in any given situation but the appropriate way is to ask the one who needs the support what they think they would need in the moment.
Colette: Right. Exactly. I think that’s a beautiful answer. Absolutely, I …
Colette: Right. I BELIEVE you there! This is the thing … what do you think about euthanasia and all that? Like should we have the right, should we have the choice to say good-bye?
Stephen: When my dad died, he was in the hospital and he had tubes in every opening in his body and I was just … my dad was an active, vital, happy, gregarious, outgoing, playful guy. So, he phoned me up one day and said “Son, I can’t play golf; I can’t play cribbage; I can’t kibitz with my friends … this ain’t it for me … it’s just not it for me you know. This isn’t loving kindness; this is for you guys. What I want to do is get unplugged and if I go, I go and if I don’t, I don’t.”
Colette: Right … right. So now what happens …
Stephen: So, he would …
Colette: What do you think needs to happen in order for our government or whatever it is, the powers that be, to change the decision that it isn’t something … that we can have that choice?
Stephen: That’s a long-ranging discussion. I’ve been reading a lot of reports lately and, oh boy, you might be into a lion’s den with that one because the professional system thinks it’s their job to save the life and there’s the Hippocratic Oath and all this kind of stuff. In essence for me simply, it’s my life and I have say and others can join me in how I want to go out or not. But, that’s a very long-ranging discussion and I know it’s raging in Ottawa right now. There is a lot of people looking at it and we need to because of the demographics and the wave of death that’s coming our way and, more importantly, because of the truth of the matter is it’s my life and I need to have say in how I do it and where I go with it …
Colette: Well maybe …
Stephen: I can take advice but I’ve got to have say.
Colette: I agree so maybe then just let’s possibly do another episode and we’ll talk about that topic.
Stephen: Sure … sure. It’s a hot one.
Colette: It needs to be talked about.
Stephen: It’s a hot one! And it needs to be talked about.
Colette: Absolutely. Okay, so you are passionate about the power of personal choice and that’s kind of what we’re talking about right now with respect to having the choice to end our lives. How else is it a big passion of yours?
Stephen: Well, what I’ve noticed in my life, and again this stems right back to my sister’s death in May of 1988, was for quite a while in my young adult life, I found myself on automatic pilot. I was making choices from a belief system … I was making choices out of ‘shoulds’ and ‘have tos’ … I was making choices out of the environment I was working in. I was seldom making a choice from the depth of my heart. Rules, regulations, policies, shoulds, have tos; musts … all those dynamics were at play having me make choices for everybody else’s happiness but my own. So what I have learned over the years is that we’ve just been trained to do that. Since little child to adult we’ve been trained to compromise, to cut selves in sections of selves out to keep the happy family going … to keep a happy relationship going and, for me, compromise in that way (not compromising over the colour of the house or the length of term of a mortgage) but compromising over me … my essence … is the death-knell of healthy relationship.
Colette: Yeah … absolutely.
Stephen: Big time.
Colette: So it’s funny you say that because that’s one of my huge lessons and learnings in life was you know, I was married and I had if you could imagine the white picket fence, the two cars, and the soon to be 1.3 kids and (giggle, giggle) you know, I had everything that society said I wanted and I didn’t want it. What was funny was I had it all but I was unhappy and as much as I, you know, my ex-husband is an amazing human being you know, the life that he wanted, he wanted that life and I didn’t. I had this vision of living downtown and walking everywhere and travelling and you know just all these different things and not having kids … all this stuff and people thought I was crazy for breaking up with him, for leaving for we did; we had a great friendship … we were good partners but it was just we wanted different things so …yeah. Making that personal choice to walk away from all of that, from everything all the TV commercials and everything say I should want … Yeah!
Colette: It was a BIG one. It was huge … yeah.
Stephen: Are you happier because of that conscious choice you made?
Colette: Totally and guess what! I live downtown; I walk everywhere … we just got back from Mexico …
Stephen: Clap … clap. Great!
Colette: And that’s huge in the counseling and coaching that I do … ‘What do YOU want?’ you know. What do you want to create so I think that’s why I love you because we are so on path you know …
Stephen: Yeah …
Colette: So on similar beliefs.
Stephen: Totally. And what I’ve noticed Colette is when I’m really in choice … right here right now I’m in choice … my choice almost doesn’t matter to others around me because I feel it’s me.
Stephen: So there’s reality to it so there’s less argument or confrontation because people just get ‘Oh boy that’s Stephen choosing. Oh wow, look at him go’.
Colette: Yes … yeah
Stephen: Where you know if I don’t choose from my deepest core, then it’s like waffly kind of namby pamby and that’s when the conflicts arise when I’m not coming from depth of choice. So if I want less upset in my life and less conflict, choosing from my deeper heart is the way to go …
Stephen: Because it’s felt … it’s felt.
Colette: See now … this is the thing so back in the story I was just telling you about, I was very certain about the life that I wanted to create so you know I made that choice which was a very tough choice but I did it. Now, there’s lots of things in my life that I am very conflicted on, confused … very confused … so I don’t know what choices to make so what do you do then?
Stephen: Well, I’ll argue with you Colette …
Colette: Okay … yeah … thanks.
Stephen: You’ll always know what choice to make if you STOP … BREATHE … DROP INTO YOUR HEART … and LISTEN CLOSELY to that place in you that’s sacred that you seldom invite others to. You listen to that place, that heart beat of yours; you’ll always know what to do. I know you …
Colette: Yeah, you do.
Stephen: We’ve never met in person but I know you …
Stephen: And I know you know what to do for yourself.
Colette: Right. It’s funny that you say that because, you’re familiar with Karen Klassen, right?
Colette: Karen Klassen, she’s my personal coach right now and in fact, she was just here yesterday. She was staying at my house, house-sitting my house while we were away in Mexico, and she was here yesterday and gave me a session and it was just that. It was that very question I gave you of how do I get in tune with what it is the choices that I need to make for me and what it did, it came down to just that … you know, we did some inner work and my higher self told me that it was just that sit and stay until whatever the choice is feels right … like it’s the feeling … it feels good …
Stephen: Bingo! The feeling I … something I’ve learned over the last ten years is the feeling centre of me is THE most important part of me because from that feeling centre emanates my entire life. My whole life is drawn to me by how I feel about myself …
Colette: Totally … totally. That’s Abraham-Hicks …
Stephen: Yeah totally … totally. So, if I want to draw to myself an amazing life, I’ve got to do some feeling work inside; internally, get to know who I really am and fall in love with me as I really am. Then, I’m free to be in life.
Stephen: Because if … because I’m not looking for love anywhere else than where it belongs which is in my heart. You know I’m not looking to you to fill my love tank up …
Colette: And what does that do when …
Stephen: It’s already full.
Colette: Yeah … and what does that do when you go externally to ask everyone what should I do … oh my gosh, I know it makes me crazy. It makes me feel insane so I’m committing to my self to no longer do it, like that’s it; I’m done. If I ask you again, just say like you said ‘Colette, you know what to do’. So Stephen, I want to talk about your saying and I’m going to have to read it again as it is a tough one for me but let’s talk about what it means to create a life to die for and a death that’s worth living for. So, give me your example of how you’re doing that.
Stephen: Well for me, what I’m doing to the best of my ability is creating a life that’s based on my heart’s passion. I really want to teach people how to make conscious aware alive choices and I really want to teach people how to embrace death so I’m doing it in every day. Every day I’m doing it and every day I’m talking about it and I’m inspired about it when I get out of bed in the morning because I keep thinking God, there’s these neat creative ideas I can throw out there that may help somebody so by following my own passion, I’m creating a life to live for and also I had a financial planner join my wife and I today to plan our finances in the future so I’m actually looking at my death thinking, well, where would I like to die? Oh Varanasi, India oh you know so I’m actually creating a death, not that it is going to happen imminently, but I’m creating a death plan for myself that I’d love to have. And, why wouldn’t I? It’s my darn life. Right?
Colette: And so is that what you mean when you say a death worth living for? It’s like ‘Holy yay, look at where I’m going to get to go.
Stephen: Yeah! Yeah! And to have friends and family there too because I’ll still be there just not in my body. So let’s have a celebration! Let’s have a … I was in Bali and I watched a cremation going on and I mean it was a party. I thought I went to the wrong place to see the cremation; I thought a party broke out! And, a party did and there was great celebration, great love, great grief, great sadness, great joy, great food, great dancing, great colours, great music. It was all awesome! What a way to go so that’s what I mean by creating a death to live for and a life to die for.
Colette: Right. Awesome. Okay, well we’re at the end of our time so what I want to do now is just let people know how to find you. So what we’re going to do is with this video below it we are going to put the links so people can find you. And, you’re going to give those to me but …
Colette: Let me just talk about them right now. I know there’s your fan page which is facebook.com/stephengarrettnow and …
Stephen: That’s correct!
Colette: And your website – what’s your website?
Stephen: It’s going to be www.stephengarrett now.com. It’s under construction but it’s going to be up and running very very soon.
Colette: Okay. Perfect! So, that’s all we’re going to talk about today. I really want to thank you for being here and being so accommodating …
Colette: Yeah. It’s awesome and I definitely want to have you back.
Stephen: I’d love to be back Colette and I’m just so glad to see your beautiful happy smiley face right in front of me and I hope that your listeners get lots from today …
Colette: Me too.
Stephen: And I get to do this again because it is just so much fun.
Colette: Absolutely. Okay Stephen, thank you so much. Have a fantastic night!