Make your own free website on

Blessed Day

Confronting Death

Spiritual Eldering: Integration in Motion
Reviews of Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life
The Necromantic Ritual Book
CRONING: What Would it Take?
Crone: Wise, Empowered, Self-Defined
Croning Ceremonies
If you want to live longer, be happy, healthy and successful,
Fantastic Lifeforce
Aging well: a lesson from centenarians
Conscious Choices For Aging With Grace
Aging With Grace
Herbs And Aging
Successful aging: abilities, strategies and understandings among elderly
Women Speak Out Against Aging
Croning Ceremony Celebrates the Wisdom of Age
A Croning Ritual
The Charge of the Crone
The Pleasures of Middle Age
Croning Ritual/Entering the Wise Age
Successful Aging:
Successful aging: THE SECOND 50
Live Long Live Free
Healthy Aging
Graceful Aging Starts When You Are 45!
Antidotes to limiting beliefs about aging
Links To Interesting Aging Articles
When dying becomes a gift
Conscious Aging:
Comfort me with your quanta;
Life After Life ... Death is merely a changing room.
Doorways of the Soul: Transformation of Energy
Aging What Can We Do About It?
Aging Well with the Alexander Technique
Aging Gracefully Through Vastu Shastra
Aging is a Mistake
Better Aging
Confronting Death
Reflections on Physical Immortality
Eternal Being
What Is Death
Aging Gracefully: It's All a Matter of Timing
About Me
Favorite Links
Contact Me
Aging is a Woman's Issue
The Crone: Getting ready for the unavoidable
What Happens After We Die?
What really happens when we 'die?'
links and resources for aging women
Books I Recommend
Growing Old and Liking It
Red Hats and Archetypes
Older Women Unite! Gray Is Gorgeous

Confronting Death
by Jane Hope

Despite our understandable fear of the unknown, our need to recognize and accept the reality of death is an essential element of our development. From a spiritual perspective, death is an everyday, inevitable presence which gives sharper focus to our experience of life; by contrast, modern secular societies seek to minimize its significance. The fragility of the body was perceived by the Tibetan mystic Milarepa: "This thing we call 'corpse', which we dread so much, is living with us here and now," he observed, adding that avoiding the contemplation of death served only to increase human fear.

Spiritual philosophers have tried for centuries to help others accept death's inevitability. Plato described his work as "phaidros melete thanatou" — a joyous rehearsal and preparation for death which could inform the soul's understanding and appreciation of life. The Daoist master Zhuang Zhou described the folly of ignoring death through the example of a man disturbed by his own shadow. He tried to run from it, but the more he ran, the more the shadow kept up with him. As the shadow continued to follow him, he ran faster and faster until he dropped dead. He did not realize that if he stepped into the shade and sat down, his shadow would vanish.

By its very nature, the contemplation of death and its mystical separation of soul and body are usually expressed through metaphor and symbol. Meditational aids, such as the Buddhist mandala or the Shri Yantra pattern used in Hindu Tantra, celebrate the soul's union with the wider universe that enables the individual to transcend his or her physical death. Christian beliefs are rooted in the conviction that the death and resurrection of Christ offer hope of immortality to every penitent soul. Contemplation of Christ's Passion, through either stylized representations or the symbol of the crucifix, is an important aspect of the faith which brings the believer into direct confrontation with agonizing physical death. St. Paul emphasized the integral relationship of life and death, observing: "I die daily, I crucify the flesh with its passions, I have no lasting city here." In the Orthodox Church, icons provide the focus for reflection and prayer. Remote and beautiful, in the formulaic Byzantine tradition, they offer the worshipper "windows on heaven" through which encounter with an unimaginable Godhead may be anticipated.

The rituals surrounding burial and mourning give spiritual guidance during an acute confrontation with death. Traditionally, family and friends prepare a corpse for cremation or burial and often undertake periods of ritual mourning, reflection and prayer. After a funeral, Jews observe seven days of mourning known as the shivah ("seven"). Family members receive visitors, but leave the house only to attend the synagogue. The mourners are also required to refrain, as signs of grief, from bathing, having sexual relations or cutting their hair. The continuation of the deceased's soul is symbolized throughout the period by a burning candle.

Many spiritual traditions have sought to offer guidance to the dying and provide them with descriptions of the soul's passage after death. In ancient Egypt, extracts from the Book of the Dead — a compilation of sacred spells — were buried with rich members of society and included images of the deceased overcoming trials in the underworld. The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes death as a moment of piercing luminosity, or white light, before the soul begins its journey toward rebirth or liberation. Emphasis is placed on the importance of facing death courageously, allowing the soul to release itself calmly from the body.

For many centuries, confronting death was a way of facing a beginning as well as an end. The large body of European medieval literature on the subject, the Ars Moriendi or Art of Dying, sought to enable the Christian soul to overcome diabolic forces and reach paradise. By unflinching acceptance of the reality of death during life, the soul is able to blossom into its full maturity.

From The Secret Language of the Soul by Jane Hope (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1997).
Copyright 1997 by Jane Hope

This is a site about my journeying toward aging.
To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.
~ Henri Frederic Amiel ~