Befriending Death, Embracing Life

Apparently, one of humanity’s greatest fears is ‘Death’ and, from my experience it is quite often a taboo topic enforced by unspoken social or familial codes or agreements that one should not be morbid or jinx or tempt fate or upset or …. fill in the gaps with whatever reasons you connect with, even when it’s clear someone is dying. More than a few times people have called me after someone with a terminal illness has died asking what they should do next in terms of funeral planning, often citing that the person dying had not wanted to talk about their death let alone the planning.

Death is a part of life, we all know this and yet what holds us back from mentioning the D word around someone who is dying of a terminal illness or wanting to discuss end of life plans with our partner, children or friends? Talking about death can be tricky.

What’s alive for you about the topic of death and dying?

Take a moment as you read that sentence again. What’s alive for you about death and dying?

Notice if anything happens in your body or thoughts as you check in with this question. Don’t pass over this too quickly. What arises? Excitement, questions, reflections, fear? A blend of all these?

In November last year, I had the privilege of working with Reena Ginwala, from India, who is also passionate about the topic of Death and Dying.  We co-presented the session, Befriending Death, Embracing Life, at the Wake Up, Walk Towards, international online summit.

We bring to you the Sufi mystic poetry from central India with its rich metaphors to support our exploration of fear and inhibitions around death and dying. In this session, we connect with the living energy of needs that motivate us into action, that is life serving. We invite the music and practices to help us connect with what is alive in us – to our inherent healing power, life force and wisdom as we engage with the challenges and opportunities of our times – befriending death and embracing life together.

Befriending Death, Embracing Life

Here is the recording of this workshop which features two beautiful bhajans, a self empathy practice and group sharing. Have a pen and paper ready if you wish to do the exercise along with us.


First Bhajan – Chadariya Jheeni Re Jheeni – Mukhtiyar Ali

Lyrics and Translation

Chadariya, jhini re jhini, ke Ram nam ras bhini.

Weaving, smaller than small, dipped in the essence of Ram’s name.

Astah kamal ka, charkha banaya, panch tattva ki puni

A lotus flower with eight petals made the spinning wheel, loaded with five elements (to make the thread)

Nao/das maas bunan ko lage, murkh maili kinhi.

It takes 9/10 months to make (the covering), (but) the foolish soil it straight away.

jab mori chaadar, ban ghaar ayie,yeh dhubiyan ke dhar dinhi.

When my covering was made, and came home, it was given to a washer man

Surat shila par de phatkaro, Is bin nirmal kini,

It was beaten on the stone of awareness, that is how it was cleansed


Chaadar odh, sanka mat kariyo, yeh do din tum ko dinhi.

(While) wearing this covering, have no doubts, it is loaned to you for (only) two days.

Murkh log, bhed nahi jane, din-din maili kinhi.

Foolish people do not understand the difference, (and) day-by-day soil it.

Dhruv, Prahlad, Sudama, ne odhi, chaadar re, Sukhdev ne nir-mal kinhi.

Dhruv, Prahlad, Sudama, also received the covering, Sukhdev made it (more) purer.

Das kabir ne, aisi odhi, jyun ki tyu dhar dinhi.

Das Kabir, wore it such, (that he) presented it back (to God) in the same state as was given.

Click here for the PDF of the lyrics Fabric of Life-Chadariya Jheeni Re Jheeni.

Second Bhajan – Ud Jayega Huns Akela

Lyrics and Translation 

Ud Jayega Huns Akela, Jug Darshan Ka Mela  – The Swan Will Fly Away All Alone, Spectacle of the World Will Be a Mere Fair  

Jaise Paat Gire Taruvar Se, Milna Bahut Duhela – As the Leaf Falls from the Tree Is Difficult to Find 

Naa Jane Kidhar Girega, Lageya Pawan Ka Rela  – Who Knows Where it Will Fall Once it is Struck with a Gust Of Wind  

Jub Howe Umur Puri, Jab Chute Ga Hukum Huzuri –  When Life Span is Complete Then Listening to Orders, Following Others, Will Be Over  

Jum Ke Doot Bade Mazboot, Jum Se Pada Jhamela – The Messengers of Yama are Very Strong It’s an Entanglement with the Yama  (Yama – death)

Das Kabir Har Ke Gun Gawe, Wah Har Ko Paran Pawe –  Servant Kabir Praises the Attributes of the Lord He Finds the Lord Soon  

Guru Ki Karni Guru Jayega, Chele Ki Karni Chela –  Guru Will Go According to His Doings The Disciple According to His  

Ud jayega hans akela Jag darshan ka mela… 

Click here to download the PDF for this chant here. Ud Jayega- The Swan will fly away alone.

The Self Empathy Meditation on Needs

Sourced from the Ongo: Everyday Nonviolence book by Catherine Cadden and Jesse Wiens Chu

Honest Conversations about Death and Dying

If you would like to join me for a monthly session or a six month program ‘Celebrating this Precious Life: Honest conversations about death and dying’ please click here for more information.