Mindful Reflections on Death (to enhance life)

It’s been an interesting year and as we transition into 2019 it is time for reflections. Where have we come from? Where are we now? What is the next most mindful step? One of the major transitions in life that we ALL make is from life to death and this was the theme of a collaboration with Jose Montemayor Alba from Virtual-Awakening.

You can watch the YouTube video where we re-connected in July at the Invisible Realms Kinetica event at the Lauren Baker Gallery in Covent Garden. It was the day that Trump visited the UK so the energy was all over the place that day!

At the event we set our intentions to run a Mindful upgrade of Jose’s Virtual Reality Near Death Experience.  I was aware of the NDE phenomena and the work of awesome Peter Fenwick. Peter was just finishing his career at the Institute of Psychiatry at the time I was starting my PhD there. Then, his work was a bit “out there” but now, more and more researchers are becoming interested in the question …what happens to our brain and mind when we die? A great resource is the International Association of Near Death Studies. This topic of course has long been discussed in philosophical and contemplative traditions. In fact all great thinkers have recommended a dose of death meditation to improve the life we have here and now.  See below to find out more about the Stoics take on death and dying (loving Marcus Aurelius “Meditations”).

Marcus Aurelius on Mortality and the Key to Living Fully

You might also check out this documentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead – narrated by Leonard Cohen no less (HOW PERFECT!).

 

With an interest in consciousness and having worked clinically with death and dying, I knew of some of this work from various traditions, but had not investigated this topic from the perspective of NDEs.  Now I have ….and what a journey. A professional and personal stretch for which I am deeply thankful to Jose.

Mindful 360 Design

A Mindful 360 approach was used to build on the extensive work Jose had done over the last few years with the Death is Only the Beginning VR experience and together we created the live event Death is Fake News.  This short video will give you a flavour of the event and we offer gratitude to the mindful cybernauts who were willing to share their experiences.

Mindful 360 Design applies brain-wise principles of mindfulness to all aspects of the work. Mindfulness, compassion and embodiment were activated in the creation of the work (our team working processes), the content design, the experience itself (including the “approach” to the experience).

There was  no escape from mindfulness and heartfulness in this work!  This was necessary as this is sensitive (even taboo!) topic for many. Yet the research is clear …. contemplating death is good for your health and can even change how you think.  Check out this short video below.

Death is Fake News Event November 2018

A small group of mindful cybernauts bravely explored this digi-analogue mash-up of the near death experience at new headquarters of The Psychedelic Society, London. They were mindfulness practitioners, transformative tech pioneers and psychedelic  and consciousness explorers. They shared their experiences in this pilot to help us understand better what it necessary to make this a psychologically safe and helpful experience.

So what is the Mindful 360 Design in this context?

We designed a mindful processes for entering and exiting the VR experience to ensure that it is not just a “wow” factor escape from reality. This is transformative tech, not entertainment. It’s about using the technology to catalyze change here, in this world, in this body, with the next footstep taken as you exit the experience. We also used mindfulness and compassion practices inside the experience (Mindfulness of the Soles of the Feet, The Transitional Pause and Hand on Heart meditations).

 

Hand on Heart Meditation inside the VR NDE Experience

We curated a “default mode network” stretching processes to prepare minds and brains in the run up to the experience. If we want to go for a run and improve our fitness, it’s helpful to stretch first so we can be ready for our run and train without injury. Similarly, if we want to expand (or maybe in this case explode) our minds, it is beneficial to “stretch” first. We can loosen up our conditioned thinking with some reflections and ponderings on death that will ease the process.  If you want find out more about this come to our next event in London May 18th, 2019.  Contact Jose for more information (info@virtual-awakening.com). We will also be in Brazil in April offering the experience as part of an exploration of legacy for Conscious Capitalists (event will be in English).

We designed Playstations (yes – actual stations where you can play – not the computer ones). These were incorporated to support and embody the childlike wonder and capacity for change and growth that can arise following this “second chance” at life. If you could start again….if you could really see the world through childlike eyes (but with the wisdom you have attained thus far)……? If you can engage with joy and wonder with the world …what is possible?

Compassion and mindfulness ran throughout the day but my favourite part was offering compassion practices to participants as they engaged in the VR experience. When there wasn’t a need for technical assistance (yes working with so much technology challenges your mindfulness skills to the max), Jose and I offered loving kindness and compassion as the mindful cybernauts made their journeys. It is both a privilege and a responsibility to be part of another’s conscious growth. Compassion and care must be at the heart of all our actions.

Offering compassion meditation to the cybernauts

It was an incredible day and experience and we are looking forward to offering more. The intention is to continue to refine the experience and offer it to anyone who wants to explore death and dying in a blended digital/analogue format. It may be particularly suitable for those who have had a NDE and are seeking understanding. One of our cybernauts who shared her experience of an NDE with the group was particularly moved and asked afterwards “How did you know what I saw?”.  The experience may not be for everyone and to provide psychological safety there is a screening interview for participants.

Many thanks to Pascal Michael and The Psychedelic Society for their support on the day.

Catch Jose on January 19th 2019 at the Cyberdelics Incubator at the Psychedelic Society Headquarters in Homerton, London.

Look out for a forthcoming article by journalist Jini Reddy in Psychologies Magazine.

Upcoming Events:

We will be hosting our second Death is Fake News Event in London on May 18th, 2019.

We will be in Brasil in April over Easter Weekend (venue TBC) for any Conscious Capitalists who want to go deep into the exploration of legacy and how this can impact on purpose and intentions in business development. #paradigmshiftingbusinessmodels

A great reading list to explore further can be found here.

Loving this video below …..

 

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