In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying Sogyal Rinpoche identifies a primary problem in western society: a deeply embedded aversion to death. We teach ourselves how to live, he says, but our lessons fail to include dying, which other cultures approach with reverence as part of life. We avoid talk of death until we meet it head-on and at that point, we succumb to fear and panic. We are unprepared. An obvious reflection of this is society’s refusal to accept aging; we cannot allow ourselves to grow old, and even though we can’t fight the chronology, we can go to extremes to mask the physical signs. A leading actress is ‘washed up” at 40. The advertising industry writes us off in our mid 30, catering instead to the more profitable 18-34 year old market. We avoid acknowledging death so rigorously that we create euphemisms to disguise our expiration: we pass away, kick the bucket, go to a better place, is no longer with us. A hilarious example of death avoidance is Monty Python dead parrot sketch: “This parrot is no more!” “This is an ex -parrot.!” (if you haven’t seen it, you can find it here

Our fear of death is fueled by our quest for eternal youth and our fear of endings. We do not want sit on a ride that ends. Alternatives to death remain impossible, as Buddhists know: the only constant in life is change. Taking a retrospective inventory of our lives, we ‘ll see we have experienced and survived many little endings along the way, each the equivalent of a small death. As we move from one phase to another, one relationship to another, one location to the next, we lay to rest one life and begin anew. Each milestone signals the end of one accomplishment and leads us oin the direction of another. In this way life prods us to gather wisdom and build character; we close one door and open the next and if we fully embrace the moment, we look ahead rather than backward. Even Ecclesiastes addresses living in the now rather than looking backward or forward: “There is no remembrance of people of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them “

Fully experiencing the present invites us to gracefully transition from one stage to the next. There is no next. If we move without stuttering, we magically find ourselves in a new ‘now.’ There is no room for wistfulness or fear. We ascend. Most cultures mark these key stations with rituals commemorating them as rites of passage. In Hindusim, these passages include ceremonies from conception through cremation, honoring such small milestones as the infant’s first venture into sunlight at 4 months, feeding of the first solid food and on to more familiar phrases like commencement of study, graduation, marriage, family. With each transition, our vibration changes because we as we enter new levels of awareness. Judaism and Christianity do the same with naming ceremonies, communion, bar/bat mitzvahs, confirmation.

Accepting Joseph Campbell’s premise that our life is the unfolding of individual mythological stories, we become the heroes of those stories and more easily transition from one phase to another. As we confront and survive the many challenges that position us along a continuum of life: joy, loss, pain, grief, success, fear, strength, frailty, innocence, wisdom. Our challenges become the mythological elements that facilitate transition, a process that can't be delayed no matter how cleverly we rename or resist it. So why not embrace the wizard or the crone and the process that leads us there?

Lisa Shaw is an animal communicator, Reiki Master, writer, and award winning professor who lives in South Florida with her family of animals. Her website is and her e-book, Illumination: Life Lessons from our Animal Companions, is available on Amazon.

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Comment by Lisa Shaw on May 22, 2016 at 9:27pm

I looked at it....very interesting.

Comment by Regina Chouza on May 18, 2016 at 12:31am

Thank you Kathy! I'll keep it in mind =)

Comment by Kathy Custren on May 16, 2016 at 7:49pm

To answer Regina's question - this is the headline analyzer tool I mentioned in one of our recent community updates. It is not perfect, but does come in handy:

Comment by Lisa Shaw on May 16, 2016 at 6:28pm
Hi Regina and Kathy. Thanks for looking at the article. When I initially posted it and I looked at it there were no paragraph breaks because it came as a paste from Microsoft word. Then I inserted the paragraph breaks when I revised.
Comment by Regina Chouza on May 16, 2016 at 6:19pm
Hi Kathy, Where do you see the title ranks?


Comment by Kathy Custren on May 16, 2016 at 6:06pm

One thing, though - the title: Transitioning with Grace ranks at 51. How to Transition with Grace comes in at a 74 - if this meets with your approval? Thanks!

Comment by Kathy Custren on May 16, 2016 at 6:01pm

Thank you - I am seeing today after refreshing the screen and all is well. Thank you and forwarding on to the publishers ~ Blessings! 

Comment by Kathy Custren on May 15, 2016 at 10:25pm

Hi, Lisa - Could you check your submission on your end and let me know what you see? I refreshed my browser twice, and this looks like a similar incident with another article, where there are no paragraphs defined. It looks like it is all one big thing. Please see if you can edit to insert the line spacing where it needs to go, please? Thank you ~ Blessings! 

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