We’re all scared of death but I’m
somewhat of an extreme case. Death terrifies me. It’s on my mind an
unhealthy amount. So after years of anxiety,
it’s time for a new approach. I’m getting up close to death to find out how we can come to terms with what’s
waiting for us all. Without mortality, I don’t know
what humanity would be. This week I’m going to die. At least, in my mind. It’s like bathing myself in my own anxiety. Can this morbid experiment cure my anxiety? I’m in LA and I’m going to meet death
doula Alua Arthur. Hi! Hi. Not only does she guide clients through the process of
dying, she specialises in treating people with death anxiety like me. So today, I’m going to try her prescribed
treatment, a death meditation. This is where you run your business from?
– Mostly. OK. So, as you know, because we’ve spoken,
I have very bad death anxiety and I’m hoping that you’re able
to help me with that. Death anxiety or fear of death
is totally natural and normal. That’s the thing that tells us to get out of
the way when there’s a car approaching on the street, when we walk to the edge of a cliff,
you feel the fear you back up … That’s the fear of death that’s talking,
it’s keeping you alive. What is it that you’d say that you’re afraid of? Random accidents, that’s one category. The other one is that dying itself is just
much worse than people realise, the actual process of dying could be horrible. The process … what it feels like in the body?
– Exactly. Are you afraid of pain?
– Yes. OK. It sounds pretty tough to be in your head, always thinking about these million different possibilities that could happen. We are going to walk through all this
in the death meditation. How does the meditation work? We’re going to walk through the nine
contemplations of dying and then after that, we’re going to walk you through the process of your body shutting down. You’re going to be safe.
– OK. OK. I’m going to be here. OK.
– OK? Yes.
– Let’s do it. Number one, if you’re comfortable,
close your eyes. In about 100 years all the humans currently on the planet will be gone except for the few who are just being born and will live
incredibly long lifespans. Number two, my lifespan
is ever decreasing. Number three, death comes whether
or not I am prepared. Number four, my lifespan … Number five, death has many causes … Number six … Number seven, my body is fragile
and vulnerable … So easy for it to be wounded … … a mistake can bring life
to a surprisingly rapid end … Number eight … number nine, my own
body cannot help me when death comes. Feel this body, this intimate vehicle that has carried
you through Earth, the blood pumping you feel it sort of slow down a little bit … The entire metabolism of your body
is coming to a halt slowly, your physical body is dying, the consciousness
is moving towards your heart centre. Everything is swirling slowly inward and
you’re aware now that you are dying. Your drive to live cannot carry you forward. You will create no new memories and now you finally have the knowledge
that this is how you will die. And you are no more. And you are safe and alive and aware. You can sit up. But only when you’re ready,
take your time. So …
– Do I have makeup all over my face? A little bit. OK. What did you experience? It’s like bathing myself in my own anxiety,
basically. Yeah, you took an anxiety bath. I have to be honest,
I wasn’t expecting to like … I’m not a meditator but
that was actually quite profound. I guess because you’re in a peaceful
situation, it’s less scary when you’re looking at it straight on than it is
when you’re like in your own head trying to hide from it. That’s one of the real
benefits of doing the death meditation is that you have a chance to practise it …
– Yeah. Yeah. And think it through without being physically feeling like you’re in any danger.
– Yeah. You feel good?
– I feel really good, yeah. You do? I thought I was going to have to pretend
when I woke up that it had been, ‘Oh, yeah, no, that was really amazing.’ But it was actually. Were you thinking of lying to me? Well, I didn’t want to just wake up
and be like, ‘That was shit.’ That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for your
openness and also for your honesty. Would you say that you’re part of the death-positive movement? Yeah. And that’s quite hard for a lot of people
to get their heads around, li ke death and positive together? I think people think we mean,
‘Yeah death, like yeah, die!’ That’s not how I see it at all. I see it as more, like, OK, death. It’s like, I’m going to
die eventually, let me live like it. People think it’s quite a privileged
position to be in, to be able to plan for your death and think about the best way
that you would want it … Do you think that that’s true? We are all thinking about death. All the time. It might just be a privilege to hire somebody to sit with you during the time of this moment. But folks like me are trying to find ways to create more accessibility so
that everybody can have access. Why did you want to become a death doula? I practised law for 10 years. Right. But I had grown really depressed by my practice and I
met a woman on a bus who had uterine cancer. We spend a lot of time talking
about her life and then her death and it felt very universal, like, why is this not
the thing that we’re talking about? It didn’t seem to be a thing out there. So, that made it super clear that I wanted
to support people through dying. You get to be with humans in their, like,
full humanness, like we’re so human when we’re dying. It’s such a vulnerable and intimate space
and to be invited into it is a gift. And how do you take care of yourself in the process? Because death is a really hard thing
for most people and you encounter it day in, day out. Well, I like French fries a lot,
I eat a lot of French fries. Cos they’re wonderful and delicious. I give myself a lot of freedom to feel
what I want, to be who I am. I cry a lot and I’m OK with that. There are lessons in death all the time. I think the greatest lessons
about living come from dying. What have you learned? That this life is so brief. That it’s maybe an opportunity to just experience this whole weird funky ride. That my existence matters to some but that also it’s pretty insignificant
in the grand scheme of things. And that’s OK. It’s hard to explain why that
worked because everything that Alua made me think about was all stuff that I
think about all the time that’s really, really scary and I guess I’ve always
thought about myself dying as happening in this alien world, in this alien body in
this kind of horrible place but when you realise that it’s this world, this body,
stuff that you’re familiar with it doesn’t seem quite as
horrifying in a way. I do feel like I’ve understood something
I didn’t understand before and I’m actually making some
progress to conquering this anxiety. Thank you for watching episode six. Next week is our last episode in the series and in it I meet Joe. Joe’s 34, has cancer and was told
that he had a year to live. I spent the day with him, his wife and
his friends and he has an amazing, interesting perspective on death. Click subscribe if you don’t want to miss it.