Episode Summary

Managing death anxiety and using a positive, contemplation of death as inspiration to live today.

Episode Notes

Do you have disturbing thoughts about your own death? Or horrific daydreams where you play out different scenarios involving your own death, or that of your loved ones?

I think of it as the "elephant in the room" when we’re talking about spirituality and our souls. We’re probably all having these thoughts a lot more than we’re talking about them …

You Might Die Tomorrow is Kate Manser's life’s work dedicated to helping you live urgently, love openly, and enjoy your life — by thinking about your death.

It’s about an inspiration to live today.

GUEST LINKS - KATE MANSER

www.youmightdietomorrow.com

Deathbed Meditation

You Might Die Tomorrow Facebook Group

MENTIONED ON THE SHOW

Heather Alice Shea

HOST LINKS - SLADE ROBERSON

Slade's Books & Courses

Get an intuitive reading with Slade

Automatic Intuition

FACEBOOK GROUP

Shift Your Spirits Community

BECOME A PATRON

https://www.patreon.com/shiftyourspirits

Edit your pledge on Patreon

TRANSCRIPT

Kate:

Yeah, I was just like everybody else. I didn't really think about death very much, other than thinking that I was totally invincible all throughout high school, doing a lot of dangerous things.

But at the time, what precipitated my shift, from going from not thinking about death to embracing death, which is where I am today, was a period of intense death anxiety. I don't know if you've ever been there, Slade, but I was just consumed by death anxiety.

At the time, I was in a marriage that was very unhappy and I was just in decision paralysis agony, didn't know what to do, and then I had three people die around my same age in unrelated tragedies in a span of six months.

So that just sent me into a tailspin oh, Ohmygod, I could die at any moment. I need to be scared all the time.

Slade:

Mmm... So tell me, what are some of the components of death anxiety? What are the thoughts and the voices that you're hearing? What are they saying?

Kate:

It was like there was a movie in my head all the time of a really gory, not fun movie happening where like, if I was driving into an intersection, for example, which you do, we do all the time. I would just have this quick snap vision of a Mack truck coming and taking me out as I went through the intersection. And then it would just continue. That movie would continue and I would think, oh, what would happen?

The paramedics would come, then my family would have to be notified. All down just this dark tunnel of mortality.

And then the same thing would apply for other people in my life. I would imagine getting the call that my mom had died unexpectedly. And I think the phone was kind of a trigger for me because I had gotten a couple of these unexpected calls when three of my friends died. I had that negative association.

And so I was just afraid of death all the time. It was just this mysterious unknown thing that I couldn't control but put all my energy into trying to.

Slade:

Okay, so it was much more visceral violence, suspensful gory movie kind of stuff for you. It wasn't even more the existential stuff. It was actual... Well I've heard before that that's kind of a PTSD thing? To, in the moment, be struck with flashes of anxious violence. I mean, anything can cause you to have PTSD. You could have it around the trauma of those phone calls. You know what I'm saying? The ones that had happened in the past and that was some kind of lingering energy that was getting triggered.

Kate:

Oh yeah.

And it was the gory moment of death, for sure, but it was also.. My mind was very preoccupied with all the things that would happen after the death occurred. Because that's what's unknown. We don't know if we're going to be like the stoic, you know, if we lose someone in our life that we really care about, are we going to be the stoic survivor or are we going to be like crumbled under the circumstances?

So I would have trouble sleeping at night because I would imagine the whole scenario. What would happen if my husband had died unexpectedly, and calling his family and going to Brazil to have a funeral there and all of the things that would happen.

It got to the point that, I had always been someone who was like, pretty much a lover of life, but during this period, which lasted about a year and half, I was putting all my energy into death anxiety and it had completely clouded the beauty of life.

Slade:

Okay, so I have to tell you. There was this synchronicity involved with our meeting. The day before I was introduced to your site, a woman had posted in our Facebook Shift Your Spirits community asking if anyone else had obsessive thoughts about death.

Kate:

Wow...

Slade:

And she was really quick to say that, it wasn't really negative, it wasn't violent. She wasn't contemplating suicide or anything like that. She was just kind of putting it out there that she thought really often about death. But more from an existential place.

That's why I was surprised that you were talking about these kind of violent scenarios, the actual death itself. She was kind of talking more from a place of like, being really profoundly aware, like this clock ticking and having this limited amount of time on earth and she just put it out there and said, you know, that she was thinking about it in a contemplative way.

She found it odd that more people didn't talk about it, right? It's like this elephant in the room, especially in a community like ours where we're talking about spirits and communication from those who've passed. That kind of stuff. She was asking if anyone wanted to chime in and say how they felt about it.

And it was weird because it was one of those posts where a lot of people were liking it or responding to it without commenting. So I said, "Yeah, I really do think those thoughts actually, and I wasn't sure what to say though in support of that other than... I feel you.

Kate:

Yeah.

Slade:

And then the very day, there you were with your message and I thought, okay, this is obviously a conversation that I need to have for everyone who was probably seeing that post and thinking, I don't even know what to do with this.

So help me reframe this in a positive light. How did you get to a place where you could embrace your death?

Kate:

So believe it or not, it was another tragic and unexpected death of someone around me, same age, so it was like the fourth. A year and a half had passed since that six months where I had three in a row. I believe it was, yeah, about a year and a half went by and then a friend and coworker of mine at Google, Dan Freedenburg, was climbing Mount Everest and he died in the Nepal earthquake, in an avalanche, when he was up at base camp.

Man, I was so angry initially when I heard that he died, because he was a really vibrant, adventurous, goofy, very intelligent person, and very well liked among Google and his friends. He dated a celebrity and what my first reaction was, was just anger. That he had taken part in an elective sport, really, and took his life in his own hands and ultimately it was his choice to climb Mount Everest. That ultimately took him out of this world, away from all of us.

I was so mad at him at first.

But then as I thought more about it, I realized that climbing Mount Everest is something that you don't just like do on a random Saturday. It's something that requires a ton of mindful energy. It's very expensive. You have to train really hard for it and it's a choice that you make over a long period of time.

I realized that he was a very smart and vibrant person and he had put a lot of thought into climbing Mount Everest. He accepted the risk that came with that because, as I looked back on his decision, I came upon this realization that he HAD to climb Mount Everest in order to truly live. That if he had stayed on the ground, he also would have died in a way as well, because he would have been living out of his system of values and not living his authentic life.

That was when I suddenly saw death in a new perspective, which was that I have no control over when I die. Dan had no control over when he died and he decided to live vibrantly and take calculated risk.

I could die climbing Mount Everest if I ever did that, which I probably wouldn't.

I could die in that intersection that I was so afraid of going through all the time.

Or, I'm a very clumsy person! I could probably die climbing the stairs, and I'm putting so much of my precious energy into worrying about death when I could be putting that energy into living while I'm still alive.

That was really the main turning point for me, was just like, hey, I could die tomorrow and whereas when I was with the death anxiety, that was the most terrifying thought. Suddenly, a light had been shown on it and I was like, oh! I could die tomorrow! And that's the most freeing concept I've ever experienced.

Slade:

So that's interesting. The fact that we could make that a freeing concept.

So how do you recommend, as we're listening, we're all probably now really feeling the anxiety about it. So how do we manage that?

Kate:

Yeah. I'm actually doing some research right now for this for the last chapter that I'm working on for my book. Like, psychologically we manage our fear of death. I believe that fear of death is... And many, many scientists and psychologists believe that fear of death is like the one universal fear that all humans share. We're not all afraid of snakes but we're all afraid of death.

The research shows that the best way to manage our fear of death is two things: Number one. To live life in accordance with our values, which then bolsters our self-esteem. And number two, to invite mortality awareness into your consciousness, as opposed to keeping it on the fringes, because I'd be very curious to talk to the woman who posted in your Facebook group what her contemplation has been and the arc of that.

Because, I know I can say for myself that the more I invite death into my life, the more I think about it and meditate on it, the better I feel and the more vibrant I live while I'm still alive.

Slade:

So how do you think we can use this sense of our mortality to empower us? To help us make decisions about what we're doing in our lives?

Kate:

Man, in death, everything seems to just fall away and become clear. Death is this... There's something about it. There's something about the finality of it that we have so much going on in our lives that when we look at it from the perspective of death or the end of our life, we realize how little of it really matters to us.

That's what I've found is the best way to help me make decisions in life is, I actually do this thing that I call the Deathbed Gut Check, which is that when i'm faced with a decision that I'm having trouble making, I don't know what to do. I get decision paralysis with the best of them and I'm frozen and trying to figure out what the heck I want to do with my life.

I do the Death Bed Gut Check, which is, I will close my eyes and imagine myself on my deathbed. I'm on my deathbed and I'm looking at the present moment or the tough decision that I'm trying to make, I'm looking BACK at it from the perspective of being about to die.

I am given a sense of clarity and I imagine myself thinking, like, ok, I'm on my deathbed, how do I feel having done Option A. I observe the visceral reaction in my body. Do I feel a lightness of being, or do I feel a pit at the bottom of my stomach?

I do the same thing for Option B.

Because it's so loud in our lives, with all this stuff that swirls around, and it's difficult to focus on... get that perspective of what matters. I use that sense of mortality to get perspective and help me make decisions in life. And that five second Deathbed Gut Check has helped me make some really, really important decisions and also really simple ones.

And it's something that, death is accessible to all of us and it's a tool that is radically underused.

Slade:

I have to share with you that several months ago, I was working with a healer around some creativity blocks and I was really struggling with the book that I was working on. Part of my struggle was that I had another book that I really wanted to be writing instead, and I had this HUGE sense of guilt about abandoning one to work on the other, and abandoning all that work and etcetera etcetera.

I was just angst thinking about it, as authors do. You know, just ridiculously blown up into this existential crisis.

The woman I was sharing all this with came back to me with just a really simple question: If you had only enough time to live and produce one of these books, which one is it?

Kate:

Wow.

Slade:

And it was INSTANTLY...

Kate:

gasp It was!

Slade:

You know what I mean? The answer was like, Oh.

Kate:

Lightning bolt.

Slade:

Yeah! It was like, so just flashed through your body. Like, all the thinking and worrying and pros and cons list just fell away.

Kate:

Yes!

Slade:

Yeah, so I will now call it the Deathbed Gut Check.

Kate:

Yeaaaah.

Slade:

It's a great way to think about it.

Well, so you also have something called the Deathbed Meditation. Tell us about that.

Kate:

The Deathbed Meditation actually came from the Deathbed Gut Check, because I had observed these positive effects of imagining myself on my deathbed and helping me make decisions in life that... I became curious about the deeper effects of meditating on mortality.

So I started googling around and I learned a lot about how pervasive death-awareness is, particularly in the Buddhist religion. But I couldn't find an actual meditation similar to what that Deathbed Gut Check is, from the perspective of our deathbed, looking back over our lives, and so I wrote one.

I've been facilitating it now for I think two and a half years and it's of course morphed over that time but it's essentially a guided meditation that's anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes. That's appropriate for novice and experienced meditators alike, in which I safely guide you to imagine yourself on your deathbed, wherever that is for you.

It's different for everybody. It could be your grandparents' house. It could be a shack on the beach. It could be, one guy actually, for him, his safe place, where his deathbed was, where he imagined it in this meditation, was a place that he had been on in a psychedelic trip and he said, "I never thought I'd be able to get back there and the meditation took me there."

So from the perspective of your deathbed, wherever that is, we go through and we look over your life. You growing up. We look at the decisions that you made in the time that you had. What you did do, what you didn't do. And we observe, again, those visceral feelings that come out.

But again, it's without judgement because at the end of your life, there's nothing you can do. But then at the end of the meditation, we close with a call to act, because unlike on your deathbed, at the end of this meditation, you DO have more time.

And with that, we have seen some really beautiful personal transformations occur.

Slade:

What kind of feedback do you get from the people who are doing this meditation? What are their takeaways?

Kate:

Oh, so many amazing things and I have to tell you, when I first started doing, even when I first started, with the whole concept of, you might die tomorrow, and the Deathbed Meditation, it had radically shifted my life for the better.

I'm telling you, I made changes in my life. I quit my job. I went travelling for a couple of years. Like, those things are awesome, but it was really the daily impact that mortality awareness had in my life, that just made me want to share it with the world.

But there were incidences where I was like, oh, this is talking about death. There are some people or some instances in which people may not accept it with open arms, and it will be hard. And the two incidences that I thought were, one, people who were actually dying. People with terminal illness or the elderly or people who deal with death every day in their lives, like doctors for example.

I was like, oh, I don't want to talk about you might die tomorrow with them because it's so real for them and I think it's inappropriate.

It turns out, over time, that those people, and particularly those with terminal illness, are the OG fans of you-might-die-tomorrow. And what I realize is like, unlike the rest of us, they can't push death under the rug. So from there, I gained a new sense of confidence in my message for everyone.

And then regarding the Deathbed meditation, just recently I, when I was doing workshops and things, I wasn't always including it. But when I got the call from Facebook a couple of months ago and they wanted me to perform, or facilitate, the Deathbed meditation at their corporate office here in Austen, that was when I knew that this is a message that I should not be afraid of. This is a message that people want to hear.

And some of the transformations I've seen are people who, like, one woman is a scientist and she was working testing soils for the government. She left her job and is now pursuing her dream to become a nutritionist. There are a lot of people who packed up their things and are now travelling in various parts of the world as a result of the meditation.

But really, what I hope is that, these big changes are fantastic in living life in accordance with what's meaningful to you. It is fantastic. But it's the little ways that death can positively impact your life, which is what I hope people take away from the Deathbed Meditation. Just loving more vibrantly, living more urgently, and making it a priority to enjoy our time while we're still here.

Slade:

So, this may be a little bit obvious question. It may just be a continuation of what you're just saying. But what do you hope that you can contribute to our collective understanding into the greater conversation about spirituality and our experience being human.

What do you hope your legacy is?

Kate:

Mmm... my legacy. I hope that people can embrace their death. That is my message. But really, at the end of the day, I found that you might die tomorrow and thinking about my death is a means to an end. Thinking about my death has positively impacted my life.

But what I want people to take away at the end of the day is to live in accordance with your values and I have no idea why we're really here. We're like, what is that saying? We're meat sacks gravitationally stuck to a rock spinning in a galaxy greater than our comprehension. We don't know why we're here. And so, to prioritize enjoyment in life, I think that's what I really would want people to take away, is just have fun. And you have no idea, just enjoying your life, how far that ripple effect will go to that which you don't even understand.

Slade:

It occurs to me that I should probably ask you, what are your feelings about the concepts of life after death, of the spirit surviving this lifetime? There's no right or wrong answer. I'm just curious what your personal feeling is about all that.

Kate:

I'm actually weirdly a fan of conspiracy theories. And I definitely don't think the afterlife and spirituality is a conspiracy theory but I say that because one of the things that I'm grateful for in my life is that I believe anything is possible until it's proven otherwise. And I really like the idea of, in our consciousness, living on in spirituality. So I believe in the possibility of the afterlife.

I absolutely believe in spirituality and if you look into the experiences of people who have actually had near death experiences, one of the key things, the key aspects that many of these experiences share is an understanding of the Oneness of humanity and shared consciousness, and the idea that our lives do go on.

And again, I think that death is the greatest teacher, and if that's what they see and it brings me comfort, then I'd absolutely believe in it.

What was your experience of mortality awareness?

Slade:

You know, I think mine is more of the existential stuff, and part of what I contemplate a lot, because I am surrounded by a community of people. Here's the weird thing - my brand is all about bringing spirituality down to earth. Like fewer hearts and flowers is my tagline...

Kate:

Yeah.

Slade:

Yeah, yeah.

So what that really means is it doesn't do anything for me if I can't apply it to my actual life. If spirituality and personal development go hand in hand, for me, and all this great new age vocabulary and tools and concepts only really, where's rubber hit the road kind of thing. So I'm always looking for that for myself, and that's sort of what I share and put out into the world.

Like, okay, well it's great that you can talk to your spirit guides. What can we do with that, you know?

Kate:

Yeah.

Slade:

But it's interesting because I still attract an audience that is much more woo woo than I am. Sometimes I look at the conversations going on in my own Facebook community and I'm like, man these people are out there! And I love it! I love it because I don't... I'm not there to debunk anything. And like you said, you know, if there's something that I don't really, if I can't disprove it...

My favourite quote is actually from Marilyn Monroe. She was being interviewed by someone for a newspaper article and she made an offhand remark about somebody's astrological sign and the reporter said, "Do you believe in that?"

And she, with this totally like, Duh, look on her face, was like, "I believe in everything a little bit."

So I kind of have that feeling. Like, I believe in everything a little bit.

So one of the things that I notice in my own deathbed meditative contemplations is, I have a lot of friends who are mediums who spend... their entire jobs and career and purpose revolves around the concept of speaking to people who have passed away. And I'm not a medium. All mediums are psychic but not all psychics are mediums.

Kate:

Yeah.

Slade:

And I don't specifically have that experience. So I have a big "Huh... okay, that's interesting."

So what I find my contemplations being is, I'm led down all of these super phenomenal paranormal conversations with people all the time. I'm inundated with the concept that, you know, our souls are infinite and all that kind of stuff. And I can visit people here, talk to them after I'm gone. And then I'll have these moments where I am like, wait a minute, that's what everybody else thinks.

And I'll reel it all the way back in and think, what do I really think about that?

And I have this concept that I've only spoken about with a few people. I actually did... Remember when I said sometimes my conversations with new people are more interesting than any other? I spoke with this woman named Heather Alice Shea once on the show and we were set up through a mutual friend. "You guys should do an episode!"

She and I talked for 50 minutes before we started the interview and it was all around an offhand comment that I had made about the fact that sometimes I think about being an atheist. And I test out my beliefs in terms of like, can I still be a psychic and be an atheist? Can I still explain some of this phenomenon without having to believe in a higher power or like a bearded man in the sky kind of thing.

So I have this whole concept of spiritual atheism that I play with.

She and I just went down this rabbit hole about that, right? Again, it's not about debunking anything or disproving anything, but is there this place that you can be comfortable in where you don't know?

Kate:

Mmm... the ambiguity.

Slade:

Yeah!

Are you okay with the thought that, you know, this could happen or something else could happen? I could be totally surprised. It could all be over and I wouldn't even know, you know?

So those are the kinds of things that I think about. I don't know if that answers your question, but...

Kate:

Yeah, that's beautiful. I mean, that really hits on what helped me is getting comfortable with that ambiguity and mindfully channelling my energy elsewhere. It's like, oh, I don't have control over when or how I die. But I have 100% control over how I live until that time comes.

Slade:

Yes.

Kate:

And I love that spiritual atheism. I met a guy who now has a retreat in Thailand and man, he's very passionate about his concept of spiritual atheism.

Slade:

Really!

Kate:

Oh yeah, yeah. I should connect you guys.

Slade:

Yeah! Who is it?

Kate:

His name is Pierre. He is American but he studied Zen Buddhism for many years in Japan and how has a retreat in Thailand. He's just very outspoken about this idea that you CAN separate them. You can separate the woo woo from the spirituality. And that you can make it whatever you want. And very specifically about the spiritual atheism.

Slade:

I have this fantasy. Like, you know you have your play out the - ooo what if this happened, kind of thing. And this is the comment that I made that Heather picked up on. I did an episode once about how I fantasize about just one day becoming a born again atheist.

Kate:

Wow.

Slade:

And announcing to everyone, I've worked my way through the list and I've found a way that I can philosophically justify all of this. For myself. Who would be okay with that? Who would stick around?

Because I don't... I actually think that we can have all of this stuff. I think there's a lot of biological explanations that will exist in the future understanding. I believe that a lot of the things that we experience as psychic phenomenon is literally just a part of our biology and the miracle of our brain. And it doesn't mean that it's not happening. It just means that we're just equipped to do it in mortal form. You know what I mean?

Kate:

Wow.

Slade:

I think that there's a lot of science that could explain some of the phenomenon that we experience. That's not a psychic prediction necessarily. It's just this thing that I contemplate a lot, which is, can we have all of this? And is it okay if you choose to populate your spirituality with supernatural concepts?

Because I kind of think, at the end of the day, people who have faith, even if it's a different faith system, I have found, are more open in general. They're more compassionate, they're more likely to believe other people's beliefs. They're more likely to leave other people alone to be whatever they want to be. They are less likely to need to convert everyone to their way of thinking.

You see it in elderly people in particular, who really talk in purely fundamentalist Christian vocabulary. But their philosophy and their vibe and their true wisdom is super open minded and extremely liberal.

I kind of feel like there is a place. There is a happy spot. I think that maybe it's what your message is about. That there's a place where we can exist in uncertainty. And because of the uncertainty, be motivated to make it all amazing now. Because what good is it, again, if it's not useful to us right now, what good is it if I'm gonna be able to contact my loved ones after I'm dead?

That's great, but what kind of impact can that have on people's experiences here and now in the moment? Can we do something practical? Can we be okay with the concept that what some people talk about is spiritual entities to a more clinical, intellectual mindset? We can talk about the archetypes as kind of psychological programming that all our brains kind of carry, like apps on our phone or whatever.

Kate:

Yeah.

Slade:

So I like to contemplate the place where all those things end up in a big chaotic mash and I think at the end of the day, it's a little bit of a choice. And as long as the choice is life and happiness and I'm gonna get off my ass and DO something, then I'm cool with whatever you want to bring.

Kate:

Yeah. Wow, you had a very insightful observation there about people who have a sense of spirituality being more open and accepting. There's actually scientific, or psychological basis for this. It's the research that I'm doing now is basically like, it really all comes down to security. And if you have a sense of security, which religion very often provides, you have the space to be more open. Because you don't feel threatened.

Whether it is Christian fundamentalism or whatever the belief in, that everything's going to be okay, that you're part of a group and things are stable. That bolsters self-esteem. But one of the things that I argue in my book is that spirituality is amazing. And I absolutely believe that people should do whatever makes them feel good.

I think you can also create your own personal religion of what is meaningful to you. Whether whatever you're practising religion is, you can kind of personal religion of, okay, these are the things that are important to me. And I'm going to actually live in accordance with those, and then that, therefore, provides that security that allows people to be open and...

Man, that was a beautiful observation.

Slade:

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about this today.

Tell everyone where they can go to find you online to explore this more.

Kate:

Yeah! Come hang out with me. My website is www.YouMightDieTomorrow.com. Pretty easy to remember. And I am finishing up my book now. It's going to hopefully be coming out this summer. And if you're interested in joining our community on Facebook, or inquiring about the experience of the Deathbed Meditation, I do those in person and online and groups and corporate workshops.

I just love to hear about what your experiences are and what thinking about your death has done and impacted your life.

Slade:

That's wonderful, Kate. That's for coming on the show.

Kate:

Thank you, Slade.

About the Show

Fewer hearts and flowers than most New Age blather.