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Jane Alexander

A Means of Living Life More Fully 
by Jane Alexander

The writing of this feature is sadly timely for me as, right now I am mourning the very recent death of my father. He died just three weeks ago of a very sudden, unexpected heart attack. One moment he was there, alive, watching the news and shaking his fist at the television (in his usual way) about the latest atrocity; the next he was dead. I was away, staying with a friend in the city and heard the news late at night. There was no way I could get back that night so I lay in a strange bed, sobbing my eyes out. Then, suddenly and assuredly, I could feel his presence. "Hey, little lady, don’t cry. Shush now, don’t cry. It’s alright, it’s alright." I could hear his voice in my head and almost feel his arms around me. Now I’m not a psychic person and I don’t do clairvoyance or anything of that ilk, but sure as night follows day, my father was comforting me. And that memory still makes me cry (with a kind of sad-joy) right now as I write this.

Being asked to write this feature by Valerie was a wonderful opportunity for me to think about our attitudes to death. My own feeling is that we tend to live our lives trying to ignore death, to push it away, to pretend it won’t happen - at least not to us. Yet the unpalatable and inescapable truth is that we all die - every single one of us. Our attempts to shy away from death would be comic if they weren’t so tragic. I remember interviewing a bunch of people who firmly believed that they were immortal, that they alone would never die. They were delightful people, full of vigor and verve - they were also in the prime of life. A few years later I bumped into one of them by accident and inquired after one of his co-immortalists. "Ah," said the man, "um, er, he died. Car accident." It was sad but it was also blackly humorous - of course he died. He shouldn’t have died so soon but it was a delusion to imagine he could dodge death. A delusion based on fear. So why are we so frightened of death?

I think our fears come about because we think of ourselves in terms of our egos, our personality. Most of us spend our lives bolstering our egos, surrounding ourselves with symbols of security and status - we build a comfort cocoon to block away anything unpleasant or unsavory. We keep ourselves busy, frenetically busy (whether that involves working like crazy or vegging out in front of a television) - we will do almost anything to avoid thinking about life and, more importantly death and what awaits us there. We are scared of losing our friends, our families, our pets, our homes, our standing in life. The fear comes about because we have not grasped that as energy beings we are not separate from life or death - we are not ego-bound individuals struggling on our own; we are part of the whole, the universal energy source.

People who have had near-death experiences see lights, hear sounds, feel themselves uplifted, filled with transcendent energy, pulled towards a source of power and light and energy. Ancient traditions such as the Egyptian, Indian and Tibetan all talk of the various energy bodies which are released in death, allowing the soul finally to escape its material shackles and become pure energy once more. When we die we ascend the Tree of Life, becoming purer and purer energy as we leave behind our material shell.

The Energy Secret by Jane Alexander


The paradoxical point about death is that it can make life so much better. If you decide not to shy away from death but spend time working with the idea of death, you can invest your life with all the energy which would otherwise have been wasted in locking away your fear. Again and again you hear about people who find out they only have a matter of months, or even weeks, to live. Instead of rolling over and sinking into depression, they decide they will make the most of this last time. Many discover wonderful truths about themselves: they uncover huge reserves of strength, power, character. Some find amazing routes to healing and don’t even die then at all. But all say that the thought of dying focuses the spirit like nothing else. Of course you don’t have to wait until the doctor gives you the bad news - you could start right now….


This exercise is incredibly powerful. Even if you find it distasteful, do try to put aside some time to consider the following.

  • Imagine you only had one year left to live. How would you spend that year? What would you do? What would be most important? What would not be important?
  • Would you give up your work or change your job?
  • Who would you see more of; who would you see less of?
  • Write letters to all those people you love and cherish. Tell them how important they have been to you. Tell them what you appreciate about them. Maybe you should send these letters - now, before it’s too late.
  • Consider those people you don’t get on with. Are there any people you hold grudges against, anyone you have an ongoing feud with? Do you want to take this negative energy with you when you die? If not, now’s the time to put things to right. Again, a letter might be best - write down your feelings. Be honest but fair. Try to understand their point of view. Can you clear this karmic debt?
  • Who could you help in this last year? Who could benefit from your time, your energy, your money? Why not try to help them now?
  • Review your life. Is there anything you regret not doing? Anything you always wanted to do? Why not think about doing it now?
  • Did you make any mistakes? Could you put them right? If not, let them go, don’t waste energy on them. If there’s something that could be done, why put it off?

You see, death focuses the mind like almost nothing else. What would you do if you had only a month to live? A week to live? A day to live? An hour to live? Why not live every day as if it were your last? Use death energy to create life - live consciously, enjoy every moment, don’t have regrets. Try not to put things off indefinitely. I’m not suggesting we all go out on a giant shopping spree, or pack up work or ditch a relationship. But I am suggesting you think about what is really important. Don’t imagine you have limitless time. My dad kept talking about what he would do when he "had time" – the books he wanted to read, the music he wanted to listen to, the places he wanted to visit, the gym he was going to go to, the family and friends he was going to see. He never did those things. Do it now, don’t let it fester. Before you know it you might be old and bitter, regretting a lifetime of wasted opportunities.


We all have pretty much the same fears. The only difference is how we face them. If we shy away from them, they grab the opportunity to grow, huge and faceless in our subconscious. If we face them bravely and squarely, they can be a stepping stone to huge growth. Spend five minutes a day solidly facing your fears.

  • Start with your small everyday fears. Observe your fears, watch them - figure out that many of them are unnecessary or mere indulgences.
  • Now move onto the big fears. What is your greatest fear? What is the worst thing that you could imagine happening to you?
  • Why would it be so awful? See if you can reduce your fears down to manageable proportions. Most come down to fear of lack of security (losing possessions, home, job); lack of love (losing dear ones, not having relationships), lack of face (making a fool of yourself, appearing stupid).
  • The key is to remember the ebb and flow of energy. We are energetic beings living in an energetic world. When people die they do not really leave us; they are just no longer in their physical, gross, material bodies. We cannot reach out and hug them bodily but they can still touch our hearts. If you lost everything, would it be so awful? The universe might have some new lesson for you. Many people who lose everything find that, in retrospect, it can be a huge push towards growth. Generally there IS a reason for everything in life.

My favorite quote regarding death comes from Stephen Levine, author of Who Dies? and A Year to Live (both highly recommended). Levine worked with terminally ill patients for over twenty years. He says, "Of course, the reason that some part of us denies that it will die is because it never does….the reason something within feels immortal is because it is." From an eastern viewpoint the concept of death simply doesn’t exist. We just move from one state of being to another; from one kind of energy to a different kind.

While I was writing about death in my book The Energy Secret (Element) I had another sad piece of synchronicity. I had to stop writing my chapter on death (from which this feature is mainly extracted) to take my cat, Bear, to the vet. The vet confirmed that she had total renal failure and that the only kind thing to do was to put her to sleep. We agreed and I held her, stroking her and talking to her as he administered the injection. What stunned me was that I knew the very second she died. One moment she was Bear, inhabiting her body; the next "Bear" just wasn’t there any more. The body had become a shell. Her vital energy, her spirit, had departed.

It made me remember my first cat, Pip, who lived to the ripe old age of eighteen. He died when I was about seven and my mother tried to accustom me to not having him around by saying he was ill and staying at the vet. That night I heard a scratching at my bedroom window. I opened the window and there was Pip. I stroked him and cuddled him but he wouldn’t come in the house so I went to sleep with the window open. Years later my mother told me she remembered asking me why I had the window wide open in the middle of winter. When I told her about Pip she couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t have come to visit me because he was dead. Even had it been another cat, she reasoned, how did it climb a sheer wall to a first-floor window? Surely to comfort and reassure the child he loved? Now, all those years later, my father did pretty much the same thing. Rest assured there is an energy that survives death.


If the idea of death still frightens you, think about this question. Who were you before you were born? Where were you? Look into a small baby’s eyes and there is usually something strange and knowing in them - if only they could tell us what they have seen, from where they have come. We’ve all been through birth: we survived! We came from somewhere into this body, this life - and we will depart from this body, this life back to that place. The mystery is that we cannot remember - although some people reckon they have been given an insight. The form of therapy known as rebirthing takes you, through a specific breathing exercise, back to the original birth process. Many people find they can go back further still, to the point of conception. I wouldn’t recommend anyone use the rebirthing breathing on their own - you should see a qualified therapist. But you might find you can achieve similar results with this exercise.

  1. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed and where you can be comfortable and warm. Lie down and relax your body, checking each part - from top of your head to your toes (not forgetting the shoulders, jaw, hands and all those places you know you collect tension!) is relaxed.
  2. Focus on your breath, just watching it for a few minutes. Notice how gradually it becomes slower and calmer, slower and deeper. Start breathing into your solar plexus and notice how that feels. As you breathe in, know you are taking in new life and energy. As you breathe out, allow yourself to let go of all your fear - imagine your fears dispersing like leaves in the wind.
  3. When you feel quite relaxed and are breathing slowly and deeply, start to go back through your life. Review where you are now - what you are doing, who you are with, how you feel. Then slowly scroll back through your adult life - don’t dwell or judge; just review.
  4. Take yourself back to your teenage years. Then to your childhood. What do you remember? What was important? Can you recall your first day at school? Where was your first home? How far back can you remember?
  5. When you reach as far back as you can, start to imagine. Imagine yourself as a toddler, as a baby. If you have seen photographs, put yourself into them. Pretend you remember.
  6. You are lying in your pram. Now go back further still. You are being born. You are being pushed down through the birth canal, squeezed and pressed into life. You emerge into the world and open your mouth to breathe - and scream! Stay with this for a while - how does it feel?
  7. Now go back further. You are in the womb, warm, enclosed, surrounded by the gentle waters of the amniotic fluid. You hear your mother’s heartbeat above you, the gurgling of her stomach, the sway of her walk. As you float you can remember all manner of things - you can easily go back still further to a time when you were not even in physical form.
  8. You are in the other place. How does it feel? How do you feel? Spend some time just being in this pure energy form. Feel the freedom.
  9. Now remember why you decided to come back to earth, to a physical form. From a distance you see your parents-to-be. What made you choose them? What lessons did you all need to learn? Your parentage was no accident - it was a conscious decision. So why did you make it? Stay with this thought for some time - it may give you some very valuable insights.
  10. When you feel you have learned all you can, slowly bring your awareness back to your breath. Become aware of the room around you - your body lying on the floor. Hear the sounds around you. Gently open your eyes. Lie still for a few moments then slowly get up and stamp your feet. You may want to have a warm drink and a biscuit to ground you completely. Record your experiences in your journal.

Realizing that you decided to be born, that you decided on your parents and your situation in life, can be very liberating. Once again we have to realize that we are in control of our own lives, our own destinies. We have to take responsibility. Seemingly terrible things may have happened to us but at some level we decided to go through these experiences. We wanted to learn. What lessons are you here to learn? Will you ensure they are learned before you die or will you miss the opportunity?


Many spiritual teachings advise that we "practice" dying, that we walk many times the path we will take when we die. So that the soul, when confronted with death, is not unprepared but automatically follows the process. There are various techniques and rituals but I like to use a Qabalistic pathworking based on the work of Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki (whose books are all really worth buying). This path takes the temple of Malkuth as its starting point and descends to the realm of Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Although it sounds dark and gloomy it is in fact, once again, a wonderful chance for growth and self-knowledge. It is a form of initiation into the mysteries of Life and Death - we need to be able to plumb our own depths to be able to enjoy our own heights. We need to understand that we are all part of a natural rhythm, that our energy pulses to a universal pattern. This pathworking teaches us that in order to discover new life we have to discard the old. We have to search for the light in the darkest of places.

There is also another purpose for this ritual. I like to take this journey when anyone I know dies. By doing so, you can take the opportunity to talk with them, to finish any "unfinished business". You can also help them make the transition to their new life - if they become stuck, as some people do, in fear and trepidation. It is also a great service to perform this ritual if there has been a disaster in which a lot of people died suddenly and unexpectedly. Many such souls feel lost and become "stuck" in the shadows. You can help them move across.

Are you ready? Let’s take a visit to the underworld…..

  1. We start in the Temple of Malkuth. Spend some time imagining a beautiful temple, with black and white floor tiles and stained glass windows around the walls. Ahead of you are two pillars, one ebony and one silver. In the centre of the temple is an altar, made of two cubes of wood. On it rests an earthenware bowl with ears of wheat in it. Also a wide bronze bowl with a pile of silver coins. Above it hangs a blue lamp with a light glowing within. Greet Sandalphon, the tall, sombre archangel and guardian of this temple and approach the altar. Take a handful of the coins and put them in the deep pocket of your robe.
  2. Between the pillars you see the tarot card of The World stretched like a curtain. As you watch, the curtain becomes three-dimensional; the colors swirl and you walk forwards into it and through it. You find yourself in a beautiful landscape and walk across fields of swaying corn, dotted with poppies and cornflowers. Birds are singing and the sun shines brightly. The whole world seems beautiful and part of you yearns to sit and enjoy the bounty of the natural world, then to return home. But you see ahead of you the familiar range of mountains, and you know that, once again, your quest leads you there.
  3. You come to a fast-flowing stream over which lie stepping stones, leading to a dark cave. As you walk into the shadow of the rocks, you feel a chill run over your body but you continue bravely. You step into the cave and it seems as though all the light and warmth of the world has vanished.
  4. At the back of the cave is one small lamp. A voice speaks out from the gloom; it is Hecate, the crone, the wise woman. She asks you why you have come and you tell her that you wish to descend to the kingdom of Persephone and Hades. She points to a small opening at the back of the cave and gives you the lamp to guide your way.
  5. You squeeze through the opening and find yourself in a small tunnel running steeply downwards. The walls close in around you and you feel quite claustrophobic. As you follow the path, you can feel the living rock around you, pressing in against you, almost squeezing you, as if you were being born. The path is difficult: sometimes you have to crawl along, sometimes squeeze through narrow stretches. But finally the path opens out and you find yourself in a vast cavern, lit by flickering torches.
  6. The ground beneath your feet is fine sand and you realize you are standing on the shore of a great river. On the edge of the river is a boat and by it stands Charon, the ferryman of the dead. Around him throng the souls of the dead, those who cannot make the crossing. You pause and see if there is anyone here you know. If so, you can talk to them and resolve any unfinished business. When you feel content, say your farewells and give them one of your silver coins so they can cross the river.
  7. If there isn’t anyone you know you should pass out your coins to the others. Bless them and send them on their way back to the source of all energy. Keep back two coins for yourself. Hand one to Charon and get in his boat. Slowly he rows across the river and you get out the other side.
  8. Before you stand gates which swing open as you approach. In a great hall there are two thrones on which sit Hades and Persephone, Lord and Lady of the Underworld. You walk forwards until you stand before the couple and look into their eyes. Surprisingly they are not stern or terrifying but kind and laughing. You realize they are not just the King and Queen of the Dead but the Lord and Lady of Rebirth. They welcome you with pleasure.
  9. Hades leads you to a mirror and asks you to look into it. Within its depths you see your true self, as it was before you took bodily form and as it will be after your relinquish your body. What do you see? What is your true essence? As you look you realize that beyond our looks, our personality, our hopes and fears, our possessions, lies the real us - a timeless, deathless, energetic essence.
  10. Persephone steps forward and embraces you warmly. You feel your real essence shine through as your body seems to disappear and you and she feel as if you were floating up and up, towards the stars. Then you seem to become the stars themselves. You shimmer with energy, with joy, with love and a pure sense of bliss.
  11. Gently she breathes on your face and tells you that it is not yet time to become a being of pure energy, to rejoin the source of all Love and Light. Softly she carries you down again to the great hall and bids you farewell for now.
  12. Smiling, you take your leave and retrace your steps. Charon accepts your other silver coin and takes you back across the lake. You promise the souls waiting that you will return with more coins for them. This time you find your way back to the cave very swiftly and easily. Hecate takes the lamp and smiles gently. You look into her eyes and can no longer tell if she is a very old woman or just a young girl.
  13. As you walk out of the cave your eyes blink to adjust to the sudden light. All around you the world seems very beautiful and you resolve to enjoy your life, and make the most of what is left of it. Before you stand two trees and between them is the tarot card curtain of The World, as before. You step through it and back to the Temple of Malkuth.
  14. Sandalphon greets you and you spend a few moments sharing your experience with him and giving thanks. He reminds you that you should walk this path often - for yourself but also for the lost souls who have forgotten their connection to the Source.

Read more of Jane Alexander’s work on her website: www.janealexander.org

Copyright © 2002 Jane Alexander. All Rights Reserved.


Mind Body Spirit by Jane Alexander Sacred Rituals at Home by Jane Alexander The Five Minute Healer by Jane Alexander Spirit of the Home by Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander
Jane Alexander is a UK-based writer on natural health, holistic living and contemporary spirituality. She has written sixteen books on holistic (and soulful) living, including the bestselling Spirit of the Home (Thorsons), The Energy Secret (Element) and The Five Minute Healer (Simon & Schuster). Her website, www.janealexander.org is full of tips for living soulfully.





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