Farah Nazarali from Banyen Books & Sound interviews Stephen Jenkinson in the lead up to Stephen’s upcoming day long teaching in DIE WISE Making Meaning in Vancouver, BC at the University of British Columbia Asian Studies Centre.
“To grieve is to be part of the human experience. That’s the great dare of being human and being conscious – to be willing to love something that’s not going to last; that’s a grief-endorsed understanding of life.” ~ Stephen Jenkinson
Author, teacher, activist, ceremonialist, and founder of Orphan Wisdom School, Stephen Jenkinson muses about life, death, grief, the natural world and the condition of being awake. This profound, provocative, and deeply insightful podcast is an invitation to explore the depths of our existential loneliness and be awake to the inter-connectedness of life so that we can live and die wise and our existence contributes to sustaining life for future generations.
They used to be called’ records’. It’s old-timey. It has a good sound to it. A record, a sign that something happened, proof, a faithful witness: These stories and songs were recorded live on tours of Australia, New Zealand, Wales and England in early 2017.
Concerts for Turbulent Times they surely were, sonorous hours and rapture. Our times were served by whatever talents of tongue and timbre have been granted the band and theard, by the reckless labours of friends and accomplices met and unmet who fashioned genuine gigs in their home towns from their dreams for a better day, and by the raucous willingness of the sold out houses to be drawn into wonder and poetry and the kenning.
The doors were pried at night’s end, and still many lingered and couldn’t leave or wouldn’t, and there was something like victory in the air, and a weary, luminous midnight rumour that people heretofore unknown to each other could still join for the sake of the young among them and for the world entrusted to them, and that the Mercies count us kin, and that wonder is the currency of the Gods.
It was powerful business. We got home, couldn’t settle in. The recordings turned into something like dry lightning, like something somebody who wasn’t there might want to know about. The band went back to business, made offerings to the dance hall Gods, gave them their proper seat at the proceedings, brought all the road-tested learning to bear, tuned the whole thing up. What you have in your hand is something like thunder and a far-off storm, faithful to those strange, merciful nights.
A storyteller. A band. An evening of mongrel sorrow, dappled by magic and wonder, fringed with regard for the gift of the tongue, harkening and hortatory and bardic and greying, steeped in mortal mystery, uprooted from its uncertain home in the North of America and cast divination-style like bones on a dusty proving ground down under and over in the old dirt. What would you call such a thing? We called it Nights of Grief and Mystery.
Available October 29th, 2017. Pre-orders on sale now. All CD version pre-orders made before the official launch will receive a signed copy from Stephen and Gregory. Order online exclusively on orphanwisdom.com
Dying well is not a matter of enlightened self-interest or personal preference. Dying well must become an obligation that living people and dying people owe to each other and to those to come. Dying could be and must be the fullest expression and incarnation of what you’ve learned by living. If you love somebody, if you care about the world that’s to come after you, if you want somebody to be spared the lunacy of what you’ve seen, you’ve got to die wise. From his two decades of working with dying people and their families, Stephen Jenkinson places death at the centre of the page and asks us to behold it in all its painful beauty. Dying well is a right and responsibility of everyone. It is a moral, political, and spiritual obligation each person owes their ancestors and their heirs. It is not a lifestyle option. It is a birthright and a debt. How we die, how we care for dying people, and how we carry our dead: this work makes our village life, or breaks it.
Stephen teaches internationally and is the creator and principal instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School founded in 2010. With Master’s degrees from Harvard University (Theology) and the University of Toronto (Social Work) he is redefining what it means to live, and die well. Apprenticed to a master storyteller, he has worked extensively with dying people and their families, is former program director in a major Canadian hospital, former assistant professor in a prominent Canadian medical school, consultant to palliative care and hospice organizations and educator and advocate in the helping professions. He is also a sculptor, traditional canoe builder whose house won a Governor General’s Award for architecture. He is the author of Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul (a book about grief, and dying, and the great love of life, released March 2015), How it All Could Be: A work book for dying people and those who love them(2009) and Money and The Soul’s Desires: A Meditation (2002). He was also a contributing author to Palliative Care – Core Skills and Clinical Competencies (2007). Stephen is the subject of Griefwalker, a National Film Board of Canada film (2008).
The Sand Emergence Series
The Emergence Series is a constellation of conversations with SAND speakers and teachers, intended as an exploration of the emergence palpable in the collective field at this time and an opportunity to connect with others in our community holding a ‘large vision’ and dedicated to the evolution of consciousness on the planet.
Old structures are being shaken up, old stories have come to their limits, old systems are failing us. What is emerging, where do we go from here, how do we hold it all in the tenderness of the awakening heart? What wisdom do the worlds great lineages and traditions have for us and what does the meeting of science and nonduality contribute to the emergent conversation? How does a mystic respond to a world in crisis?
Through the magic of technology, the Emergence Series is open to the participation of the entire global SAND community, LIVE! There will be opportunities to have personal interaction and ask questions of our guests. Our intention with this online series is to foster conversation, connection and community in between conferences and to offer windows of contact, wisdom and heart.
We invite our teachers to engage us from a perspective of embodied, living wisdom, and offer practical guidance that can support us in our relationships, our work, our community and our world at this time.
The Emergence Series is facilitated by Vera de Chalambert, a Harvard-educated religious scholar, spiritual story teller and fellow SAND speaker.
Watch the Video Below
An audio excerpt from a longer talk recorded at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. The topic of the evening was “Wisdom Working for Climate Change.” People of the world are unconsciously mourning the devastating impact we are having on our planet. Stephen Jenkinson explores the question “Is it too late to avoid catastrophe?”
Stephen Jenkinson has been at the deathbed of more than a thousand people. He says death can be a wondrous and empowering mystery but we need to start talking about it differently.
“I don’t think the problem was that we weren’t talking about dying…the dilemma was, and has always been, and remains, what are we saying when we talk about dying?
The principle habits of the mind and the psyche are always manifest in the language…In a culture that’s allegedly speaking more and more about death all the time…The word ‘die’ doesn’t appear very often, the word ‘death’ even less, and ‘dead’ hardly at all.”
A former leader of a palliative care team, here Stephen shares his insights with Chip Richards from UPLIFT on how to support death to be a positive process.
Vajra Body Vajra Mind, is a provocative podcast that explores the outer limits of spiritual practice and human development. On their show, they talk with leaders in the Buddhist, entheogenic and somatic fields and through these conversations they attempt to glean the most pragmatic and succinct bits of wisdom to connect us deeper into our heart and mind. Their show is dedicated to the evolution of the human species and the benefit of all beings. Here is their recent interview with Stephen Jenkinson. Listen to all our published interviews with Stephen Jenkinson.
Stephen Jenkinson and Gregory Hoskins – Oceania Tour 2017. Stephen is a Harvard Educated Theologian, Culture Activist, founder of The Orphan Wisdom School, author of DIE WISE: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, subject of a National Film Board of Canada documentary, Griefwalker. He comes with teachings of the ramshackling kind, about honour and grace under pressure, about elderhood in an age of age-intolerance, about the withering World Tree, about how we might learn our darkening times. And there will be evening concerts too, because he has Gregory Hoskins to lend his music and his road-tested grace to the cause. Picture it: A storyteller. A band. An evening of mongrel sorrow, dappled by magic and wonder, fringed with regard for the gift of the tongue, harkening and hortatory and bardic and greying, steeped in mortal mystery, uprooted from its uncertain home in the North of America and cast divination-style like bones on a dusty proving ground down under. What would you call such a thing? Video courtesy of ianmack.com. Tour, dates, locations, teaching descriptions and online tickets.
You die in the matter of your living. In poetic and soulful language, Stephen Jenkinson speaks of the moral imperative to contemplate and reconcile death as a way to inform how we live, reclaim our ancestral roots, redeem our past, and leave a legacy for those we love. Join Stephen at his upcoming Hollyhock retreat on July 31 – Aug 5, 2016.
What constitutes dying well in a death-phobic culture? Stephen Jenkinson looks squarely in the eye of death. It is his experience from working with hundreds and hundreds of people who are actively dying, that, for the most part, we are encouraged by those around us not to let our dying be a big part of our life. He points out that this death-phobic culture “…prescribes [that] our understanding of the best dying is the one that messes with you the least, and the only way you can achieve that is to establish some kind of firewall of awareness whereby the realities of dying don’t intrude, and when they do, you’re losing a positive outlook that you have to reinstate.” In other words, in a death-phobic environment you are not allowed to know that you are dying when you are dying. Families are besieged by arguments over whether or not to tell their loved ones they are dying. In this dense and profound dialogue, Jenkinson offers this perspective when asked about wrestling with death as opposed to fighting with it: “As you are dying you get an opportunity to live in a way that your normal life has not granted you… [you] answer the bell and testify deeply to how radically blessed you were to be able to live long enough to realize how fine it was to be alive… You’re under no obligation to accept that you’re dying when you are, which is the current mantra. Hopefully you’d be heartbroken about the fact that you don’t get to live a lot longer, hopefully you wish it were otherwise, and occasionally you demand that it be otherwise. This is in keeping with dying well.” He also adds that life is a time-limited offer and the “obligation is to obey. Obey doesn’t mean submit; obey means attend to. What is this asking of me now?” There is much to ponder in this dialogue whether or not you are actively dying.
We are thrilled to share news that Stephen Jenkinson’s DIE WISE – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, his new book about grief, and dying, and the great love of life published by North Atlantic Books is a recipient of the Nautilus Award.
Honourees are selected for their exceptional literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, high-level wellness, green values, responsible leadership, and positive social change as well as to the worlds of art, creativity, and inspirational reading for children, teens, and young adults. In recognition for his contribution to the genre of death, dying, and grief, Stephen Jenkinson’s Die Wise was awarded the silver medal.
Nautilus Book Awards Silver and Gold Winners are carefully selected in a unique three-tier judging process by experienced teams of book reviewers, librarians, authors, editors, book store owners, and leaders in the publishing industry.
Nautilus award winning authors include Deepak Chopra, M.D., Barbara Kingsolver, Marianne Williamson, Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Naomi Wolf and many other leading writers, speakers and thinkers. Learn more about the awards at nautilusbookawards.com
About the Author
Stephen Jenkinson, MTS, MSW, is an activist, teacher, author, and farmer. He has a master’s degree in theology from Harvard University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Toronto. Formerly a program director at a major Canadian hospital and medical-school assistant professor, Stephen is now a sought-after workshop leader, speaker, and consultant to palliative care and hospice organizations. He is the founder of The Orphan Wisdom School in Canada and the subject of the documentary film Griefwalker.