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by Lisa Anderson Shaffer, LMFT
May 9th 2021

Hi Friends and welcome to JOY IS NOW! The podcast where we take a psychologically minded look at life. I’m your host Lisa Anderson Shaffer, coach, consultant, and resident psych enthusiast.

Hi friends and welcome to Joy is Now the podcast where we take a psychologically minded look at life. I'm your host, lisa Anderson Shaffer, coach consultant and residents psych enthusiast. Joyous now is sponsored by listeners like you visit lisa Anderson Shaffer dot com to join the community and become a one time or recurring patron of the podcast. Today I'm excited to host for these three things segment discussion renowned Los Angeles based photographer and art director. She is an end of life Doula and spiritual life coach and founder of permission to bloom coaching and a returning season one joys. Now guests the very multi talented Claudia Goetzelmann. Welcome back Claudia to Joyce. Now I I'm very excited to be back with you and to have another beautiful conversation first, I wanted to say that I'm delighted to have you back of course, For those of you who haven't listened yet. Claudia sat down with me on episode six for a truly beautiful and transparent conversation about vulnerability.

It's one of my favorite episodes actually and it is a must listen for sure. And Claudia you always bring the most provocative topics to talk about and of course today is no different. You brought three things that you've learned about death. And I can imagine my death might be an important thing to discuss right now. But I really wanted to know from you before we dive into your three things. Why is why is death on your mind? Uh well maybe timely because it's so in the forefront of our minds right now because of Covid and not just because of the big desk, but because of the change of the way we live. That is also a death. And I feel that we as a society made death very fearful and dark and and you know unattainable and we don't have tools and when, to me, death is a very sacred topic and when we need to when we talk about this, we actually also talk about life and laugh and that is not dark at all.

It's really, really beautiful. So we can see where relax with our exploration. Yeah, I would agree. I love what you said and I especially appreciate your perspective of both sides of the coin with death. That's like a very psychoanalytic perspective is to hold in psychoanalysis, we refer to it as like holding both poles and that there's this continuum and there's opposite sides. And as an analyst, your job with your patients is to hold both perspectives. So hold that they might have this like dark internal beast, but also hold that there is this beautiful light within them. And that kind of spreads out two topics to like if we're talking about death, that's one poll, then the opposite of anything that is brought up through death, like ending or fear, or grief is also has to be birth and life and joy. So that's that's very much aligned with the way I think about death from a scholarly perspective, I don't know if that always personally matches matches up for me because there definitely is fear there and it becomes like, like you said, sort of this sacred exercise for me and really keeping both parts of that open and not closing one side of it down next.

Yeah. You know, I mean, if if we would be able also to engage on the topic of death in a more deeper way, maybe we would also live in a different way because we all seek this alive nous and right now, what we learn through the lockdown and the covid, what so much a stripped away, right? And what is left is the community and meaningful relationships. And if we can really think about the end of life, that's at the end really like what people say. I wish I would have loved more. I wish I would have mended my relationships. I wished I would have spent more time with my daughter, my mother, you name it, right. So it comes really back to these basic things. Why do we need to wait so to this very, very last moment? But if we engage in the here and now with it and we get these tools, maybe we can tap into this mending of this relationship and this seeking of intimate connections already while we're, you know, alive and have a long time to be in this body.

Beautifully said, I want to dive right into your first of these three things, which blew my mind, you wrote it. And then we talked about a little bit and I was like uh this is the big, this is the big thing for us to absorb here. And your first sort of entry point into our discussion is that death is not optional? Yeah. Don't you agree that society, the way we live right now is sort of making it optional? Yeah. It seems like it's something we don't have to engage with. Its, you know, forever. You're hungry forever. Perfect. Where we don't have to think of it. It's just as far out reaching thing. But if you again, you think about it tonight, we go to sleep, even ourselves. There's this rivers every morning we wake up and there's no guarantee that we are actually going to wake up. So it's in itself already. How our body have we moved through life with our body. It's like happening every day that sort of dying and reversing and dying and reversing and yet we have so much fear about that.

That's really interesting. It is definitely a process, especially on a cellular level. There is birth and death every day. Our bodies are consistently going through the process of restoration and rebuilding. And the other side of that restoration and rebuilding is that it has to because things are dying off. Whether it's allergic responses just from a sort of physical and medical perspective, whether it's allergic response, whether it's viral response, whether it's immune, whether it's a bone mending attendant, mending all that kinds of stuff, it's a constant procedure and we are so able to psychologically this is what I find so fascinating. Were so able to separate that with this very clean break, which is so repressive of death. Of thinking about death, which is not optional. But I agree with you. I think there's something in the way we live that makes us think that we're choosing it.

And that's the that's the truth that unites all of us. Is that if you are living and breathing, if you were born, you're going to die. Yeah. And then even even then India at the very end, like at the end, like we were dead. Even then we put the makeup on the person and even then the person cannot be as he she needs to be there still that mask put on, right? So I don't know. It's I find it I find it humbling and I find it inspiring to talk about it because to me it really shows me the quality of my life, the quality of my love. And when I think that it is this precious gift that tomorrow I may not be here anymore or my parents for instance, you know, knows don't you think that that very moment right now that we would spend it in a different mindset and we really would be more in gratitude and appreciation instead of getting hung up on some something which has at the end.

No meaning. I think it matters. Yeah. You're reminding me of the conversation. We had an episode six about vulnerability and I can I can see talking about this topic that vulnerability is a response to I guess being I don't want to say being maybe it is being more open to death as as not optional. Like you said that it's sort of like if not now when like if we can't be vulnerable, if we can't take a chance, it's again, the two sides of the coin or the two poles are kind of holding all of it, right, not just getting one side of it. It's like, yeah, you're going to get hurt, we hurt each other, people hurt each other and sometimes it's just a misunderstanding. Sometimes it's intentional, but if you don't take that, it doesn't always happen, I guess is what I'm saying. And you've had, you spoke so beautifully in that episode about having really incredibly beautiful responses to sharing your own vulnerability and then having times where it kind of fell flat and you had to repair within yourself from that experience.

And I think that that I think that having sort of this wide focus of death like you said, is really helpful in sort of forcing our hand into these places that make us a little bit less comfortable because ultimately it's the question of if not now, then when right, it is so much about if not now went, but you know, we were sold every day, we'll be on that hamster wheel and we live for this one day. I will one day I'm going to travel one day I will have ended the job I actually hate and I'm going to be free and I'm going to do this and I'm finally going to start to live, but it's the journey and not the destination because in the here and now, that's truly all we got. And I feel like Covid really short is to us, right? The messages, so in our face that we think we're in control of everything, but we're not where it's just we've never been in control of it now.

It's really into our face and what we have is the here and now, maybe connecting to nature is really the thing we need to again embrace and all those things and that. It's that thing with the death as well. So if we can come to that understanding that there might not be tomorrow. I mean I'm sort of repeating myself, but then wouldn't we want to really make that here and now the most beautiful memorable moment? How do you think we get there? Because we're both having this conversation but we both have had unique experiences yourself as an end of life Doula. I worked with people as an artist the beginning of the end of life. That's just an interesting choice to enter that to decide that that's something that you are curious about or have questions about. I think for me it was curiosity for you, it might be something different. But how do how do you stay present enough to really I guess have that wide focus of death that that nurtures and helps the decisions that you make daily.

Like what do you what do you do to keep that in mind without getting I guess held down in the grief of it? Well being present. What does that mean? Really connecting with your surrounding taking in what there is realizing the abundance, what life offers us instead of living in the past. Being hung up on some issues or thinking about the future. What possibly could happen? Which we don't know usually a construct of story. Either way we come back off in front but then we lose the moment and the amazing gifts which are right in front of us in the narrowness. And I think maybe let's say again through meditation journaling really being present with you beloved like a family dinner, You see it so often people are on their phone, they're distracted. You know or in your kids you go to the playground. Do you really play with your child or are you like government a playground?

So now I'm going to be on my phone, you know, we're all guilty of this and I'm not doing any finger pointing or anything. It's just it's again these these adaptations, these it sneaks into us the way we live right now on our society and becomes this thing and we lose ourselves and then we lose those moments and then later on and you know, as with the end of life, Doula work and it's then it's a very at the very end and that to me that's so heart wrenching that people then say, I wish I would have and then it is too late. So, you know, I'm advocating for like maybe putting the phone down and resisting the temptation and really creating a beautiful memory with whoever is in front of you. I wonder if people often think it takes a large movement or a large step. Like I come across that a lot in psychology and changing behaviors are changing the way taking a reaction, what it takes to change a reaction to a response.

And I think there's this concept that It takes this huge thing, like it's got you got to be 110%. It's like not really, it can be, you can make one choice when you're at the playground, you're at that family dinner, even if starting out, it's five minutes and you're like for five minutes, I'm not going to pick up my phone and I'm just going to do a little exercise where I think about what I see, I think about the person that I'm with, even if it's something like just taking in what they're wearing or if you can smell their shampoo or if you can hear the breeze, Those little things, I think there's a misconception that it has to be all the time and I can speak from the perspective as a highly sensitive person that I can't exist that way all day I can do and that's why I have my daily writing practice. That's why these three things exist so that there's a place for me to have a present moment so I can have a wider focus of life which is also death, beginnings and endings, birth and loss, all of these things that it can happen in a concentrated time for me because there are people that can be open like at the end of a yoga practice, when your teacher says, put your palms face up or your palms face down.

The first two years of my yoga practice, my palms were always faced down. I just could not leave a place that already felt physically sensitive to me with like welcoming, you know, palms face up, whatever that kind of metaphor means to you. And so I want to encourage people who are listening that want to engage in a more present activity or a present moment that it can be like you can just start with two minutes or five minutes. It doesn't have to be in all day openness because I don't think that that's necessarily authentic either. No, no, it's beautiful. I totally agree with what you said. It's yeah, you worded it so well and I also wouldn't be overwhelming ourselves if we needed to make it this big thing and then it needs to be perfect. And would it be done possibly and just an excuse for us not to do it and had changes, right? They started with a fraction. That's why a lot of people when on New Year's, these New Year's resolutions don't work because it's just overwhelming.

So instead of signing up for the half marathon even, so you have not even ever run right for this gold, which is so far away, why not be, like, I start walking, I start walking around the block and I walk five blocks and that's it. It's just and then we get this feeling of achievement and being productive and still like on our path, on this way of this, we're already walking towards this goal instead of like, oh my God, no, I just want to make the half marathon, You know, it's not for me, which is then just this, this range and it becomes a negative experience. Right? Frustrated? Yeah, definitely. And then at that point we're talking about a neurological change. It starts, yeah, the little pieces of success with the you know, you're putting your body in motion whether it's physically emotion like you said you want to run a marathon, that's skill building you and I know that and skill building is boring, sometimes it's not glamorous, but a lot of life is skill building and just doing a little bit every day clocking hours.

A lot of people talk about the 10,000 hours creativity and that and that is a lot of what, going from a reaction to her responses in anything, whether it's behavioral, mental, emotional, physical and once you start doing it, yes, there is an emotional component like you said you do you feel better and you do experience achievement. But then that becomes neuropsychological, that becomes neurological and then the way your body response to that energetically and from a physiological place is sort of outside of your emotional control, which I like. It's like it's happening. It's like you're you're making a spark and the sort of physical and physiological pieces of your body respond to that and they go, oh we get that. So we're going to fire these neurons, we're going to respond with this hormonal response. And while we can control that to some extent, it's sort of like this separate system that is helping to support whatever, whether it's a physical goal or an emotional goal is helping to support that once we start in a reasonable right?

Yeah, for instance, also coming back to maybe just in the morning how we wake up, how we greet today and welcoming in gratitude to be back in our body, right? It's as if it's a mystery where do we go and we fall asleep? We go into this deep, deep sleep and then suddenly we wake up and here we are again, our mind, our soul, our heart, everything and we feel our our body and it's this enormous gift. So maybe just these little things of, of, of appreciation that already changes the quality because it's really also showing us the impermanence of things. I love thinking of everything is being impermanent. I know that freaks a lot of people out, but that there's some things that I think ignite fear or uneasiness and some people that I find very reassuring and impermanence is one of those things and I think that comes from a perspective again, you know, like scholarly perspective of psycho analysis, which is, it's everything.

It's it's the whole basket, you don't get to just take out the good stuff or take out the bad stuff. That's right, all of it. I want to lead into your second of three things. Which is death is also about love and alive Nous. When we talk about death, it also shows us how we love. Yeah, it comes back to the end of the life, what people say because I think if we if we know ourselves and we live, we are able to live the most authentic true life. We can then we can then we will probably be in peace with ourselves. And then when death comes small or big, let's say the end of a relationship even it's a big it's a relative pictures or the loss of a job or you know, it's a desk. But then if we know we showed up to ourselves the best way, then we can also handle that. Letting go in a different way.

And so it's always it comes back to do I know who I am? Do I know am I on my way to lift this dream? What are my dreams? What are my needs? What does it mean to be connected to myself? What does it mean to be authentic? Am I putting you know things in motion to move towards that dream and all of those things are so essential? And then am I really step into that edge? Am I loving fully? Am I telling my beloved in my family that I value them? It's these check ins, right we can do through out our life and then when we know we do that and we can also say, I know I did and I'm ready to move on and you know it's the big one and I know I really left, I laughed, I laughed, I laughed as much as I could. And to me this is this tool when we when we really embodied this idea Of maybe having three months to live.

We can we can do a writing exercise around us and you know, with questions and really go down this past and then realize probably that we need or should love a little bit louder. So the quality is a little bit deeper, choose you. I really appreciate that question. I think that's a beautiful question to ask yourself at the end of the day or maybe start the day with that question, how deeply can I love today? And maybe some days it's not a lot like like we talked about giving this perspective, you know, like any other perspective, like any other idea to go, the expectation That I'll say professionals or people in this line of work have for the people that we work with is not 100% participation all the time. That would be inauthentic. That would be very difficult.

It's the expectation is also be in those days when it cannot happen. So if we are using this question, how deeply did I love today or how deeply will I love today? Will I love deeply today? Did I love as deeply as I possibly could? Whatever that and maybe it's not even those words, but however, you can interpret that question, it's like, It's also important to note the days that you may wake up and know that you are not 100% open that day, that you have very narrow out business hours. I'll use business. Our, your emotional capacity that day might feel limited from the second you wake up. Maybe you'll surprise yourself throughout the day. Maybe the end of the day, you can look back and say I did. I loved as deeply as I could today. Maybe that's different the next day. But I like that question as as just a way as a practice. I really like that question as a daily practice.

But, you know, it's also then it's uh no pressure, right? It's okay. Maybe as you said, maybe we can't really love today as much, but then it's still this showing up and it's a self acknowledgement and malek today I struggle today. You know, I I feel ungrounded. Then it comes again. What can I do to ground what? Why am I feeling the way I'm feeling? What irritates me? What are the, you know, what is going on inside his self inquiries? And if we allow the space and the silence our body will tell us. And maybe it's something which dripped us up and we're holding on to it and we come to realize I just need to, you know, take some deep breaths and let it go. And and maybe that was it. And just giving permission to just allowing to let them move through us. And I'm like, but or maybe it's a boundary. I'm like, okay, today, I, you know, I haven't set that boundary so well and it upsets me, but that also could be an action or, you know, act of self love of loving yourself.

So it's all as if it comes back to this just being in touch with yourself and having these inquiries and checking in. I agree. I think so much of being present as being curious. Yeah. Your yes, when you were talking, I start to think about my grandfather who had such a such an interesting perspective on death. He was extremely religious. So, and it was this kind of my family's nod, but it was this beautiful gift to the rest of the family that he was like, I'm going home to God and he was very settled and was actually super psyched about it. Like he was ready, he was like, I'm going home to God. And that was just his, his grounded nous in the end of his life was just like I said, this tremendous gift to the rest of us. But one of the things he said toward the end of his life was he's never known tragedy and I thought that was so fascinating because on paper it's not true.

It's like, yes, he did. You know, he had a home and he had means and like he used to say, if you can go to the movies and go to a restaurant every once in a while, you're doing pretty good. So, you know, in in that perspective, Yes, but just like the rest of us, there was stuff that happened to him and happened to the family that was most definitely tragic, but it was his perspective that took on paper and and didn't change it, but I think held all of like we're talking about sort of both sides or all of the pieces of those experiences and that's just that sentence to me. I've never known tragedy is I think about that a lot, it's so fascinating and if it makes me think that there was a curio curious nous that he had to have to sort of extract the larger, you know, if it's themes or happenings moments around what actually, you know, was tragic and and think about them differently.

Yeah, maybe as lessons or wisdom knowledge, he could gain through whatever happened to him, right, that he could flip it, see the opposite side of it instead of just tragic or the hardship or hurt. Yeah. There was definitely a love component that he led in to those spaces. It's hard to do. And I wonder like how he kind of practice that, but he figured something out, you know? So let's move on to number three because I think that this is so like we talked about the beginning, this is such a major thing that we're all kind of going through right now, is that we experience death big and small many times over. So let's get good at it. That's what do you say? Yeah. So don't, I mean if we, as I said, you know, we experienced so many small deaths throughout our life and if we can bring consciousness and awareness that we may have just died.

And for instance, this risk, covid stripping away of whatever was is normality and that is a desk. It's definitely a form, it's almost like a habitual living kind of societal sort of way of death. And then if we understand that there is a grievance that we need to grieve. This, this that's really, I think a very incredible practice for Another one or bigger one or the final one. I like the idea of this being practice. I that's really such a beautiful perspective. I agree there's an opportunity here that we've all been given and there's this sort of, there's a psychoanalytic idea that makes me salivate about continuum, right? So I've talked about this on a couple episodes, but we all kind of exist on to continue. Um, at the same time, one is this societal continuum that all seven billion of us exist on And sometimes it's a little smaller, Sometimes it's your neighborhood, your community.

If you're involved in something like yoga or you're in college, then it can sort of break down an ebb and flow from these very, very big societies to kind of smaller family different systems, things like that. And then there's our individual continuum and we're both moving back and forth on them at the same time. But right now with Covid, if you are living, we are all experiencing this one big societal thing which happens so rarely. And while it is incredibly tragic and super awful and it's turned all of our lives upside down and sideways and there's been a tremendous amount of loss because it has touched everyone in some way, shape or form and the grief is universal. Like how often is grief completely universal that like never had, that never happens.

It's astounding, really? So there is this, like you said, opportunity to sit with that and practice in that and psychoanalysis has kind of a very odd perspective of grief, but the thought is that unexpressed grief manifests as psychosis and that's not psychosis, like full end spectrum psychosis where you're hallucinating and you need some sort of major medical intervention, it's like being pushed a little bit more into the realm of discomfort. So it's confusing, People get confused, forgetful, you know, it's it's a trauma response really, is what analysis is referring to. And so when there isn't an acknowledgement Because how much, how much can we process? Like you and I spoke about this idea of this 100% being all in all the time, it's not realistic and it's probably not healthy, so, but it's the acknowledgment of like, this is a time of grieving for everyone.

So let's let's be with that a little bit like you're saying, let's practice in that that kind of realm or perspective or whatever, Maybe it's feeling, I'm not sure. But I think also for me, grief also shows us it's there's suddenly a whole right something has gone, there's an absence. So it's usually it shows us if we grieve more, the more we grief it's about we love something so much. There is the absence of that love of that person or that way of life or, you know, something we really treasured and valued. So if we can come to that and really see it as while I loved this, this had meaning to me as it was important, then we, I think can be with it in a different way and hold it in a different way instead of just because we can give it words. We can give it really even an emotion and grief. You know, we have two stages and it comes as a tsunami and it goes and it's a radical.

But if we really see and understand that this is happening because we valued it so much, maybe pre helps us a little bit more logically to deal with it. That's brilliant. It's almost like, well grief is love, love is grief right? But I kind of like that reminder that you suggested, which is like and also as you mentioned grief is I think that's the one thing that when people seek help processing grief, they want to know they want to know the schedule. And there is no schedule. Yes, there are stages. But within those stages there's no schedule. You can be fine for a week and then you're taking a shower and all of a sudden you're hysterical on the floor of the shower crying because the temperature of the room or whatever you have a memory. And I love that reframing of the loss or the emptiness as this means that I loved this is my love showing is kind of about you know, instead of your like your slip showing or what here, this is my, this is my love showing in those moments is because it really is, it really is actually your love coming through in those moments of that are sometimes, you know, earth shattering and mind altering the green movies so deep and if we can come to this understanding and develop this tool and then because there's so much grief right now around us, maybe we can hold each other better and b to come together as a community because grieving is also a communal event just as death used to be a communal event, we would have to celebration of that life lift or but so now we can come back together this again, it comes full circle to the conversation of the what we're seeking is this intimacy.

And if we can share the pain, the grief, the absence, the laugh, then we, it's we we we connect on such a deep, intimate level because we're allowing to be seen by another and you say I grieved this, I am suffering, I love this so much and I'm like, thank you for sharing yourself, I want to see you, I can see you, I hold you. I know there's this absence, there's a space but I'm here for you and that you know, that connects us on a very deep level. So beautiful. I was instantly reminded as you were speaking of one of one of the best pieces of training advice I received when I was working on my license, I had a mentor dr Tara wreck and I remember when I started my training with her, she I forget her words, but she said sometimes all you can do is this and she put her arm out like she was just cradling a baby, like she just about an infant and she said sometimes all you can do is this and the movement of just having a baby in her arms and that holding is again, I think we imagine that it has to look a certain way and that's really what she was saying is that sometimes as a professional, as a therapist, as someone who is walking someone through grief or a challenge.

All you sometimes all you can do, all you can offer is just that aren't, you know, knowing that the person feeling that they are held in some way, whether it's their words are held like you said, you're seeing them, you're noticing them and that goes a long way right, attunement or abiding present, right? I'm so present and we were in and roll energy like you know, we feel each other's energy and so I can be with you and I am really attuned to you and I feel your pain, it will ease you or even so I don't physically hug you but you will feel it and you will feel hugged, your soul feels well felt health and I think that's very healing and very beautiful. I love the word of two men. I feel like that takes some of the pressure off of us, doesn't it? Were simply just thinking of it as let me know this person, let me help this person know that I'm attuned simply on the same, you know, we stay on the same wavelength or something like you and I are two were attuned you and I are.

Yeah. It kind of takes the pressure off from having to offer. Maybe something that some of us can't in that maybe other times we can't, maybe it's possible. Maybe it's not. But the idea of just letting someone know, like I see you, I hear you right? I get it. Yeah. It's beyond the word, right? Maybe we don't have to say anything because maybe as you said, we might have not the right word and maybe the there is no right word. Maybe it's really just that energy I'm sending towards you. I think you're right. I think sometimes there is no, maybe a lot of the time there is no not even right word. Maybe there's just no words sometime. Yeah, Claudia again. Thank you for the most incredible conversation. I hope you'll come back again and again and again. Thank you for having me again, wow. We went so quickly and deep dive.

Yeah, thank you always. So wonderful to speak with. This has been joyous now with me lisa Anderson Shaffer, L M F T. You can find me for hire at lisa Anderson Shaffer dot com along with patronage support for this podcast and these three things project. You can also follow along with my musings at lisa Anderson Shaffer on instagram for more places to find all the brilliance that is cloudy against women. Head to Claudia Goetzelmann dot com and permission to bloom coaching dot com and check the notes for this episode for see you next time.

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