How do you communicate with someone who is dying, when you can see their life and all that they stand for flashing before your eyes?
At 35, I sold everything and moved across the country, driven by a calling to serve and build my business in British Columbia. Giving up the comforts of familiarity, I headed west. Within weeks of landing, new ghostwriting and copywriting contracts flowed in and I found myself interacting in a community that welcomed all facets of my personal offering, including the more intuitive side of my work. There was also immediately much demand for my recent accreditation as a Reiki Master Teacher and Intuitive Healing Guide. Reiki (of energetic healing) and Intuitive Healing served as a platform to openly and compassionately support the healing of others. While the practice can be quite ethereal, I found ways to infuse my practical and pragmatic nature, attracting a host of business clients.
Over the course of the next year, I served many incredible individuals. They included a businessman who questioned whether to sell the multi-million-dollar corporation he had build over three decades, a Japanese agoraphobic woman who came in with a translator, a young entrepreneur trying to process the suicide of a loved one, and a wealthy oil worker who was seeking to find his more spiritual side. While being intuitive felt natural to me, conducting sessions with respected business owners and successful entrepreneurs was, at times, a little daunting and humbling. Being shown such clear, powerful messages for others felt much like being a child trying to drive a giant bull dozer that was intensely heading in a specific direction. While I could be there and do my best to direct the course, I was really just a humble servant being a part of something much bigger.
The truth was that I didn’t always feel fully confident in sessions with such respected people who entrusted me to help clarify their purpose, make major life decisions and heal from incredible adversities…though I did my best to honor my place in the process and contribute what I could as best I could.
Just before Christmas of the second year of my practice, I received a call asking if I would travel north and do a session for a dying man and his wife. They had flown into town to stay with friends and say their goodbyes during his final days. Kevin was in his early fifties and has terminal cancer.
When I arrived at the beautiful house on Lake Okanagan, it was dark and the steep windy roads were covered with ice. I felt a sense of nervousness, due in part to the wintery conditions, and also because of a scenario that felt very foreign and daunting. While I accepted the request to support Kevin and Maria without hesitation, the truth was that I felt unprepared. What was one to say when working with someone who had but days to live? Would I be able to serve him as the family and friends needed me to? In spite of having shared hospital rooms with those who were dying, this was the first time I had been asked to support someone as they were passing. With the situation weighing heavily on my heart and soul, I pushed forward, doing my best to stay in alignment with how I had always shown up – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
They decided that I would provide Kevin with a session first. Maria and I made our way downstairs to the guest bedroom, where Kevin lay still, nestled under the blankets of a queen-size bed. He was silent, his eyes barely open. Maria walked over to his side and gently told him know that I was there. She asked him if there was anything he needed, and I heard him mumbled something about her helping to lift his arms out from under the sheets. He was far too weak to do so on his own.
As Maria left the room, I introduced myself and told Kevin that I would do the session standing at the base of his feet, at the end of the bed. I told him that I wouldn’t say too much, unless it was something truly important.
It was a challenge to work past the emotional weight and any hesitancy about being asked to be with a couple at such a painful point in their lives. All I could do was to conduct the session as I always would have – being fully present and being wholly respectful of the current state of the person I served. What words came from my lips would do so naturally, without an excessive thinking process prior to sharing. I would speak what was true – not true as in shaped from my personal sense of judgement, but true in a sense that not sharing would feel more dishonest than it would to do so.
During the hour-long session, I did my best not to break down in tears, as I felt this incredible energy flow through me and was able to “see” what as going on inside Kevin’s body. During the sessions, I would regularly see aspects of people’s lives flash before my eyes – aspect that I quickly learned had surprising accuracy. There was so much about Kevin and his life that I could sense. It was overwhelming – like watching a powerful, emotional full-length movie that had been condensed into a few short minutes.
What do you say to someone who facing their final days, when you can see their life and all that they stand for flashing before your eyes? There were moments where I couldn’t help but mention the beauty of who he was and all that he had contributed during his time on earth…all the while just trying to hold the tears back.
Three-quarters of the way through the session, as I continued to be with him and communicate the messages that came through me, something incredible happened: Kevin lifted his arms on his own, placing them behind his head. He took a labored breath, and then his body relaxed – his face showing an easing of prior strain and his body looking much like he was lying on a tropical beach under the hot sun. He seemed to almost be at peace. I cracked, and tears flowed down my face.
While often able to remain a neutral channel during sessions, this experience was far too powerful. The connection was surreal. What words I shared were conscious and intentional, and even my unspoken thoughts seemed to elicit a response from Kevin. Something incredible had happened during those 60 minutes. While I was hopeless to keep him from dying, I could be fully present with him and share the truths I sensed, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, the work we did together would help ease his transition.
When the session was over, I returned upstairs and shared with Maria and their friends what Kevin had been able to do, lifting his own arms despite having minimal physical strength. They immediately broke into tears – tears of joy and pain, intermixed in the expressions that showed upon their faces.
Returning downstairs, we set up in the living room for Maria’s session. It wasn’t five minutes into our time together when I clearly saw Maria waiting for a bell to toll. I told her about the bell and said that I wasn’t certain if it was literal or metaphorical. She immediately shared that she had given Kevin a bell to ring whenever he needed her. For months, her life had centered around the sound of the bell, springing her into action of out sheer concern for his well-being. I followed by sharing that the message coming through was one of her being able to release her attachment to the bell and now be free.
The truth is that messages that came through me to share with clients were not always something I trusted. At times, they seemed to abstract and surreal to the logical mind. I always knew that, regardless of how challenging, I had to push through any doubt and honor the person I was supporting by speaking exactly what came to me. Though there was rarely a time when my mind wouldn’t want to filter or question the message, I persevered. With every session, I learned a little more fully to trust the voice of my intuition and to speak the truths that came to me without hesitation or judgement.
We all have the ability to be intuitive, and to honor that gut instinct of what is best or right to communicate at any moment in time, with anyone we serve. Regardless of any doubt or fear that creeps into the confines of our minds, the greatest way we can honor ourselves and others is to communicate what is true as the deepest level of our being – the messages that support empathy, growth and ease-of-life for others – and share it authentically. That is, to have integrity.
Whether communicating with family, company, community or humanity, we all have an audience. Life is an opportunity and business is a platform; and it is our choice whether we maximize both by speaking with integrity.
What is integrity? According to Wikipedia:
The word integrity evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character.
Dictionary.com offers one definition of integrity to be: “The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.” Undiminished – not questioning, hiding or minimizing truth, morals or character. When we are whole, we realize the depth of our connection to others and the importance of serving with integrity. When we are whole, we are not diminishing all that we have to offer in that service.
In her HuffPost article, “The True Meaning of Integrity,” CEO So-Young Kang describes consistency, honesty and accuracy as the keystones of integrity. In speaking to what great leaders can do to be on a path toward integrity, she mentions recognizing the impact we have on others. To take this a step further, not only must we recognize our potential impact in any conversation, but also realize that someone is always listening. Integrity means living and speaking our truth in every moment…even when we think we can’t be heard, that no one is listening, or if we are questioning what we know we need to say.
Even when we think that no one is listening, or that perhaps we aren’t be heard, be reassured that someone is always listening.
Kevin wasn’t supposed to be able to move his arms, nor was he expected to be so alert as to hear or respond to the messages that I was sharing, though he did.
In his article, “The importance of honesty and integrity in business,” renown author and speaker Brian Tracy defines honesty and integrity in terms of leaders who never cheat, who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, who keep their promises and who aren’t afraid of the truth. Most often, the right thing doesn’t equate the easy thing. Being with Kevin was one of the most emotionally challenging experiences I’ve had in business – finding a way to allow myself to feel and share, while also being a source of hope and strength. The truth in that circumstance was that he was dying, and I couldn’t allow any fear tied to that to deter me from being fully present.
An unattributed quote about integrity says, “Do the right thing, even when no one is watching.” In relation to business and personal communication, we could translate integrity to mean “Say the right thing, even if no one is listening.” Because, chances are, someone is always listening.
Above all us, we are always listening to ourselves, consciously or unconsciously. What we say to others echoes and breaths life into who we are and how we build our character. When we speak in alignment with personal and universal truths, respect ourselves and others, and understanding our impact, we are choosing to breathe in something that supports expansion. When we speak with integrity, we can find our way to peace in almost any situation and foster a sense of fulfillment that empowers us to continue making positive contributions.
How do we develop greater integrity in our communication?
Here are 3 Choices to Speak Freely with Integrity:
1. Don’t Overthink It – Your gut, instinct, intuition or whatever you choose to call it, always knows best. Honesty requires thought, but as I learned through my experiences with Intuitive Healing patients, this doesn’t mean excessive thought – the kind that will allow fear or doubt to creep in and convince us to not say what we know at the deepest level is true (for us and for others). As a ghostwriter, I’ve seen self-doubt shake people out of being in integrity with what they truly want to say more times than I’ve seen arrogance lead someone to want to falsify a statement.
Use the split second of time in between stimulus and response (“The Pause,” as detailed in an earlier post “The Greatest Insight Gained from My Near-Death Experience”) to make the choice to align yourself with integrity. Be strategic about what you say and how you say it. When a business session or conversation requires that we respond quickly, this can be a blessing, allowing us to not overly question our words, leading with our instinct. And what flows with the least effort is often the most truthful.
What flows with the least effort is often the most truthful.
You may have to make the choice (of what to say) more consciously at first – through a process of phrasing your wording for optimal integrity and impact; though in time, you will find a natural groove, where doubt or hesitancy subside and you are more freely able to speak to personal and universal truth. In doing so, consistency will naturally occur.
2. Regardless of Who You Serve, Stay True – Customizing our service to each individual is a wonderful thing, though there is a balance between doing so and the risk of compromising our integrity. Don’t let your circumstances determine your character. Always stay true to what you know is best – both in alignment with your full self-expression and with the ultimate needs of your clients.
Spend time getting observing and getting to know yourself. Take a third-party perspective and watch how you communicate and interact with clients. When you speak, do you feel in alignment with your values and morals AND those of your clients? A side benefit of getting to know ourselves and how we act or react in business situations, is that we can recognize the difference between rational and irrational fear – the kind that can redirect us from what we know is right to say. Remember that whether or not to share something is not intended to be some existential debate. At the core of who you are, you already know what aligns with integrity – you know what is true, what you stand for and what you value…and by being fully present, you can sense the same within others. If something feels right, say it; if it feels off or out of alignment, don’t. Communicating with integrity means that what we share is always contributing to our business relationships, rather than detracting from them.
3. Question Yourself Only When It Helps You Progress – Undiminished – that is the name of the game. If taking a step back to assess your interactions ultimately leads you to be able to more freely express the truth or what is right, then take the time to question what you choose to say and the way you communicate…though remember that such an act is only useful when it is short-lived and fuels forward progress. If you remain in a state of constant-questioning that keeps you from saying what you instinctively know you need to, it is time to free yourself by doing something to reset. Take a deep breathe, a walk, or speak with someone who is always supportive, and have that space, environment or friendly face be the catalyst that propels you forward with greater confidence to share that which is right or true.
Whenever you speak, whether with clients or close confidants, remember who you are and why you do what you do. Be aware and sensitive of others, always. In the end, what matters is that we’ve contributed something of value that has changed lives for the better. Be a change-maker with integrity, who stands for something positive and has compassion for those you serve.
In the September 2017 article at AwarenessAct.com, “13 Traits of People with True Integrity,” the leading characteristics of those with integrity are described as: valuing other people’s time, giving credit where it is due, authenticity, honesty, never taking advantage of others, not arguing over disagreements, giving others the benefit of the doubt, knowing when something is bothering someone (empathy/understanding), apologizing first, humility, doing good and kindness. This article, as many definitions, showcases how integrity is about living true to personal and universal values and morals. We all want to be respected, understood and have the ability to self-express. The deepest struggles that you experience, whether related to integrity or another universal value, as likely shared by many of those whom you serve. Integrity and compassion go hand-in-hand, so know that when you speak true to yourself and in respect of the needs others, every moment lived spent honoring and serving with compassion progressively alleviates challenge or suffering (i.e. our being out of alignment with personal and universal truth). Be a force for positive change.
Og Mandino, the late author of the international bestselling book, The Greatest Salesman in the World, shared a principle that beautifully reflects what Kevin taught me that cold December evening. It is “The Dead by Midnight Principle.” Og says, “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet, friend or foe, loved one or stranger, as if they were going to be dead at midnight. Extend to each person, no matter how trivial the contact, all the care and kindness and understanding and love that you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”
Trust what is true or right, honor your audience and without excessive self-questioning, and give all of yourself to all that you do.