Known for her councils and retreats, as well as her concerts and international best-selling greeting cards, Rashani was an assistant to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1980’s and her home became the first Elizabeth Kubler-Ross center in France. Death and Deathlessness have been an ongoing koan in Rashani’s life since childhood and she has been a grief counselor for nearly thirty years. She has designed more than 350 greeting cards and 57 card decks with quotations by many inspired mystics, mentors, teachers and poets. She sang for Thich Nhat Hanh’s retreats and public dharma talks from the late 80’s until the mid-90’s and was initiated into his order. She has offered concerts, councils and retreats throughout the world during the last thirty years. She’s also a builder, gardener and founder of three retreat centers. She’s know the world over for her sage advice and leading retreats including spiritual retreats, Buddhist, shamanic and grief retreats throughout the year at a oceanview sanctuary near South Point on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Today we talk about Life, Death and Deathlessness.
NR: Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii! (Everyone) Have you ever thought about death and dying? Many of us can think of someone in bereavement. Perhaps they are dying themselves.
In my travels I’m fortunate to bump into Rashani Rea, considered a worldwide expert on griefwork, death and dying. Her upcoming retreat at the end of this month, April 2012, is Life, Death and Deathlessness, and I can tell you that being a person that hasn’t gone through loss myself, I still have learned so much from her.
One of the things I’ve learned from her is that the human spirit is “invincible.” Can you tell me more Rashani?
NR: I’ve been looking at your book “Beyond Brokenness” and the beautiful poem that started that out, and it’s got me thinking how there is something soulful about us that is just about unbreakable, something that we discover through grief.
RR: Well we discover many ways…but grief is the quick route, because it breaks down all the armoring that we’ve acquired in our lifetime, and there is something very wonderful being with grieving people because there’s not alot of pretense left. They are rendered naked in such a beautiful way and all that is left is a very tender heart that is so grateful to be alive. So grief is actually a wonderful thing.
NR: Wow, and I’ve been loving talking to you about Buddhist values like mindfulness. You’ve done a lot with Thich Nhat Hanh, being a musician for him and being initated into his order…do you have something to say about this mindfulness?
RR: What I would say is I would hope to be a beginner myself. Regardless of our initiations and our credentials and our experience, the most important thing is can we begin each day with what we call beginner’s mind, that really means with a clean slate. Can we come to each moment without our baggage, our preconceptions. That’s really the most poignant path, although there is no path really, it’s a pathless journey. But can we come innocently and freely to every moment, and that is an important part of being here, at my sanctuary, meeting every day in that way.
NR: You like to say we are most powerful in the present moment.
NR: I want to say something about Rashani’s remarkable gifts including that she’s been teaching for 35 years including running an Elizabeth Kubler Ross center in France. She actually came to me in an apparition even before I formally met her and she actually healed me of some anxiety and old stuff that I didn’t really know I was carrying around (laughs) and I can’t emphasize enough that while her reputation precedes her she is really something to meet.
The land near the South Point where she runs retreats is a power spot, that it is atop an old Hawaiian village, is that right, and the southernmost retreat in the United States. I think that is part of what is available here. I think this power, I don’t think Rashani would go around bragging that she is a remarkable healer, but a combination of her healing gifts and the space here is incredible. Can you say more about the space here?
RR: Well, there are fields of energy, morphogenetic fields of energy on this island. Many of them, and we’re blessed enough in order to live in one of these fields of energy. So the transformation that occurs here is phenomenal. I suppose some people would call it miraculous, I have come to see it as very ordinary. It returns us to our ordinary state which is our birthright–to be free and have a liberation that is unconditioned, not simply a conditioned liberation, but one that is not dependent on circumstance. So yes it’s very powerful, I certainly wouldn’t and couldn’t ever take credit for that. I do believe energies are moving deep within the earth and in all of the elemental forces and we’re here to hold space for that.
NR: Cool. One of the things I’ve been learning from you is a version of mindfulness I call it “heartfulness,” it’s making my thoughts softer and feeling my heart enfold them with the compassion that seems to then spread out to other people and the whole world, and it is a good place for heart awakening. You have this “Life, Death and Deathlessness” retreat that gives hope in the title, can you say more about what’s coming at the end of the month. Can you say more? It’s a weekend retreat. The dates are…
RR: It’s actually three days–the 27th, 28th and 29th of April. I’m also doing some one day retreats in Bellingham WA and the Bay Area in June and July. I was inspired to offer this because a friend of mine contacted me on Facebook saying she had experienced several deaths recently, and some of them were suicides. While I was in New Zealand last month I also encountered several people whose loved ones had commited suicide. And then I was talking to a friend in Washington who shared with me that told that there were four suicides in Bellingham WA, so I began to see that this is happening everywhere.
If we don’t have a story about suicide or death it is simply an occurrence. It’s not the death but the stories we tell about it that can hurt the most. Because I’ve had quite a few deaths in my family including very close friends, I feel able really to be with people and encourage them to embrace life and death and what I call “deathlessness,” and that is the eternal part of this being that is never born and will never die. So I think its important to remember that unconditioned state while we are going through the conditioned experience of birth and death and to also remember there is something much greater than either birth or death.
It’s not only for people who have lost loved ones, but it’s those small everyday deaths that we’re dealing with, loss of identity, loss of relationships, groundedness, there are so many ways that we are being invited to die every day of our life. So I’m quite certain that the people that are drawn to this know what I’m talking about. There are these small deaths that ultimately prepare us for our ultimate departure from this earth plane so we might as well master death while we have time to do that.
NR: And I notice that even a living person that has time can look at their life, look back on their life. It is almost like we’re all in a relative stage of looking back and seeing what’s occurred and making peace with it. So I really love what I’ve been learning from you so far–any other words about the retreat and what’s in store? I know you have a gorgeous ocean view and a goddess temple–I really got a kick out of seeing that–anything for the people that are possibly interested in doing a grief retreat in Hawaii with Rashani?
RR: Well it’s going to be an international retreat so far, there is a woman coming from New Zealand, there’s another coming from California. Other people are calling in. It is a limited space…I can house 10 maximum. I would say if you are interested please call me or email me, if you have any specific questions I’m very happy to answer those.
NR: Yeah! They can go to Rashani.com and find out more. Thank you so much Rashani–I’ve been learning alot from you, preparing me for a stronger, better self in the future. Thank you so much for sharing today.
RR: You’re so welcome.
Spiritual, Shamanic, Buddhist and Grief Retreats in Hawaii and Bereavement Counseling are available from Rashani Rea, the Author of Beyond Brokenness and a Grief Counselor for several decades. More info is available here at http://www.Rashani.com or call 808-929-8043.