Listen to my talk with host Dena Marie about being called to service below starting at 29:20, or read the transcript!
Dena Marie: Joining us this morning is Emily Pinzur. You know, I think I got a call from you, maybe a month ago and I love what you do. I want you to tell the listeners from the beginning how you got into it, and I’ll tell the listeners a little more about you after you talk about what you do.
EP: Great. Well, I’ve been a social worker for the past 16 years. I started off in just kind of a regular social work capacity; working in an office, having people come in to see me each week, and I’ve had quite a journey in my career. I think the turning point was… I moved to California in 2010, and shortly after that I was in a car accident, and got injured and that led me to…I’d always done different kinds of exercise, but after the car accident I turned to a yoga practice for the first time. That got me going down a completely different path, for which I’m completely grateful. Sometimes these things happen in a funny way. Of course, at the time, I was bummed out by the accident and the injury but it led me to my yoga practice, which led me to more mind-body awareness. From my yoga practice, I met a teacher who was leading a yoga and Reiki retreat. I went on that and got my first Reiki attunements and became a Reiki practitioner, and that’s when I started getting a good understanding of the energy body and the chakra system. I started being more interested in talking to people about mind-body awareness and spirituality; talking to people more holistically from a career perspective. That at some point led to me working in hospice as a social worker. I know that you have experience working in hospice, too, and figuring out that at the end of life especially, we’re all just energy. You know, everything is energy, and we’re all just energy, but especially at the end of life, your energy gets distilled down to kind of its purest form. I like to help people release what they need to release; release from the physical plane or from energetic bonds with other people. While hospice was wonderful, and I think it’s an amazing service for many many people, from which people benefit, I felt that there were certain things missing; certain gaps that I wanted to close. I started looking for how to do that, and that’s how I came to a program where I started studying to be an End of Life Doula.
DM: And I love it. That’s your calling, right? That’s your calling?
EP: Absolutely! When I found out about it, a hospice nurse friend of mine called me. She said she’d found this program that trained End of Life doulas, and as soon as she said it, it was like a switch turned on in my body and my brain and I just said “Oh, yes, this is it.” I mean, I hadn’t looked into it at all, I’d never heard the phrase before, End of Life Doula, but I just knew that’s what I was meant to do. And so, I started investigating, and then I found the right program for myself, and here I am today doing this work.
DM I call it “a midwife for the other side”, being escorted out as we’re escorted in, and I feel like life continues on and on. We are our spirit, our energy.”
DM: Now, Reiki is really dear to me, and I know it is to you. That’s when I started realizing, you start getting people together and they’re doing Reiki, and you don’t talk for maybe an hour or two because you are doing the circle; people are communicating, they communicate through their energy, or their aura.
EP: Yes, it’s incredible. You don’t have to say anything. I mean, the body really speaks and the energy centers really speak. I’ve had experience working in… so I did the Reiki training in California, then I went up to Vancouver BC to study Integrative Energy Healing at Langara College. Integrative Energy Healing is similar to Reiki, but different; it just has a more proscribed series of hand positions for different kinds of treatments. So, there are treatments for people who have neurological disorders and pain, and there are treatments that are better for anxiety. But the concept is similar. We had people coming in to clinic who were highly skeptical but were able to tune in to exactly what we were doing. They’re on the table, their eyes are closed. I’ll never forget, I had an experience with a man. I was called to kind of swirl my fingers over his heart chakra almost like a heart chakra massage, because I felt some congestion in there and something wanted to come out. And his eyes are closed and he says “I feel like I can see a swirling galaxy just over my heart.” You know? So…
DM: Oh, I totally…my son told me “I don’t like it, I don’t want you to do Reiki anymore because you know too much about who I am! It’s like it’s getting scary…she knows too much!
EP: It’s true; the body doesn’t lie.
DM: Without talking, and I call it massage for your soul, chiropractic for your spirit because people want to know what you do. But I think you’re a conduit for pure life force energy which to me is love. And, when you give someone therapeutic touch or compassionate touch or hand on healing, there’s all sorts of names for it. But, when you touch someone in a loving, supportive way, and it can be over the body or real touch like holding someone’s hand, or hugs. Hugs are a wonderful way to give Reiki, a nice hug from your heart to the next person’s heart. But having that touch, having that human connection with another person, of course you’re going to thrive with someone like that.
EP: Absolutely. Even if you just set the intention. I mean, there have been experiments with Reiki where you can send it anywhere distantly. You can send it around the world with your intention. So, just the intention is powerful, and when you add the compassionate physical presence, it’s so incredibly strong. The benefit, of course, is that while we are giving, we are also receiving. Just pure love being transmitted to us and through us. I think Reiki is an incredible tool.
DM: And as a doula, what a beautiful gift to have you sitting next to someone who’s transitioning to have that energy given. And you’re receiving it too. But I can’t think of a better way to cross over.
EP: Thank you, I agree with you. For families, too, it’s so important to set the tone in the room and just be that calm, anchoring presence. Sometimes I’m a doula when there’s no family there. Sometimes I’m a family is traveling and they can’t be there. Sometimes I’m a doula, and I did this in hospice as well, when family members are there, but they want someone to hold space. That’s an absolutely wonderful part of my role, what I’m there to do. So, I want to let people know I’m available, and people like myself are available to hold the space, so that they can do the work.
DM: Yeah, and I’ve heard so many really good stories of people crossing over and what transpires, what happens. I do have one story. I know how well Reiki works because I was in Orcas Island, and I was sitting there eating, and I saw a man who was kind of bent over from the waist. And I heard my voice say “If I cross over, give me a kiss goodbye.” And I said “Why’d I say that out loud?” and I realized he’d crossed over. So, I walked over there quickly, because I do Reiki, and they didn’t even notice. I said “You need to call 911.” Then I said “I’m a Reiki master, can I do some Reiki?” So, he’s on the ground, we’ve got him, he’s slipped away and I can tell he’s pretty much ready to go. And as I’m doing Reiki, I could see myself; like time stood still for me. And everyone else panicked. Tables were flying, water was spilling. And it was chaos, but I felt totally out of this world with him. Then I really felt like he wanted to pass. It was his birthday, he was 78 years old but the medics came. And this is the part that really made me sad: he didn’t want to be revived, he didn’t want to. And when they crushed his ribs, and they did all the work he didn’t want them to, and I heard him cry, basically. He was ready to cross, he was ready to go. And that’s another thing. When we are ready to go, I know sometimes the loved ones can hold on too long. Do you find that?
EP: Mm hm. Oh absolutely, and sometimes knowing that they’re doing it and sometimes not knowing that they’re doing it. That was part of; we have emotional bonds with people, as we know, and we have energetic bonds, too. Sometimes the work is really helping people let their loved ones go. That can obviously be facilitated by understanding their loved one’s wishes prior. Or sometimes people may know intellectually that their loved one doesn’t want to be resuscitated, or what have you, but in the moment they find it really, really hard to let go. So, I think that preparation is really important, having the conversations, understanding what people do and do not want at the end of life. And that goes beyond completing your Advance Directive. Which is incredibly important. Getting your documentation settled and completed with an attorney; incredibly important. But, just having a greater conversation as well about how we want to die, and I think it’s important that we die as we lived. We want our death to be reflective of our values. So, I think that having those conversations and also…when you have those conversations, and have some understanding, when you’re able to say goodbye and have some completion of the energetic exchange, it’s much easier in moments like the one you’re talking about. Then you might be able to sit calmly and let go.
DM: And you’ll be able to let go of the people you love way before you’re ready to pass, and tell them what you would like. I mean, having a conversation about crossing over is difficult for a lot of people.
EP: It is. I’d really like to see that changing, though, in the future. I’d like to see conversations starting earlier. That was part of what I thought was limiting about hospice. The majority of people I saw, by the time they got where they were, they were way too sick or debilitated, or mentally incapacitated, or the family had already been wracked with disagreement to have these conversations. So, we need to have these conversations earlier. We need to make preparation easier, and more natural and more normal for people to have those conversations open up and away from our…you know, we have these cultural mores and taboos we need to move away from a little bit. We need to get back to basics. I mean, 150 years ago, there were no funeral homes, so everybody died at home. So, you needed to have those conversations.
DM: You know, it’s like, people are having their babies at home, people did pass over at home, in their own bed, with their family around. So, I want to talk about that when we come back from break. Stay tuned. Welcome back. So, you have an article in page 12 of Natural Awakenings. It’s something that warms my heart and, I have to say, what I loved about talking to you is you said you learned to listen with your heart. That’s the key, right? That’s the key.
EP: It’s absolutely the key. I mean we know so much from…so much is communicated…that so much of communication is nonverbal, right? But it goes beyond that. Listening with your heart goes beyond that, and that is the beautiful gift of Reiki and energy work. It was a perfect natural progression that I found, to start with listening with the skills I’d learned in school – graduate school – as a social worker. Those were really important foundational underpinnings. Then, I kind of just progressed down my own path and figuring out…and there have been wonderful progressions in my own life. There have been parallel processes with my own life and what I want to do professionally. So, I feel like I have a completely integrated self. What I do for work and what I do in my life is the same, it’s just this heart based exploration.
DM: And you have a list of things you do, so how can you help families?
EP: I can help families in several ways. I have several roles that I can do as much or as little work in as they’d like. The way I’ll explain it is, it starts with the End of Life Doula. I’ll give a brief explanation, it goes much further but this is brief. End of Life Doula is working with anyone, even young healthy people who are not going to die any time in the near future that they’re aware of to understand what their death care and after care options are, understand the conversations they need to have, and start to have the conversation earlier and more thoroughly about how to have an examined death, as they have an examined life. The second role is a Death Doula for people who do know they’re dying and do life review with them and also be present at the death transition should they want. That can encompass areas too; I can do space clearing for them, I can do pre-death blessings for them, or I can simply hold space like we talked about before. Then comes the Mourning Doula role; that’s after someone has died, helping their family in more of a concierge role with whatever tasks they need to have completed. That can look like emotional support, informational support or practical support. The next role is a home funeral doula. A lot of people are interested in having home funerals these days. It gives you much more of a chance to spend time with your loved one. We think “Oh, I have to call the funeral home right away” and have them whisked away, and that’s just not true. So, if there are families that want to spend more time with their loved one , who want to stay in their own home, and who want to have possibly a less expensive, greener and more natural burial option, that can have a home funeral. The last role is an Organizing Doula; a post-loss organizer. When somebody dies, they generally have a lifetime of things left over, and it can be a process to figure out what you want to do with those things, and how you want to do it. It’s not always easy. I help people go through, figure out what their goals are and stay true to their intentions and bring balance to the process of exploring and releasing emotional attachments to the things. I like to call it “addition by subtraction.” So, you add more value to your life by letting go of what is not serving you.
DM: And, you know we’re going to have a whole show on that later. We have to, because we can’t fit it all into one show…about grief, and letting go of stuff, and memory, right? You have got to have someone help you.
EP: Yes, it’s difficult outside of death and dying, and it’s exponentially more difficult in the context of death and dying.
DM: I’ve had a man who’s lost his job, he’s gotten a divorce, he’s got to move out of his house; that was a death to him, right? Just going through his stuff, he almost called 911. He thought he was having a heart attack. There’s so much tied into your memories, and having someone sitting beside you saying “Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about that picture, let’s talk about that shirt or whatever it is. They need to express themselves from their heart to someone else.
EP: Right, I use a coaching technique which is basically progressive questioning, so that we’re really getting into what this is, and are you or are you not ready to let this go.
DM: And then there’s the generation, of the Depression years. I don’t want to say hoarding but well, they do have hoarding issues because they went without for so long. So, not even trying it back to that, you’ve got to have a counselor, or someone there to help you understand what you’re going through.
EP: Absolutely, and normalizing it. When it’s normalized, you get through it much more easily, I think.
DM: Well, Emily I’m going to have you back on the show, and when you get to Seattle, you’re coming to Camaino and visiting me.
EP: I can’t wait!
DM: You didn’t know that, but you are. I want to do a class with you, or a workshop or something. So glad I got a chance to talk to you. Again, she’s in Seattle Natural Awakenings, page 12 of this month’s issue. Read it, it’s amazing, and you’re an amazing person. Thank you for joining me.
EP: Thank you so much, Dena.