How Thinking About Death Can Improve Your Life | Alua Arthur

Ten Percent Happier
April 17, 2024
How Thinking About Death Can Improve Your Life | Alua Arthur
Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris

There seems to be one clear bug in the human operating system — most of us do not like talking about death. Yet when we do talk about it, it can genuinely upgrade the quality of our lives.

Our guest today is Alua Arthur, a former attorney who is now what’s called a death doula, which is someone who helps guide people through the end of their lives. Through this work, she has learned some extraordinary stuff about how to live life right now. 

Alua is also the founder of Going with Grace, a death doula training and end-of-life planning organization. Her debut memoir, Briefly Perfectly Human: Making An Authentic Life By Getting Real About the End, will be released on April 16, 2024.

This conversation took place at the 2023 TED Conference in Vancouver, immediately after Alua delivered her triumphant talk, which is out now. 

Special thanks to the TED Audio Collective. You can listen to Alua's talk and other TED talks on the TED Talks Daily podcast. 

In this episode we talk about:

  • How death can be a powerful motivator 
  • How consistently being aware that you’re going to die can be a “stress reliever” 
  • The utility of imagining your ideal death
  • Her view on reincarnation 
  • How the concept of “healing” can sometimes be used as a weapon against ourselves 
  • The importance of not leaving things unsaid 
  • How “hope” at the end of life can sometimes be unhelpful
  • What surprises her about death 
  • How her work helped her out of her depression
  • The five steps that you should take when confronting your own death 
  • The harm that can sometimes result from too much medical intervention toward the end of life
  • The often fraught relationship that vulnerable and marginalized people can have with the medical community 
  • The benefits of thinking about what version of yourself you want to meet on your deathbed
  • The death meditation that she uses when working with people 
  • What to say and do when you are with somebody who is grieving 
  • And a practice she calls, “The dying things exercise” 

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