Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Photo credit: Dale Borglum
INSIGHTS: Healing at the Edge with Dale Borglum

The definition of healing is so wide-ranging that when we address healing, we cannot simply envision a physical wound repaired, nor a reopened soul’s wound, which can continually reopen and need repeated attention in the course of living. 

However, approaching death, “People see they need to heal in three areas: Their relationship with themselves. Their relationships with those they love. Their relationship with God,” said Dale Borglum, the founder and Executive Director of the Living/Dying Project in the San Francisco Bay Area and a pioneer in the conscious dying movement.

In advance of his upcoming workshop, Borglum shared his thoughts on what he means by living and dying consciously — and the keys to all of it. 

Christine Chen:     What is conscious living? 

Dale Borglum:     Being fully present in body, mind, and heart. Resting in great clarity and immense relaxation while manifesting compassionate activity.

CC: What is conscious dying? 

DB: Just another moment of conscious living. Radical surrender to that which does not change nor die. Full acceptance of our boundless nature.

CC: What do we learn from these moments to live consciously right now — to really be alive? 

DB: Grief is the garden of compassion. The most important thing is finding the most important thing. We die each moment into the next.

CC: What do you think are the keys? 

DB: Being grounded and centered in our bodies. Having faith that is stronger than our fear of the unknown. Clearly experiencing our boundless nature as love.

CC: How does this position us to heal on the edge? 

DB: We have direct experience that death need not be feared. We have direct experience there is one consciousness. We have direct experience that the only thing that is important is how much we love.

CC: From where do you draw this approach… and how do these philosophies merge?

DB: Mystical Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism, Hindu chakra system, martial arts, non-duality, devotional practices. These paths all culminate in radical surrender into oneness.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.

Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?

Borglum’s workshop, Healing at the Edge: Conscious Living, Conscious Dying is June 3–5, 2022.



Christine Chen

Christine Chen is the host of Esalen Live! and Chief Editor of The Journal. She is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda on Esalen Faculty.