There are twenty pieces of paper in front of you. Five in yellow, five in blue, five in red and five in green. Think carefully before you reach for the pen. Write down what’s important to you. One thing, one paper.

The Workshop on Dying is a time when participants rediscover the joy of life. During the workshop participants listen to the story of a dying man and, as time progresses, they symbolically part with important things, dreams, and people. This simulation, based on storytelling, allows to experience loss in safe conditions and to understand what is important for each of us in life.

I participated in a workshop on dying (“Shi no Taiken Ryokou”, i.e. a Death-experiencing Journey) in Japan, while collecting material for my book Ganbare! Workshops on Dying. It was led by a Japanese monk, Tetsuya Urakami, who got his inspiration by reading about similar practice in one of American hospices. In that hospice volunteers received special training to help them to better understand emotions of people who they were taking care of. Mr. Urakami changed the formula of the workshop so that it allows everyone to face their own mortality, and through that understand prioritize things in their lives.

In my workshop, I draw on what I’ve learned from Tetsuya Urakami, but I add my own elements. So far, I have conducted them in Poland and India – for groups of several and several dozen people, for friends and strangers. After each meeting, I hear that this is an important experience. On the one hand it helps to open up to a conversation on difficult topics, and on the other hand it allows to open up to our dreams. Some participants even claimed that the workshops changed their lives.

For me it’s important to stop treating the conversation about dying as a taboo. By incorporating death into our everyday life, we learn how to enjoy life more fully. We also learn how to be relaxed and content with what is.

I believe that each one of us can benefit from facing our own mortality, and – through the workshops – learn to celebrate what is most important in life.

Note that these are not therapeutic workshops, but developmental ones.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and listen to this story. It’s about you. Or about someone very much like you.