Co-founder of the Omega Institute and author of Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow (Villard)
I've been a spiritual seeker my whole life because I have been acutely aware of death my whole life. When I was a little kid, I lay in bed at night and wondered, 'Who will I be when I'm no longer me? Where will I go? Does it all just end?' As I grew up, the fear of death was my closest companion. It encouraged me to find a spiritual teacher and help start Omega Institute 30 years ago; it made me become a midwife and had me sit with the ill and dying. It is with me still, as constant as my breath. Our friendship has given me an intense appreciation of life. I've heard there is a Sufi tradition in which one bead is always missing from the prayer beads to signify the mystery of God's true name—which is our true name, and the name we will discover, it is said, when we take our last breath. When my friend Ellen took her last breath, a window opened in my mind for a brief moment. There, on the threshold of life and death, I thought I heard the Name, but before I could know for sure, the window closed, and I returned to the living. Every now and then, especially when I remember those last moments with Ellen, the window opens a crack again, and I hear the Name.