Week Fifty-Eight

My Favorite Bit of Information From The Week:

A Sneak Peak At One Woman Hamlet and Death Meditation!

One of the most amazing humans I know is offering a free death meditation to the community and has generously asked me to come in and do a 15 minute excerpt from One Woman Hamlet. The evening is free, includes delicious hot chocolate, and will a time to examine your thoughts on death. Lana is a death doula and artist who has helped to shape my life for the better. She has generously offered to share a bit about her mental health and journey for the E-mail this week. I hope to see you all there on Monday the 17th of February! Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

It is my pleasure to introduce a guest writer Lana Smithner Death Doula for this week!

Lana on Death Meditation:

After a decent amount of trepidation, I decided to share this post online back in November. I am at heart a shy person, but my path has led me into a situation where sharing is not only requested, but necessary. I am coming back into sharing as a person, and an artist, and I hope you’ll be able to read this with the same open-heartedness that I am currently learning and practicing. At the end of this post you’ll find an invitation to my next event death, me dying tree (DMDT), (in which our beloved Kate Smith shares an excerpt from One Woman Hamlet and offers us her voice)- DMDT is an interactive meditation on and celebration of the cycles of life and death, coming to Chicago on Monday February 17th- from 8-10pm at The Theatre School of DePaul University, Room 301, I hope you’ll join us if this feels like something you want and or need!

“It being the last day of Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, I feel compelled to share my personal story… death, me, dying tree is about YOU: your relationship with death: and ultimately it’s a supportive place to *mourn* (mourn living on this beautiful planet- in this age of extinction & human accelerated death of other beings… mourn loved ones… mourn the great fear our culture has for death) and finally it’s a place to transmute this pain into celebrating the finite amount of time you have left on this planet! 

Yet many people have been asking how I came to this work, and why I’m doing this 3-part experimental death project at such a “young” age (when the looming reality of death is usually far from the mind). So I guess it’s only fitting that I share my own dalliance with death. 

Four Years ago I was on the brink of suicide. I decided to quit my career as an actor and embark on some serious healing. (I’m wildly fortunate I was privileged enough to get to do this). After years of objectification, sexism, witnessed racism, voicelessness, and mainly feeling lost I was in bad shape. I found myself slipping into old patterns of despair, depression, and death ideation. I didn’t understand why I was so *lost*, confused, and in pain while pursuing what I thought was my life purpose, my dream: to tell stories through performance. In retrospect I know that because almost all my bosses (directors, producers, script writers) were men, not only were the stories I was telling one sided, but I was also constantly being forced to give my power and my voice to others. I was sick of outmoded stories, stereotypes and the victimization of women and the earth. I was also sick of our youth obsessed unbalanced society. I knew I wasn’t alone, but at the time I didn’t know how to create change from within, so I had to leave.

I raced through North and Central America searching for a reason to live, for a purpose, for the parts of myself that had been silenced, abused, and pushed down. I traveled with and was taken in by new and old friends who helped me feel less alone, who assisted me in wanting to stay in this form, on this earth, at this time. I learned about plant medicine from elders in the jungle, rediscovered dormant parts of my body in yogic trainings, and released collective suffering into the dirt in sweat-lodges: to finally crawl out reborn. I discovered that I was on a long overdue and thus elongated *rite of passage*.

In times of old (and still in some indigenous communities) youth would come of age by literally tracking humanities deepest fear- death- into the wilderness. The intent was to confront death, to overcome and then befriend it, and by doing so, be reborn an adult; ready to contribute to the world by sharing one’s newly discovered life purpose. That tradition has been forgotten and I believe this cultural hole is what lead to my despair, depression and almost suicide, (along with the abuses of my chosen career). I believe that our world is wildly unbalanced because we flee from death, we’re obsessed with only life (youth) fulfilling practices, which is absurd because death feeds life and life can only lead to death.

Hilariously I discovered an unparalleled exuberance and delight for life due to my meandering path through death. The more I learned, the more I understood: because we live in a death phobic culture, we never talk about this thing that scares and draws us all in so deeply: thus we miss out on fully living. I want to share these *rememberings* with as many people as I can. I also want to return to the creative arts, but this time from a place of power, with the main objective to be a guide (nothing more) to help others empower themselves around/through/with death and breath. 

“death, me, dying tree” is my gift back to the earth and a thank you to death. If I hadn’t wanted to die so deeply, I never would have learned how to live so fully. Suicide now has a month… we have serious collective and personal suffering at hand. The free live events of death, me, dying tree are extra close to my heart for this reason. At them a frame drum & I lead the healing death meditation: a way to dive into your fear and longing of death: which will help you to transmute your pain around death into living more fully. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Hotline available 24/7 and connect to free resources and support: Call 1-800-273-8255 . There are also options for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and a line for Spanish speakers on their website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

And now the invitation:

I’d like to personally invite you to our *free* emergent community event:

Location: The Theatre School at DePaul University, Room 301

Date: Monday February 17th

Time: 8-10pm

death, me, dying tree (DMDT) aims to spread awareness about positive death practices, while at the same time providing a brave space to mourn & then celebrate as a collective. We work towards repairing our broken relationship to death by learning in community & replacing the notion of death as an “end” with the freeing concept of death as a part of the life cycle. We tailor make our live events to reflect the needs & strengths of each community we work in, and in Chicago, we will be offering an Interactive Meditation. This is a free, live, participatory event to help attendees release their fear of death and celebrate life. This two hour event includes live music, an excerpt from Kate Smith’s One-Woman-Hamlet: Shake(speare) the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health, a death meditation, breath and life invocation, interactive movement performance with Darling Squire, and information about supportive living and dying practices shared by certified death doula Lana Smithner. Additionally, we will be filming some parts of an upcoming documentary that chronicles the process of the national tour of DMDT.

DMDT is both a service project and a living, breathing experiment that explores how we as a society can grow and evolve into an emergent community that not only celebrates and respects life, but also celebrates and respects death, and by doing so is greener, healthier, and freer.

An important note: This is the second event that DMDT is curating, and this event will be unique because we will film the entire thing. That means we will need all participants to sign a video consent and release form. I hope that this doesn’t deter you, but I do understand not everyone is comfortable around a camera (to assuage minor uncomfortability, it is the guest artists who will be focused on, and for the most part it’ll only be the back of your head or arm that will make it into our documentary). If signing the form isn’t an issue, we are incredibly appreciative because we will use this footage to create a trailer, which in turn will be used to apply to grants, which in turn will fund the whole project- so that we can continue to offer all the events, resources, and the future documentary for free!

I hope you can join us! You’ll notice our poster is attached to this email & if you plan to come, please RSVP to to reserve your seat/mat as space is limited: deathmedyingtree@gmail.com.

with love, breath, & respect for death,

Lana “

Update On My Show:

The First Showing of One Woman Hamlet Happened!

Exactly one week ago the first showing of One Woman Hamlet occurred! Thank you so much to everyone who came out and to all of you for supporting the project over the past three years. I am beyond grateful. We received some donations last week and I have been talking to other venues, so I hope to share more information about the next five free shows with you soon!


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