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a presentation of ... Creative Healing, LLC

                                   Opening The Heart Of Western Medicine


For the entire year of 2023 we'll be exploring death, dying, grief, and the afterlife by reading books that challenge our assumptions and push the boundaries of our belief systems about these "taboo" topics.

Download the 2023 Book List Here

To support independent booksellers go to the links below to search for the 2023 titles:

AND if you have the Libby App on your phone (which connects to you through your library card) you can borrow the ebook or audiobook of some of these titles for free!

If you are new to this reading group and want to explore some of the past book selections you can still see the books and listen to the discussions from 2018 below. View the lists from 2019-2022 by clicking the year on this page


 JANUARY 2018 Book Selection:


At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

Discussion of this book has already taken place.

Link to listen to replay online:

OR listen here with the audio player below:

FEBRUARY 2018 Book Selection:

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory

 by Caitlin Doughty


Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.

Discussion of this book with Caitlin Doughty has already taken place.

Link to listen to replay online:

Or listen here with the audio player below:

MARCH 2018 Book Selection:

Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death

by Katy Butler

In this visionary memoir, based on a groundbreaking New York Times Magazine story, award-winning journalist Katy Butler ponders her parents’ desires for “Good Deaths” and the forces within medicine that stood in the way.

Katy Butler was living thousands of miles from her vigorous and self-reliant parents when the call came: a crippling stroke had left her proud seventy-nine-year-old father unable to fasten a belt or complete a sentence. Tragedy at first drew the family closer: her mother devoted herself to caregiving, and Butler joined the twenty-four million Americans helping shepherd parents through their final declines.

Discussion of this book with author Katy Butler has already taken place.

Link to listen to the replay online:

OR listen using the audio player below:

APRIL 2018 Book Selection

Grace and Grit:

Spirituality and Healing in the Life of Treya Killam Wilber

by Ken Wilber


Grace and Grit is the compelling story of the five-year journey of psychologist Ken Wilber and his wife, Treya Killam Wilber, through Treya's illness, treatment, and finally, death. It is a rare book - a love story that brings the perennial wisdom of the ages to life in all the anguish and exaltation that comprise the human condition. 

Discussion of this book with author Ken Wilber has already taken place.

Link to listen to the replay online:

Or listen using the audio player below:

MAY 2018 Book Selection:

Sacred Dying:

Creating Rituals for Embracing

the End of Life

by Megory Anderson


Death may be inevitable, but dying alone or in fear does not have to be. Sacred Dying is theologian Megory Anderson's essential testimonial and handbook for creating a dignified, peaceful, and more sacred end to life. Anderson includes a section with many prayers and poems from various traditions, and shows how to use personalized and creative rituals to help those dying prepare for their death and to bring a sense of peace, reconciliation, and acceptance both to themselves and to the loved ones they leave behind. She discusses all aspects of this final transition, including how to help a dying person put "unfinished business" to rest; using massage to help the dying let go of his or her body; and how to use music to help the dying focus on specific times, places, or events. For this first-ever paperback edition, she adds a chapter on what can be done after death to help move the soul along. Intended for those who are going through the death of a loved one as well as those facing death personally, Sacred Dying facilitates creating a setting where death is experienced as it should be—with honor, respect, and sacredness.

Discussion of this book with author Megory Anderson has already taken place.

Link to listen to the replay online:

OR listen using the audio player below:

JUNE 2018 Book Selection:

Choosing to Die: A Personal Story

by Phyllis Shacter

Phyllis Shacter courageously shares the first personal story ever written about VSED (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking). This memoir and guidebook follows the journey she took with her husband, Alan, once he decided to VSED so he didn't have to live into the late stages of Alzheimer's disease. This is their love story, their partnership, the brave territory they traversed, including how they prepared themselves with proper medical and legal guidance. They knew they were paving the way for others who would follow in their footsteps. Every detail is shared, including what happened to Alan during the nine-and-a-half days it took for him to die, and how the experience transformed Phyllis. This book is for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of end of life choices, and especially for anyone who has been diagnosed with a degenerative disease.

Discussion of this book with author Phyllis Shacter has already taken place.

Link to listen to the replay online:

OR listen using the audio player below:

JULY 2018 Book Selection:

The Legacy Letters

by Carew Papritz

Rediscovered private letters from a dying father to his children--and his wife--uncover a passionate and powerful guidebook to life.

The letters reveal to us the stories, memories, and music of the father, which ultimately becomes the practical, moral, and spiritual gift and guidebook for his children he'd never live to see, and for his wife, his redemptive story of love.

By combining the best elements of such inspirational books as Tuesdays with Morrie, The Last Lecture, and Chicken Soup for the Soul, author Carew Papritz, has created an intense and thought-provoking book, filled with life instructions that The Huffington Post calls: "A Must-Read Book of Wisdom for Life... exquisite, intimate, passionate, humorous and genuine..."

Discussion of this book with author Carew Papritz has already taken place.

Link to listen to the replay online:

OR listen using the audio player below:

AUGUST 2018 Book Selection:

A Swan in Heaven:

Conversations Between Two Worlds

by Terri Daniel

A Swan in Heaven blends thought-provoking narrative with stirring afterlife messages from a 16 year-old boy who began communicating with his mother telepathically after his death. What makes this account unique in the world of "channeled" books is that during his life, this extraordinary child was severely disabled and unable to speak. But after death his language was fluent and his words were insightful, inspired and eloquent. 

Discussion of this book with author Terri Daniel has already taken place.

Link to listen to the replay online:

OR listen using the audio player below:

SEPTEMBER 2018 Book Selection:

Visions Trips and Crowded Rooms:

Who and What You See Before You Die

by David Kessler

David Kessler, one of the most renowned experts on death and grief, takes on three uniquely shared experiences that challenge our ability to explain and fully understand the mystery of our final days. The first is “visions.” As the dying lose sight of this world, some people appear to be looking into the world to come. The second shared experience is getting ready for a “trip.” These trips may seem to us to be all about leaving, but for the dying, they may be about arriving. Finally, the third phenomenon is “crowded rooms.” The dying often talk about seeing a room full of people, as they constantly repeat the word crowded. In truth, we never die alone. Just as loving hands greeted us when we were born, so will loving arms embrace us when we die. In the tapestry of life and death, we may begin to see connections to the past that we missed in life. While death may look like a loss to the living, the last hours of a dying person may be filled not with emptiness, but rather with fullness. In this fascinating book, David brings us stunning stories from the bedsides of the dying that will educate, enlighten, and comfort us all.

Discussion of this book with author David Kessler has already taken place.

Link to listen to the replay online:

OR listen here with the audio player below:

OCTOBER 2018 Book Selection:

I Am, I Am, I Am:

Seventeen Brushes with Death

by Maggie O'Farrell


An extraordinary memoir—told entirely in near-death experiences—from one of Britain's best-selling novelists, for fans of Wild, When Breath Becomes Air, and The Year of Magical Thinking.

We are never closer to life than when we brush up against the possibility of death.

I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie O'Farrell's astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An encounter with a disturbed man on a remote path. And, most terrifying of all, an ongoing, daily struggle to protect her daughter--for whom this book was written--from a condition that leaves her unimaginably vulnerable to life's myriad dangers.

Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, O'Farrell captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself.

NOVEMBER 2018 Book Selection:

The Five Invitations:

Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully

by Frank Ostaseski

Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight, helping us to discover what matters most.

Life and death are a package deal. They cannot be pulled apart and we cannot truly live unless we are aware of death. The Five Invitations is an exhilarating meditation on the meaning of life and how maintaining an ever-present consciousness of death can bring us closer to our truest selves. As a renowned teacher of compassionate caregiving and the cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project, Frank Ostaseski has sat on the precipice of death with more than a thousand people. In The Five Invitations, he distills the lessons gleaned over the course of his career, offering an evocative and stirring guide that points to a radical path to transformation.

DECEMBER 2018 Book Selection:

The Wild Edge of Sorrow:

Rituals of Renewal and the

Sacred Work of Grief

by Francis Weller

Noted psychotherapist Francis Weller provides an essential guide for navigating the deep waters of sorrow and loss in this lyrical yet practical handbook for mastering the art of grieving. Describing how Western patterns of amnesia and anesthesia affect our capacity to cope with personal and collective sorrows, Weller reveals the new vitality we may encounter when we welcome, rather than fear, the pain of loss. Through moving personal stories, poetry, and insightful reflections he leads us into the central energy of sorrow, and to the profound healing and heightened communion with each other and our planet that reside alongside it.

The Wild Edge of Sorrow explains that grief has always been communal and illustrates how we need the healing touch of others, an atmosphere of compassion, and the comfort of ritual in order to fully metabolize our grief. Weller describes how we often hide our pain from the world, wrapping it in a secret mantle of shame. This causes sorrow to linger unexpressed in our bodies, weighing us down and pulling us into the territory of depression and death. We have come to fear grief and feel too alone to face an encounter with the powerful energies of sorrow. 

Those who work with people in grief, who have experienced the loss of a loved one, who mourn the ongoing destruction of our planet, or who suffer the accumulated traumas of a lifetime will appreciate the discussion of obstacles to successful grief work such as privatized pain, lack of communal rituals, a pervasive feeling of fear, and a culturally restrictive range of emotion. Weller highlights the intimate bond between grief and gratitude, sorrow and intimacy. In addition to showing us that the greatest gifts are often hidden in the things we avoid, he offers powerful tools and rituals and a list of resources to help us transform grief into a force that allows us to live and love more fully.

Discussion of this book with author Francis Weller has already taken place.

Link to listen to the replay online:

OR listen using the audio player below:

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