My name is Stijn Smeets. When my grandmother died from cancer in 2014, just the day before, I was sitting on her bed. She was no longer conscious. Suddenly, I remembered the strange pull I had as a young boy towards a life at the boundary between life and death. It came with a fear of future regret, if I would not follow it. If I would ignore my desire to live intensely and to be radically free. To accompany others in deep emotions, and to be a guide between the conscious and the unconscious, between life and death.
Somewhat after, I co-founded a transspiritual, monastic community together with Elke van Campenhout.. We wanted to rethink spirituality for our time. No dogmas, no sterile prayers, no rigid hierarchy, no fear of the body, but a community with diversity at the center, where people dare to think, reject authority, search for the unknown, and embrace all that is human, including the body and sexuality.
As a transspiritual monk, I try to connect with a pragmatic-atheist society through “death” and “love”, two practices everybody has to deal with. Dying and loving need each other. If you can’t die, if you don’t know how to let go of the attachment to your self and your problems, you can’t really love. If you don’t know wat love is, if you can’t fully surrender to someone else, you can’t die peacefully, without fear.
It seems to me that we have lost the art of dying (and loving). When the end comes, there is a lot of needless suffering because of fear, misunderstood emotions, difficult communication, denial and frustration. Dying becomes a path of suffering.
My calling is to accompany the dying till the end, so death can become a celebration of life, and an inspiration for family and friends to choose their lives more consciously.
Formal training: master in psychology, doctorate in psychology, core-training palliative care, training “compassionate presence”, training “mindfulness at the end of life”.
Informal trainings: retreats in christian and buddhist monasteries, rituals about death, volunteering in palliative care units (Antwerp, Brussels and Tongeren).