Education faculty member makes presentation at TEDxPSU

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “So. I’m here with some bad news and some good news. Bad news first. I’m here to warn you. I believe your life is in danger,” said Jeanine Staples, associate professor of education, at her TEDxPSU talk titled, “How to Die Peacefully.”

The 2014 TEDxPSU conference, held March 2 in Schwab Auditorium on the University Park campus, featured 16 speakers. Staples was a major speaker, delivering a 14-minute talk.

For Staples, TEDxPSU is different from any other speaking event she has ever participated in.

“Meeting TED standards and working to exceed the expectations I set for myself pushed me outside of my comfort zone professionally and personally,” she said.

In her talk, Staples describes the pain, separation and challenges to self-worth that people experience daily as figurative deaths. She also offer some methods that people can employ to help them deal with these challenges in a positive way.

Staples developed this idea through narrative, qualitative research, poring over thousands of life stories she has collected over the last several years.

“I wanted to find out how people were using language to frame their life stories and how that language functioned as an indicator of their perceptions of self and experience," said Staples, explaining the impetus for her theory. "Once the data were coded and the themes emerged, I could see the deaths very clearly.”

Staples said she practices dying peacefully daily. During a season in her life in which she experienced major back-to-back losses, she used the practice of dying peacefully to engage deeply with her figurative deaths and stabilize her life.

“Dying peacefully taught me a way to practice courage, unconditional love and authority, no matter what was happening around or inside of me,” said Staples. “I have the tools to interrupt the moments when I am dying violently and reorient fairly quickly. It is an amazing practice that contributes to an amazing life.”

She added that the personal significance of her work was finding methods of support that became more and more important to her as she acquired more life experience.

"Through my research in new literacy studies, I found a series of methodological practices that vastly improved the quality of my life," said Staples. "I wanted to share at least one of them with whomever else might benefit.”

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Last Updated May 13, 2014