Death & Dying

Powerful end-of-life practices and compassionate care
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    On What to Do When the Going Gets Rough Paid Member

    Caregiving from a Buddhist perspective is a recognition that this person’s suffering is also my suffering. When I see this, whether I’m the person in the bed or the person making the bed, I have to confront this precariousness. Buddhist practice can help us enormously in continuing to give our attention to what’s actually appearing, as opposed to being swept away by the drama of the process. What are the basic attitudes that might be helpful in being with someone who is dying? One of those that comes to mind is to be completely ourselves. That means to bring our strength and vulnerability to the bedside. And to recognize that people who are dying continue to need very intimate and natural and honest relationships. We can’t serve from a distance, this is intimate work and we have to be part of the equation so it is absolutely essential that we bring our entire selves to the experience. More »
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    A Caregiver's Story: Tony D. Paid Member

    Julia was no one’s beloved friend. Imagine that. Her family was in Oregon and they didn’t know that she had already spent most of her short life trying to kick drugs. And she didn’t want them to know. I first met her at an NA meeting [Narcotics Anonymous]. I had been clean for about two years. But Julia kept slipping. Kicking and slipping. Meditation was part of our NA meeting. Even before that, in rehab, they taught meditation. I started going to a Buddhist center close to the church where we had the meetings. When Julia was clean, she liked to come to the meditations. When she was using, she’d never come. I once asked her why. She told me that meditation was “too naked.” But she had a little coral Buddha around her neck and she never took it off. More »
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    On Being a True Friend Paid Member

    A dying person most needs to be shown as unconditional a love as possible, released from all expectations. Don’t think you have to be an expert in any way. Be natural, be yourself, be a true friend, and the dying person will be reassured that you are really with them, communicating with them simply and as an equal, as one human being to another. I have said, “Show the dying person unconditional love,” but in some situations that is far from easy. We may have a long history of suffering with the person, we may feel guilty about what we have done to the person in the past, or anger and resentment at what the person has done to us. More »
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    A Caregiver’s Story: Raja Hornstein Paid Member

    I’d been working as a hospice volunteer for about six years when my friend Nando fell ill. We had been lovers for many years and though we were separated, we were still close friends. And then one day she collapsed, fainted, and was taken to the hospital. It turned out to be leukemia. First she spent a lot of time at Stanford Medical Center, getting chemotherapy. That period was extremely painful for her. Her chances of survival were low, because she had a pretty rare form of leukemia. But she was really going for it, trying to do anything she needed to do. I remember some horrendous times. I found her once crawling across the room, moaning in pain and dragging this IV stand behind her. She told me, “This is how it is most of the time”—excruciatingly painful. More »
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    The Luminous Gap in Bardo Paid Member

    Bardo can have many implications, depending on how one looks at it. It is an interval, a hiatus, a gap. It can act as a boundary that divides and separates, marking the end of one thing and the beginning of another; but it can also be a link between the two: it can serve as a bridge or a meeting place, which brings together and unites. It is a crossing, a stepping-stone, a transition. It is a crossroads, where one must choose which path to take, and it is a no-man's-land, belonging neither to one side nor to the other. It is a highlight or peak point of experience, and at the same time a situation of extreme tension, caught between two opposites. It is an open space, filled with an atmosphere of suspension and uncertainty, neither this nor that. More »
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    Between Two Mountains Paid Member

    For all the horror and trauma that terrorism creates, its lasting power resides in the largely irrational fear we create and then magnify with our minds. Today, statistics show that airplanes are twenty-two times safer than automobiles, yet many people have stopped flying because of the fear that the September 11 attacks engendered. The anthrax scare has caused a widespread reluctance to handle mail, yet only five deaths have resulted from anthrax letters among 30 billion pieces delivered nationwide. We are afraid of death by biological attacks, yet in America some 20,000 people die of the flu each year, and only half of those most at risk get vaccinated. Clearly, the fear of terrorism will not be appeased by providing information, rationalizations, or statistics. It resides in a deep aspect of our consciousness. In order to work with it, we need to understand how it develops. More »