Archive for April 15th, 2012

Original Chögyam Trungpa drawing

Original Chögyam Trungpa drawing (Photo credit: Mattos Gabriela)

“Acts of compassion are eternal; they live forever shining their rays throughout the Universe.” ~~~ Chogyam Trungpa

I found this quote a week or two ago, getting ready for my trip out here to Upaya Zen Center and was trying to get posts ready so I didn’t feel the need to write if I didn’t want to.

What I am struck with, struck like we invite the bell of mindfulness struck, again and again is that there is a simple complexity in life… as caregivers (meaning ALL of us) there are some truths that seem to be more applicable and more important than trying to live my commandments our things outside of ourselves.

What do I mean by that… I mean that compassion, forgiveness, presence, intention are some of the most powerful forces in this world that we know.  They create healing, well-being, foster a sense of community, peace, comfort, kindheartedness, and deep and abounding Love.

I said to someone last night that if I could, you know, the whole magic wand thing… I would want to undo everything that doctors, RNs, and therapists are taught in their professional programs and have them sit on a safe or gomden with people like Ram Dass, Roshi Joan Halifax, Tara Brach, Stephen & Ondrea Levine, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Frank Ostaseski, Roshi Bernie Glassman, etc.  They get it.  They get what true healing is because they have been present to the joys and sorrows, the liberation and the suffering of beings in this lifetime.

Frankly, I don’t want to care what the new DSM says.  I don’t want to know about your ego defenses.  I don’t want to know your attachment type/style.

But what I want to know is what creates suffering for you?

What keeps you from your perfect wisdom, your “holiest” of selves?

What stirs passion in you?

What is it like to be with your thoughts, to be with the moment to moment sensations in your body.

What comes up for you?

What keeps you from being in touch with that?

What keeps you profoundly sad?

And what keeps you from being profoundly compassion and brilliant?

Don’t get me wrong, I would never trade my education in humanistic existential phenomenological psychology.  I would never trade the amazing teachers that I have had scattered amongst the strong brains and hidden hearts of professors.

But what has been most healing to me?

Steven and Ondrea reminding me to have a soft belly.

Roshi Joan’s laughter, great feminine wisdom, and embodied magic.

Frank reminding me to not push away anything.

Bernie taking people to Poland to sit in the snow and recite the names so we NEVER forget the dead or how they died.

This, to me, is the act of true healing.  It is what we gave birth to experience and witness.  This is how we cultivate compassion for ourselves and for this world.

Much gratitude and lovingkindness to all who read this and all who inspired this.

Peace, Jennifer

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Upaya Zen Center

Upaya Zen Center (Photo credit: eekim)

Sunny and 52… Crazy wisdom and crazy winds…blow in flurries and temps that feel like 18 tonight… and that was just mother nature…

so much to unpack.  so much to understand at an intuitive level before anything else.

so much to be with affectively.

Realized today that my very favorite word is evocative.

Came to the insight that if I am to take my own dying seriously, the dying that occurs in the pause between breaths, my actual physical/spiritual death, and the dying that occurs every night upon sleep, then things need to change… mindfulness is not enough.  words are not enough.

commitment to vocation

realization of dreams

being present to now and not fighting off ANY futures…

I hear Roshi’s words a thousands times, as the beat into my brain… do not squander your life… do not squander your life… do not squander your life… do not squander your life… do not squander your life… do not squander your life… do not squander your life… do not squander your life… do not squander your life…

Hello, wake up!  yes that was to you and to me as well.

Do not squander your life…

DO not squander your life…

do NOT squander your life…

do not SQUANDER your life…

do not squander YOUR life…

do not squander your LIFE…

do not squander your life…

do not squander your life…

do not squander your life…

do not squander your life…

do not squander your life…

do not squander your life…

do not squander your life…

do not squander your life…

do not squander your life…

I finger the skull mala sitting here on my lap…

I think… the same thing could be said of dying… don’t squander your dying..

we have one time to die, that we know of… don’t waste it.

we have one time to die, be present to it

we have one time to die, don’t regret it

we have one time to die, fill it with as much love as possible…


The unremarkable thing about Zen is the flashes of insight that come… I never believed in them…

but they aren’t an understanding of the mind… they are an understanding, an appreciation, on the lived-sense, the somatic, the affective, the spiritual…. it is a knowing above and beyond real knowing … in a flash…

And what comes?  When I open my heart, what is it that I hear cry out?


stop wasting your talents.

stop giving love where none is being returned.

start listening to the deepest parts of you.

I vow today, to cultivate my presence around those things and people I love and to release everything else with a prayer.

Today, I vow, to create and to love. . . to forgive, to have compassion, to be, and to be congruently here.

Today, here and now, I vow, to not squander this life, this breath, this love . . .


Final thoughts for today … my last full day at Upaya Zen Center… I realize that I have another half day.  I realize I have the podcasts to listen to again and again, and I realize that there has been a life time of wisdom from Frank Ostaseski, from Roshi Joan Halifax,  and those journeying with me these last few days… jammed into a few short hours… tomorrow, it will be time to make plans for my return trip… to surround myself in light and love, wisdom, really honest wake up work, and the fellowship of like-minded and hearted-souls…

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In being present we find the most wonderful jewels within others and ourselves. Stop. Breathe. Bless. Let go….

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“I saw with her, and when she held my hand she said, “You have such warm hands.  I hope you are going to be with me when I get colder and colder.”  She smiled knowingly.  She knew and I knew that at this moment she had dropped her denial.  She was able to think about talk about her own death and she asked for just a little comfort of companionship and a final stage without too much hunger.”

~~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying

So after I picked the title, I wondered, which “D-word” was I referring to… death or denial.

And I wonder why we have to have things our way?  Well, I know why… I guess I just wonder why we have to make people die the way we want them to. . .

As an end-of-life care professional, I have preached to not use euphemisms and to say the words dying, dead, death, cancer, AIDS, etc. but whose issue is that?  If it is an adult, do we really have the right to rob someone of the ways they are trying to take care of themselves on their journey?

Tonight I am thinking about this the way I am about the article I wrote not too long ago entitled stop all the self-help.    Is there a subtle aggression when we tell people how to do things like their dying or healing and is this an area that we need to have self-compassion and compassion for those we are with?

I think it’s an interesting idea.

When I hear conversations about someone I know with dementia, I often think, who are we to try to pull them back into our reality and tell them their world-view is wrong?

Maybe as helping professionals, loved ones, caregivers, etc we should look at those we are with in the same manner.

What does it do for us to have some not be “in denial” of a situation like their dying?

Don’t we know that on some level, whatever level that is, the person who has an illness and is dying almost always knows before the doctor’s appointment, before the lab results, what is going on..

And of course, there is the whole balance between “denial” and “hope”… and I am sure that will be a post for the future.

But for now, can we practice some acceptance?

Elisabeth’s patient knew that the end was coming at some point. . . isn’t it more important that she trusted Elisabeth enough to want her to share in the end, than to say the words, “yes, i know I am dying?”


Note:  I will be away on retreat for the next week.  I wish you all well and I hope you enjoy the articles that I have left in my stead.

May sorrow show us the way to compassion

May I realize grace in the midst of suffering

May I be peaceful and let go of expectations.

May I receive the love and compassion of others.

With love and deep gratitude, Jennifer

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Want to meditatie?

Trying to figure out when you’ll have the time to fit it in?

Don’t think you have to find a week to go on retreat.  Don’t think you have to find an hour.

Take a look at this simple idea to get started:


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“What happens in a changing field of medicine, where we have to ask ourselves whether medicine is to remain a humanitarian and respected profession or a new but depersonalized science in the service of prolonging life rather than diminishing human suffering?”

~~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying

We should still be asking ourselves this question.

But Elisabeth didn’t stop there.

“If we could teach our students the value of science and technology simultaneously with the art and science of inter-human relationships, of human and total patient-care, it would be real progress.  If science and technology are not to be misused to increase destructiveness, prolonging life rather than making it more human, if they could go hand in hand with freeing more time rather than less for individual person-to-person contacts, then we could really speak of a great society.”

I love the conscience that Elisabeth brings to her discussion.  She doesn’t just talk about what the life-world of the patient is… she goes so much farther, as if that wasn’t enough.  She looks at the societal ramifications of our fear of death.  She looks at how our science and technology is light-years ahead of our morals and ethics that need to be fostered in step with our technology.

She talks about the real blocks to great quality care. . . starting with training. . .

“They [students] learn to prolong life but get little training or discussion in the definition of ‘life’.”

I know, you are asking yourself, where are those darned stages… hmmm, that’s the point… look how much we have lost in only being focused on the stages. . .

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