Archive for April 16th, 2012

Joan Halifax with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dala...

“One thing that continually concerned me was the marginalization of people who were dying, the fear and loneliness that dying people experienced, and the shame and guilt that touched physicians, nurses, dying people, and families as the waves of death overtook life.  I sensed that spiritual care could reduce fear, stress, the need for certain medications and expensive interventions, lawsuits, and the time doctors and nurses must spend reassuring people, as well as benefit professional and family caregivers, helping them to come to terms with suffering, death, loss, grief, and meaning.”

Joan Halifax, Being with Dying

Roshi Joan doesn’t say in her book when she is talking about… was it in her early career when she and Stanislav Grof were working with dying people or when… but think about this in terms of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross‘ work from 1969 and since…

I wonder if someone had the money and time to do the research, if we looked at how the dying are treated today to see if there were vast improvements…

I don’t mean in the technology to keep someone alive, I mean in our ethics in helping them live how they want to… in our compassion for being present to them and their needs.

And I don’t mean in home hospice care… I mean in institutions, in hospitals…

I have recently had a “spectator” view of care… for a patient who was unable to share his/her needs because of cognitive functioning.. medical test after medical test, procedure after procedure, in a sterile teaching hospital with no one at the helm for his/her care.

Different people telling different staff different stories all day long for weeks.. actually a few months.  And staff that loved this person supported each other, not a lot from management other than to allow them to keep going in to see this person at the hospital.

I don’t know if our ethics will ever keep up with our technology… I don’t know how it would at this point but what I do know is that fundamentally, whether we are in spiritual care, physical care, or mental/psychosocial care, we have a duty to be present to the person who we are serving first and foremost.  And we need to look at moving from “do no harm” to “helping to meet the greatest good” — however that is defined by the person.

We are all only one diagnosis, one dis-ease, one breath, one day away from our own dying, illness, and aging… the more we start to face that, the more we will start to attend to those who are already “more there” than we are today.  Only then will we truly be able to give compassionate care.

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Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks at the 200...

Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an amazing clip of Oliver Sacks from Elephant Journal… it is PHENOMENAL!!!!!!


Thank you elephant journal for this awesome post!

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“Life is possible. Situations are possible. And anybody can start to gain some kind of insight and appreciation of their lives. That’s what we call ‘sacred.’ It doesn’t mean something dramatic, but something very simple. There’s a sacredness to everyone’s life.”

~~Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “A New Place, A New Time”

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Sit comfortably for a few moments, letting your body be at rest. Bring your attention into the present and notice whatever sensations are present in your body. In particular, be aware of any sensation, tensions or pains you may have been fighting. Do not try to change them, simply notice them with an interested and kind attention. In each area of struggle you discover, let your body relax and your heart soften. Open to whatever you experience without fighting.  Breathe quietly and let it be.

Continue to sit quietly. Then cast your attention over all the battles that still exist in your life. Sense them inside yourself. If you have an ongoing struggle with your body, be aware of that. If you have been fighting inner wars with your feelings, being in conflict with your own loneliness, fear, confusion, grief,  anger or addiction, sense the struggle you have been waging…

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