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Posts Tagged ‘Being with Dying’

“Tibetan Buddhists say that we have all been one another’s mother in a previous lifetime.  Imagining every being as your mother, practice offering love equally to all whom you encounter, including strangers, creatures, and even those who have hurt you.  This practice isn’t always easy for some of us Westerners, who may have conflicted relationships with our mothers.  But I can imagine a being who has given me and others life, protection, nourishment, and kindness.  When I’ve giving care to a dying person, I try both to give and receive kindness as if I were the dying one’s mother and to see the dying one as my mother, saying silently to myself, “Now it is time for me to repay the great kindness of all motherly beings.”

~~ Roshi Joan HalifaxBeing With Dying

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“Tibetan Buddhists say that we have all been one another’s mother in a previous lifetime.  Imagining every being as your mother, practice offering love equally to all whom you encounter, including strangers, creatures, and even those who have hurt you.  This practice isn’t always easy for some of us Westerners, who may have conflicted relationships with our mothers.  But I can imagine a being who has given me and others life, protection, nourishment, and kindness.  When I’ve giving care to a dying person, I try both to give and receive kindness as if I were the dying one’s mother and to see the dying one as my mother, saying silently to myself, “Now it is time for me to repay the great kindness of all motherly beings.”

~~ Roshi Joan Halifax, Being With Dying

Can you image going to war if your “enemy” had the face of your mother?

Can you imagine what would have happened on the night that Zimmerman and Martin came face to face if they saw each other’s mothers in one another rather than “the other”?

What if we thought about feeding our mothers when we were going to the store?  Would we buy genetically modified food?  Would we by toxins?

Could we be mindful enough to think about using our signal or not texting in the car if we thought that it might harm our mother?

I love how Roshi frames her work with the dying here.  I’ve often thought that I have no need for my own children when there are so many people in the world that need someone to love them, teach them, spend time listening to them. . .

I don’t think there has been a day that has gone by in three years, since I started my present job (not working with dying people) where I have thought to myself… if one of my parents needed to be in an institution, would I be okay with them here?  Would I want staff or their psychologist to treat them this way. . .

I truly think that if we thought about those we serve as just that… people who we are honored to serve.. maybe not a mother but a father, a loved one, a child, a beloved auntie. . .  that isn’t to say that we don’t have problems in our families.  But can we see the person before us through the lens of them being an honored person?

As a therapist, the next time you have someone walk in your office who has a diagnosis of “addiction” or of “borderline personality”… can you see them as a baby buddha?

Can you see the crying child at the store as someone’s beloved?

I really honor this practice and can think of all the people I meet daily… in real life or in my mind with whom I do not treat with the reverence of a mother or a beloved and this reminds me of all the people in my life who have been teachers, mentors, great beings whom I have loved dearly… and whom have loved me when I was far from acting as if I were someone’s beloved.

Yet, would I not want to be seen from the heart, in this light?

I think in order to be seen, we have to open our own hearts and see the world this way… when we do, maybe, just maybe the whole world we see how interconnected and fragile the bonds between us are.

Today is my own mother’s birthday and I write this post with the greatest love and respect to the woman who has most shown me to love others no matter what…. to give and to honor others.

I love you mom and honor every cell, every gesture, and every moment that is ours in our mother-daughter bond.

I bow to you, a buddha being….

Jennifer

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

Joan Halifax with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, at the XIVth Mind and Life Institute conference, 2007, Dharamsala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jack Kornfield, Roshi Joan HalifaxDan SiegelRick Hanson

Jack Kornfield

Phenomenonal!

I’d love to go back to Seattle but I cannot lie, the Vegas conference carries the biggest bang!

I think if you could make it to any of these conferences you would learn a tremendous amount from these giants in the fields of mindfulness, science, therapy, spirituality, and more…

http://facesconferences.com/mindfulness-conferences/phoenix-mindfulness-conference/

http://facesconferences.com/mindfulness-conferences/seattle-mindfulness-conference/

http://facesconferences.com/mindfulness-conferences/las-vegas-mindfulness-conference/

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“Recognizing our intereconnectedness is the heart of giving no fear. . . Life connects us to one another, as do suffering, joy, death, and enlightment. . . Our unconditional goodness connects us. . .”

Roshi Joan Halifax, Being with Dying

Roshi Joan Halifax

Roshi Joan Halifax (Photo credit: Mari Smith)

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“No matter how busy we are, we can bring simple contemplative elements into our caregiving practice that will help us to follow the dying person’s lead and to give no fear.  Sharing practice or prayer, silence and presence, with a dying person also services the caregiver’s well-being.  When you find yourself caught up in the events around you or in your own hope and fear, slow down.  Even stop.  Cultivate the habit of attending to the breath continually; use the breath to stabilize and concentrate the mind.”

~~ Roshi Joan Halifax, Being with Dying

No matter how long you practice, there are times that your breath gets caught… sometimes we find ourselves gasping, sometimes holding our breath… we forget how stabilizing our breath is and how it is the “stuff” of life.

I find myself at work, shoulders scrunched up, after counting data and updating excel spreadsheets for hours.  I realize several things…

I’ve not seen another human for a while.

I’ve not seen anything green for some time.

I’m slumped over and my heart is contracted.

I’m barely breathing.

At that time, I don’t need a chime to go off.  It’s too late and just the right time. It time to let my shoulders drop.  Let my heart open up.

Close my eyes… walk away from the graphs and spreadsheets and do something in like child’s pose or downward facing dog to bring myself back to my center.

It’s time to pick up one of the two Dharma books on my desk and read a sentence or two and remind myself that this moment is a gift.  It is the only thing that matters and I can let it pass by mindlessly or I can attend to it.

Knowing that we only have so many moments in each of our lifetimes, do we really want to let one go by without savoring it with a deep, slow breath?

As caregivers, we often forget ourselves … we’re not always 100% present to the one before us but maybe we are caught up in all of the tasks that are required… caregiving is hard work… but if spirituality is about chopping wood, carrying water, and washing dishes, than what a great gift caregiving is to us… to attend to “the baby buddha” that is within the person who we are caring for…

And if the person before us is a buddha, how do we want to meet the Buddha?  Too busy to say hello as we walk in the door?  Too busy looking for the pail to empty?  Or do we want to meet heart to heart, breath after breath, at the deepest level that we will allow ourselves and they will allow us to meet at?

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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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Roshi Joan, His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Roshi Joan, His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Photo credit: Upaya)

“Working with the dying, you are constantly

reminded of what matters: 

love, kindness, generosity, and our interconnectedness.”

~~ Roshi Joan Halifax

in Journeying East, by Victoria Jean Dimidjian

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