Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

“If a patient is allowed to terminate his life in the familiar and beloved environment, it requires less adjustment for him.  His own family knows him well enough to replace a sedative with a glass of his favorite wine; or the smell of a home-cooked soup may give him the appetite to sip a few spoons of fluid, which, I think, is still more enjoyable than an infusion.  I will not minimize the need for sedatives or infusions and realize full well from my own experience as a country doctor that they are sometimes life-saving and often unavoidable.”

~~Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, 1969

Now, before anyone takes it out of context, when she says “is allowed to terminate his life…” she did not mean physician-assisted suicide or mercy killing as it’s called.

She was talking about a patient going home, where she is comfortable, around familiar things, with people who know what kind of care she might need…

And I have to say, I have been in many homes where it was Jack Daniels that a patient was sipping off, not a nice Merlot.  And we were helping them out to the front porch for a cigarette so that the O2 tank wouldn’t explode.

But this is the messiness of real life. . . not visiting hours and sleeping curled up in a waiting room.

Dr. Kubler-Ross paints us a picture that was soon to become the portrait of what home care with hospice was going to look like.  Fixing the patient one last taste of stew, having the dog crawl into bed, having the grand-kids play noisily outside.

She goes on to say that when a patient is at home, the children in a family feel a “comfort of shared responsibility and shared mourning.  It prepares them gradually and helps them view death as a part of life, an experience which may help them grow and mature.”   She does not advocate for shipping the kids off to relatives house or keeping them so busy with soccer, debate club, babysitters, and sleep overs that they aren’t home.  Instead, she advocates for children to be present, to help them understand what’s going on, to be a part of things, and to have an idea of what is to come.

It’s in passages like this that I remember my days of home visits with families and I will admit, I took them for granted.  It’s how I was brought up and I just assumed that’s what families did.  Thanks to Elisabeth’s pioneering work, these images were added to our collective unconscious.

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I found this brilliant version of gate gate paragate parasamgate, bodhi shava chanted with a guitar.  I would love to have this on a continuous loop for a long meditation.

There are a few seconds of outside noises at the end of the track.  I found myself immediately thinking, “how can I get rid of that” and then remembered being at the Shambhala Center in Milwaukee for a day long retreat.  They reminded us that sitting is about pushing nothing away. . . it’s about touching sensations, sounds, thoughts, and feelings lightly and letting them evaporate.

I thought this was a great track to do that with.

Notice what your response is. . . do you tighten up?  stop breathing?  do you get annoyed?  where do you feel that in your body?  do you run away with the feelings that come up?

If we meditate to cultivate presence and compassion, we will not always be on the cushion or in a silent cave when we are fostering bodhichitta.  If we are to be a caregiver or a compassionate companion for ourselves as we journey, there will most likely not be silence in the world or in our hearts/minds. . . allow yourself to stay with the words, the meaning of the chant. . . going, going, gone to the other shore beyond.

For the whole Heart Sutra, check out one of my previous posts.

Play lightly with this track and allow yourself to just notice. . . not even label, just be with your self as things arise.

It is all practice for being there in life for the ‘full catastrophe of life’.

May you new year bring a sense of renewed hope and congruence in your life.


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Wonderful Teacher

Don’t forget your practice.  Don’t forget to start.

Give yourself and the world a great gift as we begin 2012. . . give the gift of mindful participation in life.

Here is Rinpoche’s message.

Peace on your meditation cushion and good will as  you invite the bell to ring.

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Around the world, families come together to celebrate the brightest light in the dark times.  Here is a little quiet music to sit with and relax.

If you celebrate Christmas, soon we will remember the birth of a child come to change the world.  Or we will celebrate with bringing nature into our homes, with fir trees, pine wreaths, lights, and candles.

If you celebrate Chanukah, you might be celebrating by lighting the menorah and honoring traditions centuries old.

Wherever you are, whether quietly snuggled in front of the fire or you’re sitting down to a feast, take a few moments to slow down.  Give yourself the space to take care of your heart.

If you have lost someone, allow yourself to honor them in this moment.  Honor them in a way that feels right for you; an empty chair at the dinner table, a special candle, an ornament, a favored song, or a favorite dish of the person you love.

If you are caregiving, it could be very likely that you might be asking, “Is this it?  Will be the last Christmas?  I can’t imagine how we’ll survive.”  I know these were questions we asked ourselves and each other for the two years we took care of my dying brother.  It’s normal and it’s okay.

Have compassion for yourself.  There will be an achiness in your heart, possibly even a hole.  And tears can fall; that’s okay too.  The people around you may try to quelch your tears.  Know that most likely it is because those around you just don’t want you to hurt.  But if we are honest with ourselves, how could it not hurt?

I used to tell clients that our tears are a manifestion of the love that we have for the person who is dying or the person who has died.  We don’t feel that kind of pain when we hear about some random person half way across the country or world dies.  We have no connection with them.  But that person we shed tears for, they are a part of us, no matter what the relationship is.

We will feel pain.  But we can do something about the accompanying suffering.

Today, we have been cooking and doing a few last-minute things for the holiday.  There have been tears for the family that isn’t physically here anymore; my brother, Aunt Ida, my paternal grandparents and the friends that were like family; Barbara, Harris, and Lois.  And there have been jokes about Harris wanting hot dogs for the holiday or my brother being impressed with Beef Wellington on the menu.

The important thing is that we don’t try to act like they weren’t a part of our lives or that they aren’t still so important to us.  We accept they are gone and yet the love still surrounds us on this cold winter night.

Touch your heart lightly and know that pain will change over time.  You have inherent wisdom and peace will come.

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christmas candles on the morning table

Image via Wikipedia

Excellent blog post from ElephantJournal.com.  Click here.

Breathe.  Don’t fight.  Breathe.  Does it really matter if it is Christmas, Chanukah, the New Year, etc?  Let’s enjoy the time with people we care about, sharing the bounty of gifts, food, and wine.

Let us be thankful for our health, honor those no longer with us, and grateful for shelter from the winter winds.

Peace on Earth!


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Thich Nhat Hanh in Vught, the Netherlands, 2006

Image via Wikipedia

Click here for the details. . .

And in the meantime, here is one of my favorites . . Plum Village’s chants to listen to while you wait for the streaming in the morning.

Allow the sound of the bell to float over you like waves.  Breathe in and know that you are not alone.  Breathe out and feel the warmth of the sangha.

May you be peace.

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Ruissalo winter forest

Image via Wikipedia

In my last post, I reminded you to breathe and stay rooted.  If the holidays get frantic, take just 3 minutes for yourself (hide in pantry or take a walk) and listen to something that soothes your soul. . .

My favorite winter music is the Windham Hill collections.  Here is a slide show set to their Winter Solstice 2009.

Do you have a favorite song or album for meditation and quiet time?  Please share with us!

In addition to movies that are great to watch on end-of-life and grieving, at some point, I will be adding a music and book section too.

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English: At the Omega Institute, May 2007.

Image via Wikipedia

Here is a good reminder of how not to get hooked at the holiday and to be mindful of your practice.

Want to learn more about shenpa and getting hooked, check out Pema Chodron. . . and yes, there will be something about shenpa and end-of-life care soon…. so many topics to write on and so little time to write it all up.

My best advice for the holidays…. keep both feet firmly on the floor and know you are rooted into the solidness of the earth.  stand up straight with your shoulders back so that your heart can be open…. remember to breathe because nothing else matters if you aren’t breathing.

Peace to all!

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Trying to protect ourselves from pain limits us and pushes away all that we love, leaving us feeling isolated.

But if we gently explore layer after layer of our clinging to our pain, we beckon love to accompany us on the path of healing.

 ~~  Stephen Levine.

 Grief is so intensely personal.  It’s the loss of our relationship, my favorite aunt, my lover, my child.  It’s the secondary losses … if I lost my husband, it’s also the loss of the person who I go canoeing with, the loss of the person with whom I will grow old, the loss of the person who touches me intimately, the loss of the person who cooks gourmet dinners, and the person with whom I listen to old Billy Joel albums with and reminisce of the concert we went to at Jones Beach on Long Island.   It’s the loss of the future… my husband and I won’t celebrate our 20th anniversary two years from now, we won’t take that trip to Budapest, we won’t see our grandkids grow up and go away to college…

And some days, we have one of our losses in the forefront of our minds (and hearts).  Other days we have several of these in our awareness.  Sometimes, we may feel like we are in an “OK” place, and then bam, we get hit.  Maybe that’s the day, several months or even years after the loss, that I hear Billy Joel playing at the grocery store and that’s when I am flooded with grief.

It is for these reasons (and more) why we don’t just get over grief. Why we aren’t “fixed” within the 3 days of bereavement time we have from work.  This is why holiday after holiday, season after season, are hearts can be tugged, and pulled, and sometimes even shattered. And at the same time, this is also why grieving is a normal process, in which we take healing on multiple levels… physical, psychological, social, spiritual, economic, interpersonally, intra-personally.  It’s not a disease that needs to be medicated, it’s not denial, and it’s not maladaptive.  It is at its core, the one of the most adaptive things we do.

And what do we do?  We learn to have compassion for ourselves.  I grieve the loss of the physical person, in this example, my husband.  I grieve layer upon layer of all the things he was and of all the things he meant to me while he was alive.  I grieve what I no longer have and what I will never be able to have in relation to him.

What don’t I do?  I don’t just acknowledge the loss, come to terms with it, withdraw my energy from it, and have “reconciliation” as so many theorists suggest.  If it were that simple, we would most likely be that simple, our relationships and our world would be that simple… we know in our heart of hearts, we are complex and complicated.  We know that as much as we feel like we stay the same, we are also ever changing and ever growing.  We change cognitively, developmentally; we expand and contract, we deepen and age.

How does mindfulness relate to all of this? 


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“Something precious is lost if we rush headlong into the details of life without pausing for a moment to pay homage to the mystery of life and the gift of another day.”  ~~ Kent Nerburn

This time of the year can be the best of times and the worst of times, to turn a phrase.  Winter, itself, is a great time for introspection, for nurturing our hearth, for focusing on family, and for learning.  The seasons provide us a lovely opportunity for retreat.

But our world seems out of touch with the seasons.  We turn off our senses and listen to the sales advertisements in the newspaper and on the internet and we start making lists of all the chores and shopping we need to do.  We close ourselves off from seeking the light in the darkest of times and get strung out by the smell of cinnamon and pine that’s pumped through stores and get fascinated be the twinkle of Christmas tree lights.

And this post isn’t to say that we need to bring “Christ” back into Christmas.  It’s not to discourage gift giving or late nights that we spend gift wrapping and making cookies.  It’s not for or against any holiday that we celebrate at this time of the year.  There’s time for champagne, stockings, menorahs, and fireworks.  But what about if we find some balance during this time of the year?

Does my best friend really need another sweater, another pair of earrings, or more gift cards to Itunes, amazon, etc?  We don’t ever get to spend time together outside of work so if I am being mindful of what’s important, maybe I would offer to pay for lunch at a locally owned restaurant… thus spending time with my friend outside of the office, helping the local economy, and taking time to just be a companion.  What would be better for our families and our team at work than for us to find something rejuvenating so that we can be there for others.  30 minutes can make a difference when we turn off work and problems and simply opening ourselves to being fully present at that meal.

This time of the year, we really miss the people who we love that have died.  It’s a great time of the year to give to charities in memory of those who have touched us.  Sites such as www.seva.org or www.heifer.org are great places to make a difference in the world.  Or find an organization in your area, like a local hospice or food pantry, where funding has most likely been slashed.  Not only will you help others but you will pay forward all the generosity and love that your special person gave to you.

And what about people in your life that you’ve lost touch with?  People who, throughout the year, go by the wayside when we’re busy?  Can you take an hour and bring groceries to an elderly relative?  Can you watch your neighbor’s kids so they can go to the doctor’s when their flu shots haven’t worked?  Can you take an hour to read to your kids or a niece or nephew?

Can you give time and love, instead of a new watch or XBox?

Where else can we find balance?  Maybe this year we don’t go to every cookie exchange, every holiday cocktail party, or family production.  Maybe this year, you take a little longer walk or walk outside instead of at the gym.  What if you walk down by the river, without your Ipod?  Can you just listen to the wind and the birds?  How about learing to cook one vegetarian dish a month or a week, helping the environment and your body?

Mindfulness gives us the tools to remember that the middle way, the way of keeping the balance, the way of being healthier and well, just more sane.  It gives us opportunities to see how we are living, what we are thinking, and where we are spending our time and our thoughts.  Mindfulness helps us turn on, not tune out.  Mindfulness brings us closer to stillness and peace and allows us to show mercy for our hearts and compassion for those around us.

What better gift could you give to those you love but more mindfulness in your life and in theirs?

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