Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

Over a long time taking pictures of the nature...

Over a long time taking pictures of the nature for a change (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Yes is openness.  Nature opens itself to everyone without discrimination.  This universal generosity happens to us when we awaken to loving-kindness.  Likewise, nature does not retaliate.  The man who litters the beach may nonetheless catch a fish the same day. . . Nature is such a great resource in living yes:  the model of yes and the gift of yes.  Looking at a flower and honoring it as a guide, no just as something beautiful, helps us relate to nature in a creative way.  This kind of upgrade in consciousness is how the subtle guidance from nature unfolds.  A flower becomes a symbol of the tender life in us that can only grow by firm anchoring to the earth, by welcoming the seasons, and by passing without complaint through its phases.  Then a rose is not just a rose but an escort to rebirth.”

~~ David Richo, The Five Things We Cannot Change. . . and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them

Read Full Post »

One Day – an idea that will horrify you now – the misfortune will be a blessed

memory of a being who will never leave you.

But you are in a stage of unhappiness where it is impossible

for you to have faith in these reassurances.”

~~Marcel Proust

Someone posted a question to my About page, questioning what I thought about the idea of “gifts” that come from loss.  Essentially, this is an area that I tread lightly in… for the person who is in the depths of their grief, gifts, meanings, messages, life lessons, etc is something that I do not talk about at that time.  I think it can almost be cruel… like when someone says to a grieving parent, “you’re young, you can have another…”

I can think of nothing else that could be more injuring to the memory of the person who died or to the aching heart of the bereft person.

There have been times, where I can honestly say, yes, I’ve wanted to hit someone for foolish, hurtful words like these.  And I have to remember that we are just so uncomfortable with our own pain but to be present to another’s pain is a thousand-fold worse for so many people.

I’ve thought a lot about this topic during the past week and posted a reply to this “sister” blogger last night… I am sure that she will not be the only person to bring up this topic and so I decided to post my response here.

I am so grateful to her for asking her question and I hope that this will either comfort someone, help them understand another’s grief, or at the very least, get us thinking about our reactions to the grief of another person.  So, here is my reply:

I do not believe that there is any inherent purpose to death.  It is a function of being a human being and having these bodies that we do.  I don’t think there is any more inherent purpose than I believe that there is any inherent meaning.

The existentialists were split into two camps about this very topic… there were those who believed that there was no meaning in the world and were nihilistic.  There was another group who also did not believe that there was an inherent purpose, however, they did believe that we create our own meaning.

In this second group, I think of Viktor Frankl.  He once said, “For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”  And this is how I see the losses we endure.

I don’t believe that there was “a” purpose to my brother’s death.  There were three of us that were most affected by this loss and we all had different relationships to him and this loss.  We each had to find our own meaning and purpose to live with this loss.

I know that all three of us would prefer, in some ways that he was back in our lives, happily living.  But he wasn’t happily living while he was here and through his dying, our lives were changed and other people have been influenced by us.    And if he was alive, he would not be healthy.  Given that, I have to make sense out of this loss in order to live with it.  That is where the purpose comes into the picture.

I know that many people who are bereft, especially parents of young children, hate hearing that there is a purpose to the death of the person who they loved.  And I struggle when I hear people saying that to them.  If we come to that place, in our own lives, over our own losses, then great.

But I think we have to face that for most of us, if it was the choice between us gaining some gift (compassion, insight, greater love, etc.) and the person who we lost, I cannot think of anyone I have ever met that would choose the gift instead.

I also don’t think that finding meaning and purpose is a panacea or defense mechanism.  I think that when we find meaning and purpose, if we do, that it helps to guide our lives.  It gives us an ethic or viewpoint, a lens, that we see the world through and then act in accordance.  I don’t think we use that as a way to deny the pain, though I suppose it could be.

I think we have to find ways to re-create our lives and figure out how to live them without the physical presence the person we love because they are not coming back.

These are just the thoughts that have been swirling around in me for the past few days.  They are influenced by my philosophical and spiritual ideas and my experiences.

They are also informed by the hundreds of people who I worked with at hospice, those who seemed to struggle and soar after someone’s death and those that seemed to struggle for the rest of their lives.

May the merit of all the good we do go out into the world

and shine on all who are in need of light.

May the merit of our love

be an inspiration to all those who have never felt love.


Related articles

Read Full Post »

“We’re fascinated by the words–but where we meet is in the silence behind them.”

Ram Dass

Silence can be such a precious commodity.  There seems to be so little of it in today’s world.  Even going to a nearby state park, thinking I can run away and forget the world, and I hear the sounds of the traffic from the highway rushing by the park.

Maybe it’s because I am so introverted that I love silence and am comfortable with it?  Maybe it’s the years of meditation?  Or training as a therapist.  Coming from a small family?  Who knows, but I really do like it.

Silence can take on so many flavors and nuances if one can stand it long enough to touch it.  Right now, I work at a job where silence could be fostered much more than it is.  There are many situations with the clients that we work with where silence would be soothing and deflate situations that become volatile.  But silence is the last thing that is thought about, let alone practiced, when we have our agenda of where we need to be and how things should happen rather than letting things unfold before us.

There is such beauty in being able to sit with someone and being so comfortable in your self that you don’t need to fill the space with words.  Sometimes it’s just that that you can be present to the experience of the anxiety that accompanies the long pauses but I think that is an acquired gift.

Silence can be such a precious gem that we can bestow upon someone. . . a client, an aging relative, someone whose heart has been shredded by grief, or someone is who dying.  There’s no distraction in silence, no busy-ness, no nonsense.  Silence is intimate as two people sit in a starkness and nakedness that can be some uncomfortable and yet might be just the thing that two people are craving — the acceptance that comes with that being-with in silence.

My role is to often be silent with the person I am with. . . to hold a hand, to sit attentively, to bear withness to a person’s story or experience.  Meditation is an ideal practice for slowing down and opening the heart.  One learns, through practice, acceptancce of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations.  One practices having a gentle touch with that which comes into consciousness.

We learn not to get swept away, but to allow an idea or a feeling to come up and release it after labeling it.  We learn to have compassion  for the unending streams that our are brains create.  And it is in fostering this acceptance that we can cultivate this openness for another person.

So much can be created in silence, just think about the phrase a pregnant pause.  Things gestate and grow and become when they have light and space.

As we practice silence with others, we allow them the room to grow before us and in doing so, the roots of that experience grow to unimaginable depths.


Read Full Post »

Awakening From Dying author John Welshons.

In this clip, John discusses his training in end-of-life care and the profound understandings about relationships that has subsequently occurred.

Read Full Post »

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ram Dass

Image via Wikipedia

Being who you are.  Being Present.  Being Peace.  Being with Dying.

Here is a short clip of Ram Dass talking about being open and present to the dying and in return, being present to life.

Can you open your heart and be congruent?

It’s not just about being with the dying. . .  listen carefully and ask yourself, does this apply to me as a therapist, a nurse, a volunteer, a family member?  How do I live the lessons or better yet, how do I become the lessons?

Imagine how gentle we would be with each other.  Imagine how much less baggage we would carry around, freeing up our energy to truly engage with the person before us, whomever they are.

We can be free right here, right now.  We can be free in living and we can be free in dying.

Read Full Post »

English: President Barack Obama meets with His...

Image via Wikipedia

Book review: ‘Beyond Religion’ by the Dalai Lama.

For decades, when HH the 14th Dalai Lama has been asked about his religion, he has smiled and stated, “I am a simple monk and my religion is compassion.”

I love that His Holiness is shedding the ideas of things like “-isms” and getting to the root of what matters — nothing but compassion.   And you know what I mean, Catholicism, Buddhism, nationalism, absolutism, capitalism, patriotism, materialism, etc.

I wish this idea would spread like wildfire through all of the leaders of countries throughout the world and through the world’s religions. . . and maybe it could start with our own leader here in the U.S.,  whose lack of attention to the Dalai Lama and the plight of the Tibetans is truly worth grieving over.

How often do we hate, fear, and start war because of “-isms”?  How often do we create policy and law based on “-isms”?  How often do we make others suffer because of the things we believe?

The author of this review shares this:

“Some may disagree with the Dalai Lama’s perspective, but he does a credible job of arguing why we should “move beyond our limited sense of closeness to this or that group or identity, and instead cultivate a sense of closeness to the entire human family.”

I would hope if anyone can sell the idea of the nature of the human being and the need for what is essentially important it would be Tenzin Gyasto, the Dalai Lama.

Note:  Want to know more?  Read, The Mind’s Own Physician by Jon-Kabat-Zinn and Richard Davidson soon to be out on Kindle.  This book is about neuroscience and explores the question — how does meditation affect human’s pain and suffering.


Read Full Post »

Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama) 2008, 2005 & 2...

Image via Wikipedia

Check out the LA Times review of HH the Dalai Lama’s new book.

Book review: ‘Beyond Religion’ by the Dalai Lama.

Read Full Post »

An almost burnt-down lit candle on a candle ho...

Image via Wikipedia

Great Op-Ed in the NY Times on problems that the dying face. . .

The first hospice in the United States was founded in 1974 in Connecticut.  And for the most part, we have stayed with the model of care that was started at The Connecticut Hospice. 

And 40 years ago, it was a brilliant and necessary movement that needed to come to us.  And 40 years later, some people are terrified of the word hospice.  We’ve had four decades to teach the general public about hospice, break through barriers, and hold the space for people in every state to have the option of compassionate care at the end of life.

But there are certainly gaps in the system.  We need more respite care, more caregiver education, more education to other medical professionals on the uses of palliative medicine and referring to hospice earlier.  And of course, we need to continue getting the message out about having those difficult discussions at home and at the doctor’s office before we absolutely have to make decisions.

In the 7 years I worked for hospice, there were only a handful of families that were unhappy with our services.  Those families often had other problems going on as well such as family disagreements, “unfinished business”, family secrets, or mental health issues and let’s face it most families have at least one of those things happening.

Those families that did love the hospice that I worked for used hospice intergenerationally and referred friends and family for our services.  And yet, people still get referred into hospice in the very last days and hours before their death.  So how do we change this?

How do we stretch a philosophy of care beyond its borders when there are people who still cringe at the site or sound of the word?  We really need to start looking at these issues as our overall population gets older, as more families no longer live near extended families, and as more and more of us don’t get married.

We need to be having the conversation now.  Was a nursing home the right place for this patient in the article?  What about a palliative care center?  What kind of hospice was this family working with and could they not have had traditional in home hospice with a network of friends, family, volunteers, and paid professionals like CNAs?  Or is this issue much bigger than bandages?

Would love to hear what you think!


Read Full Post »

One of my favorite books on grief.  Sameet Kumar has written an awesome book on grief and learning to live grief mindfully.  His book and his work has carried on in the tradition of incredible teachers like Ram Dass, Roshi Joan Halifax, Stephen & Ondrea Levine, etc.

A must read for anyone — anyone dissatisfied with current grief theory, anyone who is grieving, or anyone who loves someone who is grieving.


Read Full Post »

‎”On the journey of the warrior-bodhisattva, the path goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward turbulence and doubt however we can. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is. At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, companions in awakening from fear.”

~~ Pema Chodron

Read Full Post »