Building community in a changing world

Monthly Archives: February 2022

February 27, 2022

Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)

George Harrison said it best…

“Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
Heart and soul”

February 24, 2022

Conducting Fear Planning

Yes, I’ve been blogging a lot about death. Thanks to those that asked if I’m okay – and the answer is “I’m fine.” I’m just trying to learn more about death because becoming informed about those things we fear helps to demystify them and tamp down that anxiety.

In fact, defining your fears could be more important than defining your goals. Here’s the description of this Ted Talk by Tim Ferriss: “The hard choices — what we most fear doing, asking, saying — are very often exactly what we need to do. How can we overcome self-paralysis and take action? Tim encourages us to fully envision and write down our fears in detail, in a simple but powerful exercise he calls ‘fear-setting.'”

Tim describes three steps to conduct “fear planning”:

1. Define – Name the fear. Write it down. Up to 20 aspects of the fear in bullet form. By identifying the fear, that might even be enough to overcome that particular fear.

2. Prevent – Write down everything you can do to keep the thing you fear from happening. So write down things that can prevent each aspect of the fear you identified in the first step.

3. Repair – Write down what you can do to fix the consequences if the fear happens. The cost of inaction (emotionally, financially, physically – over a six-month, 1-year, three-year time frame). Again, cover each of the bullets you identified in the first step.

Some of your fears may be well-founded and may come to pass. But some may not…but this exercise may help reduce anxiety if fear is something that occasionally (or often) paralyzes you. Stoicism. Hard choices, easy life…

February 22, 2022

Dying In Peace and Alone (Or Not)

Following up on my reading of Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Being with Dying,” I was surprised to learn in Chapter 15 that people often die when caregivers leave the room. Perhaps they wanted to die peacefully and alone; free of the attention or perhaps pained to go in front of a loved one. This can be hard for some family members to accept.

On the other hand, some people want to be held when they die. Others want to be touched. Some want someone to be present, but not touched. It’s important to give the dying the option of what they prefer. It should not be about you as the caregiver. It should be about the one dying. Roshi Joan offers these choices as a possible “boundless abode” for you to use in your practice:

– May I be open with others and myself about my dying
– May I receive others’ love and compassion
– May I forgive myself for mistakes made and things left undone
– May kindness sustain my caregivers and me
– May I, and all beings, live and die peacefully

February 17, 2022

The Possible Mental States When Actually Dying

Following up on my reading of Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Being with Dying,” here are a few items I learned about the actual experience of dying:

– Slower dying might bring out experiences that are rehearsals for actual dying, such as resuscitation, that might stir visionary experiences characterized by positive feelings. Or a whole lot of clarity. Or perhaps the opposite, anger at being resuscitated.

– An altered state of consciousness often happens as our body and mind changes, in which we might relive various experiences – good or bad – from our life.

– Hallucinations might be part of this, sometimes spurred on by medicines that have been taken. Perhaps encountering loved ones who have already passed on. Or maybe those aren’t even hallucinations, we don’t know for sure what they could really be…

February 14, 2022

The Nonduality of Life & Death

Continuing on with my lessons learned from Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Being with Dying, it’s interesting to read what Roshi Joan has written about the nonduality of life and death. Just like suffering and freedom from suffering are really borne from the same cloth, so is life and death. Here is a paraphrased excerpt from the book (page 84):

– We only exist through an interconnectedness with those in our life
– You are in relationship with literally everything in the phenomenal world, past, present and future
– You are nonduality itself because of this interconnected web
– Everything that happens in life is because of the reality of this interconnectedness
– Even though we can deduce this logically, we must experience liberation to make this truth real to us

By the way, my friend forwarded me this short essay – “On Death and Love” – by Melanie Challenger. Check it out…

February 8, 2022

There is no one “right way” to be with dying…

Following up on my reading of Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Being with Dying,” Chapter 12 delves into wounded healers and the shadow side of caregiving. The shadow side emerges when we forget that there is no “I” in doing good for another but simply choiceless responsiveness. The right hand is taking care of the left. Nonduality.

Roshi Joan provides examples of the pitfalls that can emerge. The Hero is when someone goes far beyond what is sensible. Their identity forged on the anvil of good acts. The Martyr, who is just a late-stage, burned out hero. There is the intrusive Parent, thinking they know what’s best. The Expert is an overextended medical professional. And more…

February 5, 2022

The Six Responses to Dying

Following up on my reading of Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Being with Dying,” I learned the importance of not judging which of these six responses a person happens to have. That we all have a different death journey, just like we all have a different life journey. And that it’s possible to find liberation in even the most challenging of circumstances.

Here are the six typical responses to dying:

1. Fear – Fear can help us see what is truly important – it can help us to prioritize. Its natural to feel afraid of dying, whether it be pain, the loss of all that is precious to us. Accepting death as a natural part of life is hard to do and can be a terrible obstacle to dying well.

2. Denial – Denial can have a wisdom all its own. It can help bring peace.

3 Grieving – Worried about the loss of a life not fully lived. It can provide value to help bring someone to a deeper level of compassion.

4. Defying – Doing everything possible to prolong life. Even though death is inevitable, most people will do whatever they can to prolong it.

5. Acceptance – To be accepting, it takes great presence of mind and a radical ability to embrace what every moment brings. Coming to terms with the truth of impermanence. The natural order. Some people get angry if they’re resuscitated and not being allowed to accept death on its own terms.

6. Liberating – Perhaps the most fortunate and rarest response – embracing a powerful opportunity for enlightenment. Free from fear. Each moment is new and complete.

February 2, 2022

Being in Silent Presence With Those That Are Dying

Following up on my reading of Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Being with Dying,” I got a lot of value about the idea of talking in “council.” The idea for caregivers and the dying to sit together and speak honestly and openly together. Listening devoutly and intently. These guiding principles for this group practice rang true:

1. Speaking from the heart
2. Listening from the heart
3. Speaking concisely
4. Speaking spontaneously

I also found the idea of a “speaking object” interesting. That whomever held that object, it was a way of indicating that it was their turn to speak (ie. no cross-talk).

I also was drawn to the notion that many of the dying wish to sit in silence with you. That they don’t want the routinized communication, idle chatter and repeated questions. Merely being in presence was the support that they treasure the most…