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Being with Dying: cultivating compassion and fearlessness in the presence of death
In this long-awaited book of inspiring and practical teachings, Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax offers the fruits of her many years of work with dying people. Inspired by traditional Buddhist teachings, her work is a source of wisdom for all those who are charged with a dying person's care, who are facing their own death, or who are wishing to explore and contemplate the transformative power of the dying process.
Halifax offers lessons from dying people and caregivers, as well as guided meditations to help readers contemplate death without fear, develop a commitment to helping others, and transform suffering and resistance into courage. She says, "Why wait until we are actualy dying to explore what it may mean to die with awareness?"
A world-renowned pioneer in care of the dying, Joan Halifax founded the Project on Being with Dying, which helps dying people to face death with courage and trains professional and family caregivers in compassionate and ethical end-of-life care.
“A moving meditation on palliative care. . . . A supremely readable book (that) will attract readers of all faiths who will appreciate her clarity and compassion and the poignancy of these stories of ordinary people facing their final hours with quiet courage.”
"This compelling, brave, and wise book draws from a lifetime of remarkable work with people at the end of life."
—Andrew Weil, MD
"This book is a gift of wisdom and practical guidance for living."
—Ira Byock, MD, author of Dying Welland The Four Things That Matter Most
"Joan Halifax has a knack for straight talk and sublime insight—a no-holds-barred approach to life's greatest challenge, dying well. This book beckons to those who dare, and those who care; it's a profound and practical guidebook to the inevitable final dance."
—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
"Joan Halifax has taken the great matter of death and dying and woven a tapestry of stories, wisdom, and practical advice for care of the dying—all against a background of compassion."
—Charles R. Lewis, MD, Medical Director, Inpatient Care Center, San Diego Hospice and Palliative Care
"This book picks up where many books about palliative care end, by giving us a sense of the possibilities offered by an encounter with a dying person. Joan Halifax gives us a map of territory not usually mentioned in medical discussions about dying. Her book deserves to be read by clinicians who take care of people with life-threatening illnesses, from the beginning of their journey through the last moments of life and beyond."
—Anthony Back, MD, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
"Joan Halifax guides us in receiving the grace and healing of abiding in the present moment as the balm for our fears, anger, grief, and sadness. She is a masterful teacher, wise sage, and mentor for dying people, their families, and professional caregivers."
—Cynda Hylton Rushton PhD, RN, John Hopkins University and Children's Center
"This beautiful book is both a gentle comfort and a fierce guide to the experience of living, of which death is simply a part. Joan Halifax poignantly and generously offers the wisdom and practices she embodies. A gift beyond measure."
—Margaret J. Wheatley, PhD, author of Leadership and the New Science
"Through the lens of Halifax’s discussion of death, even the most devoted yogis will be able to deepen their experience of presence in everyday life."
— Eric Larson, Whole Life Times
Introduction: Healing the Divide
1 A Path of Discovery: The Lucky Dark 3
Meditation: How Do You Want to Die?
2 The Heart of Meditation: Language and Silence 9
Meditation: Strong Back, Soft Front
3 Overcoming the Porcupine Effect:Moving Past Fear into Tenderness 17
Meditation: Mercy—Exchanging Self with Other
4 The Wooden Puppet and Iron Man: Selfless Compassion, Radical Optimism 25
Meditation: Contemplating Our Priorities
5 At Home in the Infinite: Dwelling in the Boundless Abodes 37
Meditation: Boundless Abodes for Living and Dying
6 You Are Already Dying: Realizing Impermanence, Selflessness, and Freedom 47
Meditation: The Nine Contemplations
Giving No Fear
7 Fictions that Hinder and Heal: Facing Truth and Finding Meaning 63
Meditation: Bearing Witness to Two Truths
8 The Two Arrows: I Am in Pain and I Am Not Suffering 71
Meditation: Encountering Pain
9 Giving No Fear: Transforming Poison into Medicine 81
Meditation: Giving and Receiving through Tonglen
10 Take Care of Your Life, Take Care of the World: Seeing My Own Limits with Compassion 93
Meditation: Boundless Caring
11 The Jeweled Net: Communities of Care 101
Meditation: The Circle of Truth
12 Wounded Healers: Th e Shadow Side of Caregiving 113
Meditation: Four Profound Reminders
Making a Whole Cloth
13 Doorways to Truth: From Fear to Liberation 127
Meditation: Walking Meditation
14 Embracing the Road: How We Remember, Assess, Express, and Find Meaning 137
Meditation: Letting Go through the Breath
15 Between Life, Between People: How We Forgive, Reconcile, Express Gratitude, and Love 145
Meditation: Boundless Abodes for Transforming Relationships
16. The Great Matter: There is No One Right Way 151
Meditation: Encountering Death
17 The Broken Pine Branch: Deaths of Acceptance and Liberation 163
Meditation: Dissolution of the Elements after Death
18 Gratitude for the Vessel: Care of the Body after Death 179
Meditation: Charnel Ground Meditation
19 River of Loss: Th e Plunge of Sorrow 189
Meditation: Encountering Grief
Being One with Dying 197