Living and Dying

palliative care

There isn’t a one of us prepared and ready to die so when it does come upon us, it’s important to have resources.

The best innovations in the medical field are palliative and hospice care. The palliative care team supports management of pain and other symptoms, help navigating the healthcare system, and gives guidance through difficult and complex treatment choices. Hospice provides a caring emotional environment knowing that the illness is terminal.

For some spiritual guidance, allow me to introduce the Living/Dying Project:

Mission Statement:
Imagine facing death without fear.
Imagine using a life-threatening illness as an opportunity for spiritual awakening.
Imagine approaching the unknown with an open heart.
We often resist change as a natural part of life.
Strength and healing can be found in life’s most difficult situations.
The Living/Dying Project offers compassionate support in the spirit of mutual exploration to those facing life-threatening illness.

Here is one of their meditations. If this one doesn’t seem right, check out this page to find one that does.

Softening Pain Meditation
© 1991 Stephen Levine

(To be read slowly to a friend or silently to oneself.)
Try to find a comfortable position and settle into it.
Slowly allow your attention to move toward the area of discomfort.
Watch what feelings arise as you let your awareness approach that place.
Let the pain just be there.
Is the mind and body at war? Much resistance? Is the mind cursing the body?
Is there any fear accumulated in the area of discomfort?
Notice if any old mind fears cling there, turning pain to suffering.
Resistance to hellishness.
Notice whatever feelings arise in that area.
Begin to soften all about physical and mental discomfort.
Let the skin, the flesh, the muscles, begin to soften all around the pain.
Let the fist of resistance and fear which closes down around the unpleasant slowly begin to open. Releasing tension around discomfort.
Letting go of the rigidity holding unwanted sensations.
Let go. This holding, this old resistance and dread turns the moment sour.
Let go. It is so painful to hold to the pain with anger and fear and hopelessness.
Let it go.
Let it begin to float in awareness instead of being trapped hard in the body.
Moment to moment sensation arises. Moment to moment opening.
Softening to each particle of sensation.
Let the muscles soften.
Let the flesh open to receive the moment as it is in mercy and loving kindness.
The fear, the anger, the sense of failure dissolving into the softness.
Each moment new.
Softening from sensation to sensation.
Notice how the least thought or subtlest holding reestablishes tension.
Soften. Moment to moment letting go.
Remembering the mercy that pain cries out for—soften again and again and once again.
Let the discomfort just be there, not holding to it, not even pushing it away.
Softening to the very center of each instant of sensation and feeling.
Meeting the heart of our pain in mercy and forgiveness.
Moving gently into it to heal, to release so much frustration, so much helplessness. Allowing at last the moment simply to be as it is with such mercy for ourselves and these sensations arising in soft flesh.
Soften the ligaments.
Soften the tissue all around each sensation. Let each sensation float free in this softness. Letting it be in the heart of mercy and kindness toward oneself, toward this moment, toward these sensations constantly changing.
Open all around sensation gently.
Push nothing away.
Let resistance melt from the body with a sigh. Let go of long-held fear and doubt.
And in the mind that holds to this pain, that prays to it and wars with it, that beseeches it, a deeper softening begins to permeate. The mental fist opens.
Feel the release of tension in the mind as it softens to the unpleasant in the body. Have mercy.
A moment of fear, a moment of distrust, a moment of anger—each arising and dissolving, one after the other. Each mind-moment dissolving into the next.
The spaciousness increasing.
Hard reactions melting to soft responses in the mind. The body softening to receive the moment as is.
Moment-to-moment softening all about sensations arising.
Softening the tissue. Softening the muscles. Softening around each moment of experience arising in the body.
Softening to the center of each cell.
Sending mercy and loving kindness into each moment of sensation arising and dissolving in space.
Each instant of sensation received in an awareness that gently embraces.
Letting go of discomfort.
Letting it float in a merciful awareness.
Letting the mind float in the heart.
Receiving this moment in the opening heart of mercy.
Receiving this softness in all the far-flung galaxies of the body.
In the vast body, such mercy, such kindness, receives each moment.
Softening. Opening with a merciful awareness we continue the path of the healing we took birth for.

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