From the Editor

On December 1, 2000, Thich Nhat Hanh gave a Dharma talk at the White House in Washington, D.C., during a conference on AIDS. Thay is deeply aware of the suffering caused by AIDS, and offered teachings to encourage those present to respond to that suffering and to conduct themselves in ways that would bring relief to themselves, their families, and society. In this issue of The Mindfulness Bell, Thay shares this talk with readers, and encourages us to also practice in ways that protect life and prevent suffering.

The theme articles in this issue focus on mindful consumption. Shakyamuni Buddha taught us to be aware of what we consume-through eating, through our senses, through our minds, and through our volition. Dharma teacher Jack Lawlor invites us to look at the habit energies present in our daily consumption. Peggy Rowe and Tracy Sarriugarte offer practices that cultivate consumption of nourishing and healing nutriments. And Patrecia Lenore and Toni Carlucci share reflections on the practice of mindful eating. We hope that these articles will nourish seeds of positive energy in your daily practice.

Other articles examine mindfulness practice in social action and daily practice. Pamela Overeynder shares the efforts of a Texas Sangha to encourage peace and address the problem of unexploded land mines left by wars. In the Daily Practice section, Sister Annabel invites us to touch the Pure Land in our daily lives; Bruce Kantner reports on building a lay residential practice center; and Paul Tingen shares mindful speech practice. And there is more! Please enjoy every bit of this issue!

On a more personal note: For over four years, I have enjoyed the great privilege of serving the Sangha by helping edit The Mindfulness Bell-as Family Practice editor and then, beginning in 1997, as Editor of the whole journal. I have benefited greatly from this opportunity to work with the teachings and to be in touch with many fellow practitioners. With this issue, I close my term as Editor and offer this rich opportunity to someone else.

Before I depart, I want to express my thanks. With gratitude as deep as the ocean, I bow to Thich Nhat Hanh, whose teaching breathed life into my practice and from whom I continue to learn. I offer deep thanks to Sister Chan Khong, whose unflagging energy and encouragement has provided such strong support to my work and my practice. And I offer heartfelt thanks to Arnie Kotler and Therese Fitzgerald who, when they were Senior Editors, took a chance on having an editor on the other side of the country, and from whom I learned so much. Finally, I thank you, the readers, for every Email, letter, and telephone call.

I hope to continue to support The Mindfulness Bell in a different way, to share the teachings, and to practice deeply and wholeheartedly with the Sangha.

A lotus for you, a buddha to be,

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Caring for Those Who Are Dying

By Hope Lindsay

mb39-Caring1Patty, a Sangha friend, is a nurse for Mercy Medical Center Hospice in Roseburg, Oregon. Many people know that hospice is a cluster of care services for individuals in the last six months of life. When someone is diagnosed with a terminal condition, a team of health professionals and volunteers helps her or him and the family with palliative (comfort-giving) therapy rather than focusing on curative medical services. Treatment can include pain alleviating medications, feeding and bath care, music therapy, massage, spiritual comfort, and consoling the family.

Patty is a longtime student of Frank Ostaseski, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Hospice Project. The Zen Hospice Project has received national and international recognition for its unique Buddhist ministry to those who are alone and dying. Patty co-facilitates trainings with Frank as well as offers trainings for volunteers in our community. Recently she created a volunteer program called Anam Cara (spiritual companion), of which I am a member.

We Anam Cara volunteers were taught the common respons­es of mind and body in the final days, and that dying without a caring person beside us is a common fear for many people. At the same time, the moment of death frequently takes place in solitude by choice of the dying person. We learned that dying is often a laborious process not unlike birth. Although the dying person is often considered semi-comatose, there usually is some indicator of recognition of the companion’s presence. A squeeze of the hand, a smile, eye contact, or sometimes a word or two, may be all we, as companions, do. Most of our time is usually spent sit­ting beside the dying person in meditative silence. Sharing these profound moments with either a stranger or loved one can be a transcendent experience.

Both the Zen Hospice Project and Anam Cara began in facil­ities that once offered shelter and spiritual comfort to those dying of AIDS. They began by renovating a hospital skilled nursing unit and private home respectively, into facilities with a compassionate, healing atmosphere. Now both programs have become available to anyone who may have little or no support at the time of death. In 2005, Anam Cara will help hospitalized people who are dying without friends and family in attendance, as well as those in Mercy House.

A new project beginning in our community is called Wings of Hope, a program for grieving children. The child may have lost a parent or sibling by death or is in foster care or may have an incarcerated parent. It is a four to eight week curriculum modeled on the Dougy House in Portland, Oregon and created by Patty. I am coordinating it with a community mental health counselor who volunteered to help. Recently I discovered that, although she does not participate in our Sangha now, she plans to attend Thich Nhat Hanh’s retreat at Deer Park this autumn.

I have recently realized that of the dozen most active members of our Sangha, six of us are employed by hospice and nine have had some form of training facilitated by Patty for end of life care. Another Sangha member, Patricia, is a nurse who now lives in a convent compound in South Africa and serves the nearby village whose members are ravaged by AIDS. Patricia’s primary focus is caring for the dying under extremely difficult circumstances. As well as offering medical care, she has been the mom for the dorm which shelters and educates girls whose entire families have perished and who are now responsible for raising even younger children. Our Sangha often gives our dana to Pa­tricia’s work. Without a conscious intention to do so, our Sangha has found its particular focus of social action.

mb39-Caring2Hope Lindsay, True Flow of the Heart, is a member of the Umpqua Area Mindfulness Sangha. She is a part time medical social worker for Mercy Medical Center Hospice, and an aspirant to the Order of Interbeing.

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