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Being with Dying, by Joan Halifax. 

May 28, 2019

Being with Dying
Being with Dying:  Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death, by Joan Halifax.  Shambhala, 2011.

4 stars

An insightful guide to Buddhist wisdom about death and dying by an American Buddhist teacher, long active with those facing death.

Roshi Joan Halifax is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and pioneer in the field of end-of-life care.  Her Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology has led her into academia settings, and the projects she has initiated have allowed her to share her wisdom with Buddhist and non-Buddhists.  She has published four books and numerous shorter writings and spoken widely.  She also directs the Upaya Zen Center for study and meditation in Santa Fe.

In Being with Dying, Halifax writes for a wide audience, including those with little or no experience of Buddhism.   Because Buddhism is not monotheistic, followers of other religions often find its practices and assumptions compatible and meaningful. This is particularly true around death and dying.  Hallifax is among those who have made Buddhism accessible to American practioners by removing some of the tradition’s  more unusual details and focusing on its broader concepts.

As Hallifax states in the title, compassion and fearlessness can assist us as we face death.  She offers a way of understanding that is uncommon in western culture, yet beneficial as we are confronted with death. Each chapter in the book raises ideas to consider and then offers us guidance in meditating on them.  For example, Halifax asks us to meditate onhow we want to die.

Being with Dying has much to offer readers, no matter when we expect to die.  It carries the calmness and grace that we come to expect of Buddhism and helps us learn to practice it ourselves.

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