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Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death
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Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  703 ratings  ·  66 reviews
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 tra ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published July 29th 2008 by Shambhala (first published April 1st 1997)
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Average rating 4.38  · 
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent text for anyone facing death (in a more specific way than the way everyone is headed towards death) or who will be handling the emotions and stress involved in someone else who is dying, especially someone close to you. The underlying philosophy is Buddhist but the practical mindfulness techniques included in each chapter would be helpful to people in any belief system (or lack there of.) How to let go. How to take care of yourself. How to be present with another person's ex ...more
Judy Croome
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Caregivers
BEING WITH DYING is specifically aimed at professional caregivers, but non-professional caregivers, such as family members and friends who provide caregiving for a dying person, will find excellent support to guide them along their spiritual path.

With unflinching honesty and deep compassion for the dying person, Halifax explores all the aspects of dying and death that, in being with a dying person, a caregiver may experience. She deals with the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional processes
Isidro López
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A "tough" book (if you read it with "fully conscious"), about one of the most important and remaining taboos of our society: the taboo of death.

Even if reading will never replace any experience, it can be a good trigger for some reflections and reconnecting with life at its whole... which includes its termination.
Jane B.
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was so inspiring, both as it helped me look at the Buddhist approach to being with someone who is dying and looking at my own mortality. The most significant learning for me was the author's three most significant tenets of being with the dying: not knowing, bearing witness, and compassionate action. I try to take a minute and focus on these before I visit a Hospice patient...and these tenets help me be in the best possible place for these visits. ...more
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm very eager to read this one, as it seems most aligned with how I want to approach my mother's death.

This book was so helpful in how we cared for my mother in her last days. It gave me the confidence I needed to let her go and make sure she knew we'd be ok. Of course, I'm not entirely convinced I will be ok at least, not anytime soon.
Oct 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, accessible, simple and very useful.
Essential reading for any of us mortal beings!!
Robert Stevens
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The closer of the book sums up the book:

“Life and death are of supreme importance. Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost. Let us awaken, awaken....Do not squander your life.” (Zen Night Chant)

“Being With Dying” (*****) pursues making death about life in that they are one in the same. The taboo of death in our culture hurts more than it helps. This book provides a path to change that in ourselves and as we face death with others. This book reminds us of the importance of now and of the impe
Juan Jacobo Bernal
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have been practicing Vipassana mindfulness meditation for more than 21 years now. Still, I am admittedly someone who struggles with grief and the reality of our mortality. Halifax’s book was not an easy read: it confronted me in a raw way to the aspects of death that I fear the most. At the same time, she applies the healing balm of awareness and compassion. It is hard to put into word just how well this book matched what I needed at this point in my life. Will be definitely be coming back to ...more
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Strong Back. Soft Front.

A much needed book (for me) that goes well beyond how we meet death and how we care for those who know in a profound, non-abstract way that death is imminent. The book suggested to me better routes for life. (Even in my relationships. This book pointed out some of my very selfish behaviors with others while not once...NOT ONCE...judging me. I felt safe and empowered to change instead of my typical defensiveness and stubbornness.)

The author uses experience obtained providi
Apr 04, 2010 rated it liked it
I may not be spiritually in tune enough to really appreciate this book. The dying process is epic, deep and profound in this author's telling. In my experience as a nurse, it seems to be, more frequently, a simple, peaceful fact of life with suffering alleviated by family presence and medications as much as any spiritual epiphany or breakthrough. I would never advocate for a non-medicated death when there is physical suffering involved. ...more
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a great spiritual book. I think I am more buddhist than any other religion, and I love this books focus on meditation and being in the present...a great read on the side while I am finishing up the very long and intense fiction book I'm reading! ...more
Apr 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a very inspirational spiritual guide to accompanying a loved one as they journey towards death. I found both the zen approach and the practical details to be extremely helpful. It took me about six months to finish the book, as I read it slowly, sometimes just a paragraph or two a week, in order to digest it fully. The author, a zen teacher, shows us how to deal with the fear of death (whether our own or that of a loved one), and instead view death as a huge spiritual opportunity.

I highl
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joanne Mcleod
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is excellent in blending the practices of mindfulness with being in the presence of death and impermanence. One of the concluding paragraphs best sums up the theme of this book as a 'practice' for our own death: "For practicing dying is also practicing living, if we can only realize it. The more truly we can see this, the better we can serve those who are actively dying and offer them our love without condition." ...more
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and deeply moving journey
Into dying and living. If you want to know how to BE with one who is ill or dying and if your scared,angry, in despair, feeling inadequate or useless or just plain bewildered at what to do or be in the face of end of this life....Read this book by someone who has spent her life learning what it means to live and die.
My words are sadly inadequate to describe what she shares so perfectly.
I will share this book with as many as want it💜
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not my genre of choice nor my book of choice. Read as a part of book group. Death and dying is not something I really want to think about or explore during this pandemic and recent presidential election. If you do, than this book is for you. Focused on the tenants of Buddhism which I really knew little about until I read this book. The author ‘s style is very readable. To the point where bought another book of hers not focused on dying.
Tara Brabazon
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book has a strong Buddhist inflection to death. This frame provides a peaceful guide through a tough topic. There is some interesting attention to the carer. However the gap remains an understanding of the profound problems in health industries and the corporatization of death.

There is a romanticization of death in this book. It is gentle and kind, which is welcome. But complexity is also required in understanding the 'management' of death in peak capitalism.
Toni Rahman
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. As a fifty-something, I hope to have a few more decades to tread this earth, but the wisdom in Joan's book helped me with that perennial nagging that began for me in my fourties that hinted that it was "all downhill from here." Beautifully written. Full of practical and heartfelt gifts from someone who has lived what she teaches.

May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've wanted to read this book for some time and I'm glad I finally did. If you are caring for someone or you yourself or terminally ill or you just want to feel more prepared on either account, you don't have to be Buddhist to get so much out of this book. The narrative and meditations tie together, Joan's expertise and experience on dying is, what's the word, honest and kind, final and hopeful. ...more
Andrew McJorrow
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health, 2020
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Simple and straightforward as well as rich and deep. Wonderful.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
10 stars!
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very profound. Definitely a must read.
Ann Augustine
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very enlightening, thought provoking. Lessons to be learned at any stage of living.
Jeanne Higgins
Dec 27, 2018 rated it liked it
A lot of information about the dying process. Written from a Buddhist perspective. Couldn't track with the meditative practices with each chapter. ...more
Jackie N Kola
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was gifted to me after a beloved family member passed away. It helped me deal with grieving and loss. It also helps you come to terms with your own mortality.
Amy Morris
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-development
Great to read while watching a friend die of cancer. Has helped me immensely.
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
With one word: Profound.
Thank you, Joan, for your work.
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent reference for anyone interested in the Buddhist perspective on the dying process.
Jun 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
I know it's spirituality, but you have to wonder about some of the things taking place. Are these things types of things going on today? ...more
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Joan Halifax is a Zen Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, ecologist, civil rights activist, hospice caregiver, and the author of several books on Buddhism and spirituality. She currently serves as abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Halifax has received dharma transmission from both Bernard Glassman and Thich Nhat Hanh, and studied under Korean master Seung Sahn. In the 1970s she coll ...more

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