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

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  528 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The Buddhist approach to death can be of great benefit to people of all backgrounds—as has been demonstrated time and again in Joan Halifax’s decades of work with the dying and their caregivers. Inspired by traditional Buddhist teachings, her work is a source of wisdom for all those who are charged with a dying person’s care, facing their own death, or wishing to explore a ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 17th 2009 by Shambhala (first published April 1st 1997)
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4.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  528 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2016
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jane B.
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, accessible, simple and very useful.
Essential reading for any of us mortal beings!!
Robert Stevens
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Joanne Mcleod
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
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."
Toni Rahman
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Ann Augustine
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very enlightening, thought provoking. Lessons to be learned at any stage of living.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very profound. Definitely a must read.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
10 stars!
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simple and straightforward as well as rich and deep. Wonderful.
Jeanne Higgins
A lot of information about the dying process. Written from a Buddhist perspective. Couldn't track with the meditative practices with each chapter.
Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax's work is a source of wisdom for those who wish to explore and contemplate the transformative power of the dying process, as well as those who are charged with a dying person's care or facing their own death. ... She notes that all of us will ultimately have to deal with the loss of parents and loved ones and that most of us are largely unprepared emotionally for their deaths. ... The book offers lessons from dying people and caregivers, as well as guided meditation ...more
Nov 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book presents a Buddhist perspective on death and dying along with tie ins to how our US culture is so fearful of death. I must say that there is something about the way it is written that the prose didn't grab me, and I had to force myself to keep reading. It got easier to follow along towards the second half of the book. In spite of that, the information presented and the meditations suggested (there are meditations at the end of each chapter) are well worth the time. Anita and I will be ...more
Jan 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is an important time to review this book considering the suffering and loss of life in Haiti due to a powerful earthquake. I am borrowing this book from Chenoa who is borrowing is from one of her friends. I especially appreciate the meditations suggested after each chapter. The central one "Strong Back, Soft Front" teaches me to let all the dualities of my body teach, lead and inform my hopefully compassionate presence in the world. Practicing many of the phrases in the book helps me locate ...more
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in preparation for a course I was to take with Roshi Joan Halifax at Upaya Zen Center. It is a very important book for everyone to read at least once in their lifetime. Why? Because we all deal with death sooner or later, and we all die eventually. This helps prepare you for when that someone you love is dying. But more importantly, it helps you remember that valuable lesson - it is only through understanding death that we can truly live our own life. Beautiful, Roshi. Thank you ...more
Apr 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: end-of-life-care
Have read this book in true book form, and just completed the Kindle version. This is possibly the best guide for people who work in any segment of End-of-Life Care, or for any of us learning about the beauty of living and dying. The meditations are lovely and helpful, and Roshi Joan's words of compassionate connection with all beings stir my heart. During the past 2 1/2 years, I've carried my Kindle with me during hospice volunteering visits, and shall continue to do so.
Karl Nehring
Dec 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, buddhism
This is a really helpful book with insights about how to approach dealing with people -- including yourself -- facing death. Joan Halifax seasons her text with numerous real-life examples of the kinds of problems that may arise and the approaches that might help to overcome them. This is a book for both the living and the dying, and given that we are all both, it is a book for us all.
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is written by a Zen priest. She uses Buddhist philosophy to deal with illness, death, family and personal relationships. She is very insightful and I have learned a great deal to help with my work in hospice.
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book, filled with wisdom from Joan Halifax's thirty plus years of being present with people as they are dying. This book is a wonderful companion for my writing, my hospice work, and my meditation practice.
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book sharing the Buddhist way of being with dying. Inspiring. Amazing. Beautiful. I am so much more ready to help my friends and family handle pain and death. I am so much more ready to handle pain and death myself. Thank you.
May 30, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is end of life Zen style. This book is an expansion on a pamphlet she wrote in 2003 "Being with the Dying: The Four Boundless Abodes". I liked the book. There is nothing really earth shattering or new per se but some good reminders.
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wise, tutoring book on being alive, and being with the truths of death, our own someday death and others' deaths. It's a book about being able to live with more freedom and generosity of spirit.
Melissa Ann Goodwin
Wonderful book to help with life transitions and accepting the cycles of life. Helpful not just for dealing with situations around death, but also with learning non-attachment and how to navigate difficult times for yourself and loved ones.
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a gift from a friend while my Mother was in her final journey on earth.
Provides perspective on death and gave me strength and comfort to be with her during her last days. Highly recommended for reflection and looking at our own mortality.
J Crossley
This book promotes reducing fear about dying and increasing your compassion. It is a guide for those who face a loved one's death. Rather than exhibit fear and resistance, you can better serve those who are dying by exhibiting compassion, love, and understanding.
Helen Lehndorf
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exemplary scholarship, clear-sighted wisdom and a persuasive argument for us all to do better around death and dying. Joan Halifax is a formidable writer and academic. I was very inspired by this book.
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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
“Life-threatening illness calls us to a place—metaphorically a desert or mountain peak—where, as we sit, the hard wind of reality strips away all the trappings of life, like so much clothing, makeup, and accessories.” 2 likes
“Conceptual knowledge is so valued in our world. Yet in many cultures wisdom is equated not with knowledge but with an open heart. And” 2 likes
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