I am not a trained Buddhist or a master Zen meditator, but I am drawn to many of the concepts and practices such as mindfulness, awareness, authenticity, being present versus working against, peace, and compassion. These are ways of being that I didn’t have words for, or formal knowledge of, until my adult years.

I learned at the age of 16 that resisting the truth of my dad’s terminal condition was unproductive. Instead, I became a student of “sitting with”, resting in quiet, releasing agendas, and peaceful observance. I sat with him for hours, often in quiet as pain medications were doing their work, and knew that I could not change this path. I could not intervene to keep him here for many more decades, I could not let my agendas or needs interfere with what was inevitable. I could only quietly wish peace for him, be by his side, hold his hand, watch him sleep comfortably, and watch him leave us.

And I quietly felt deep sorrow.

I now realize that zen practices and the path of hospice are not exclusive of each other. There is a beautiful union between not clinging, or not resisting what is and the process of dying peacefully at the end of life. When a decision of hospice care has been made, the very essence of Zen and mindfulness are in action/nonaction.

When I see images of Buddhist practitioners sitting alone in the woods, or on a cliff watching a sunset, I am reminded that I’ve done that also- in the spare bedroom of my childhood home.

Perhaps I have had some training after all.

marcie-photoGuest blog by board member:
Marcie Gilliland