Compassionate care for all ages and times of our lives
There is a clear call in our society to talk about aging and death in new and more open ways. Our culture is awakening to a more conscious view of our own mortality as well as moving closer to traditions which suggest that knowing how to die well is the secret to living well.
Dr. Bonas compassionate care, listening and sharing seeks to help us make peace with our death and, in so doing, find better ways to live. She brings together a variety of views from Tibetan, Theravadan and Zen Buddhism, as well Christian and other spiritual, cultural traditions. Dr. Bonas has worked with those who are ill and dying, and trained Chiropractors, Acupuncturist’s and Oriental Medicine doctors, therapists, body-workers and other professionals, home care givers and family in the compassionate care of the dying. Together we will examine the issues we must all face: What is death? How can our own death and the death of those we love be faced with greater ease, courage and awareness? Does consciousness survive death and, if so, what do different traditions have to offer us? How can we best prepare? And how can we work more compassionately and confidently with the dying?
Dr. Bonas’ MettaCare counseling offers a deeply compassionate care chaplaincy understanding which helps us see how death can become much less frightening for ourselves and our loved ones. She works together with the family — doctors, nurses, hospice workers, therapists, and bereavement counselors, ministers and priests from both Eastern and Western spiritual practices — Dr. Bonas is seen by many as spiritual teacher, counselor, and chaplain who possesses a profound and caring approach to illness, dying and death.
The fundamental revisioning of our approach to death is one of the most significant ways we can enhance our approach to life. The time has come to join together for a unique, informed and heartfelt exploration of a more holistic approach to death and dying.
Welcome and Opening to views of compassionate care
"Loosening feelings Grief and Loss...there is a grace in finding a blissful awakening, and opening to a vast feeling of compassion after someone has died…Grief and feelings of loss often separate us from continued feelings of the vastness of compassion, as it is not experienced when looking or noticing where someone "is not in our life", but in noticing, and opening "to where they are"… it takes us from a focus inward to outward and beyond…we can assist the cultivation of these feelings by experiencing a vast blue sky in front of us, filled with love and deep compassion stretching out beyond the horizon, and then feel all of the love and compassion pouring back into our heart, while looking up with a gentle smile while breathing in, allow feelings of love and joy to begin steaming into our heart. When one imagines becoming as vast as the sky in this way, joy increases as you begin to feel this connection of opening and receiving love and compassion, and the vastness of your being.
This ancient meditation used by many traditions can help to dissolve and transform grief and sadness into feelings of love and connection with someone who has died, as it helps us to expand our energies to the vastness of where they are, which is “oneness” with our true nature."
Dr. Bonas has benefited for more than 40 years from the wisdom of other experts and innovators in the fields of consciousness, spirituality, including those who are steeped in Tibetan and other cultures.
As a child Dr. Bonas was steeped in prayer healing for the ill and dying, then in her teens and 20’s she began studying Eastern meditation techniques, and began learning the traditional healing and spiritual teachings from elders of different cultures. She was adopted by some so that teachings could be passed to her to teach others. It was the Tibetan teachings of the Bardo Thodol, better known as the Tibetan Book of Dead, or the book of listening, which is a guide through the after death experience. It was this book that lay the foundation for many years of spiritual inquiry into healing body mind and soul. Dr. Bonas was the visionary and director of the center for conscious living and dying which she started in the early 1980’s to respond to the needs of so many people who were unprepared to die, who were facing illnesses of AIDS and cancer.
For many people to talk about illness or the possibility of dying especially, when we are not ill it the topic is avoided, unless people are preparing a “Will” or “Trust”…..Yet even then, it is only about material things, not the care of their soul, the music or atmosphere that they would like around them when they are preparing to travel to the next place…“it is as if, some people still think that the world is flat”, and the thought of voyaging beyond the horizon of this life….often seems too challenging to even consider a possibility of exploring the topic of death and dying, and preparing the way for a sacred journey. Many have yet to consider a view of the world, of consciousness, of the nature of being extending beyond this physical plane. Yet, when we risk the voyage into exploring the present moment of ourselves within the world in which we live, many experiences unfold revealing the answers we seek. It is in these most intimate moments of our lives that Dr. Bonas works with professionals, families and individuals facing concerns with aging, illness, and dying approaches with compassion and care.
Some of the teachers and people who have guided Dr. Bonas:
Pomo Elder: Native American story teller and song healer, teacher and friend. Gave her his teachings and blessings, and prayers to “open the way” of healing and connection. His stories taught many years ago, still teach and guide her in her work today.
Khentrul Lodro T’haye Rinpoche: www.katogcholing.com Teacher of the Phowa practice, and guide for compassionate presence, with the dying and after death.
Roshi Joan Halifax: Zen priest and scholar, Teachings of “Being with Dying”
BEING WITH DYING: The professional Training Program in Contemplative End-of-Life Care has long been dedicated to fostering a revolution in care of the dying. This unique program provides clinicians with essential tools for taking care of dying people with skill and compassion, as well as sustaining resilience and dedication as they serve others. This unparalleled program brings together, in a unique and powerful way, wisdom and practicality to the very sensitive and inevitable experience of encountering the end of life.
- Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD Project Founder & Director www.upaya.org
Therese Schroeder-Sheker- music-thanatology
Using harp, voice, word and image, Therese Schroeder-Sheker conveys the work of the Chalice of Repose Project and its emphasis on contemplative musicianship and music-thanatology. Drawing upon 36 years of clinical and spiritual work at the bedside of the dying, she describes awareness of human mortality and dying itself as integral to the whole of human life and biography.
Dr. Bonas has worked with music-thanatology for the past 25 years. She often uses music to bring comfort, ease, and connection to those who may be ill and dying, recalled from an individual’s early spiritual and religious experiences. These early often childhood memories can often offer a pathway for the heart to find deep comfort and ease through the inner work of music-thanatology, which opens us to the grace of transformative outcomes.
This is love: to fly toward a secret sky,
to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.
First, to let go of life.
In the end, to take a step without feet;
to regard this world as invisible,
and to disregard what appears to be the self.
Heart, I said, what a gift it has been
to enter this circle of lovers,
to see beyond seeing itself,
to reach and feel within the breast.
The Divani Shamsi Tabriz, XIII
Books and references:
"The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom." Angela Arrien writes, "When you find the courage to change at midlife, a miracle happens. Your character is opened, deepened, strengthened, softened. You return to your soul's highest values." Angeles takes you step-by-step through each gate to deepen your most valuable relationships, reclaim your untended creative talents, and shift your focus from ambition to meaning to grow into the exceptional elder you've always imagined you would one day become. www.angelesarrien.com
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche is an acclaimed spiritual classic is widely regarded as one of the most complete and authoritative presentations of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings ever written.
A manual for life and death and a source of inspiration from the heart of the Tibetan tradition, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying provides a lucid and inspiring introduction to the practice of meditation, to the nature of mind, to karma and rebirth, to compassionate love and care for the dying, and to the trials and rewards of the spiritual path. More than two million copies have been printed, in 31 languages and the book is available in 61 countries. It has been adopted by colleges, groups and institutions, both medical and religious, and is used extensively by nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals.
“What is it I hope for from this book? To inspire a quiet revolution in the whole way we look at death and care for the dying and the whole way we look at life, and are for the living.”
The Book of Liberation in the Between
Robert A.F. Thurman, PhD
Dr. Thurman’s work goes deep into the inner scientific and meditative preparation for both death and assistance to the dying, and also addresses the issues arising from the grief of bereavement. Dr. Thurman uses his translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and refers in teachings to Sogyal Rinpoche’s classic, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, the Dalai Lama’s work on the subject, and other more recent Tibetan works in English. He concentrates on the “Death Point Between” preparation and on various post-death ceremonial practices primarily for the bereaved, as they might be adapted from the Tibetan treasuries for people of modern cultural backgrounds.
Robert A.F. Thurman, PhD
The Buddhist world view, along with the view of most spiritual traditions, includes a commonsense acceptance of the probability — indeed reality — of the inevitable continuity of subjectivity after death. The concern then becomes the quality of that continuity. This talk intends to provide an overview of the after-death experience from the Buddhist and Eastern esoteric and psychological perspectives, drawing on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between) and on the work of Western researchers such as Ian Stevenson, Kenneth Ring and Michael Newton.
Afterlife and the Renewal of Jewish Death Rituals
Simcha Raphael, PhD
Judaism has a well-developed system of death rituals designed to assist the bereaved and their families in times of need. Simcha explores the psychological function of Jewish rituals of death and mourning from a spiritual perspective, which takes as a given age-old Jewish teachings that human consciousness survives bodily death. By integrating Jewish ideas of life after death into contemporary life, how do we transform our rituals of burial, mourning and memorialization into “soul-guiding” practices?
Compassionate, Mindful Treatment of Dying Patients
Leslie Blackhall, MD, MTS
Western medicine has not done well in coping with the care of dying patients. Death is seen as a failure of medical care. As a result, dying patients suffer needlessly and caregivers suffer burnout and moral distress. At the University of Virginia, an innovative new initiative normalizes the issue of dying as part of medical care, and teaches clinically excellent, compassionate, collaborative and mindful care of patients with life-limiting illnesses. In this workshop, we explore what it takes to create the systematic change in clinical care that this kind of training might lead to.
The Nature of a Good Death
Leslie Blackhall, MD, MTS
As clinicians caring for those nearing the end-of-life, our goal is to give our patients a “good death.” Our understanding of what that means, however, is colored by our gender, our religious beliefs, our life experiences and, perhaps most importantly, our culture. Dr. Blackhall teaches us to start investigating our own preconceptions and assumptions about what constitutes a “good death.” She guides us to examine what it means to die well across cultures, using case histories, the arts, and social science research. She also explores how this data can be used to deepen and enrich the ways we care for our patients.
Indigenous Teachings on the Art of Dying
Elena Avila, RN, MSN
In the tradition of Curanderismo, death is seen not as an end but as a stage in a constant cycle of living and dying. In workshops Elena aims to expand the insight of participants into ancient traditions that can enhance the experience of dying for patients, families and health practitioners. As both a Curandera and a practicing nurse, Elena teaches a holistic approach that includes ceremonies that assist the dying such as Limpia, or spiritual cleansing, treating Susto, or soul fright, and Platicas, or heart-to-heart talks, to enable the dying person to release their body with joy and peace.
Wonderful work and teachings
When Death Comes: The Refuge of Compassionate Presence
Frank Ostaseski utilizes mindfulness and inquiry practice to develop the three essential qualities needed by those accompanying the dying. They include compassionate presence in the face of suffering, freedom from the limitations of roles, and an abiding trust in the dying process. When these are present, we become a trustworthy refuge for ourselves and those we serve.
The Heart of the Great Matter of Life and Death
The tragedy in being with the dying is not that life is impermanent or sometimes cut short. It is that we often only see in hindsight what really matters. Sitting with others on the precipice of death offers us a rare view. It is a bittersweet teaching often accompanied by a mixture of opposing feelings. It reveals both the precarious and precious nature of our lives. It reminds us that we don’t have time to waste. We can use our lives to prepare for the moment of death and that preparation is a path to living a wiser and more loving life.
With Eyes Open: Being Real at the Bedside of the Dying
The eyes of a dying patient are clear mirrors. In their gaze, there is no place to hide. Being face to face with dying requires a fierce compassion and self-awareness that is best supported through mindfulness, inquiry and fearless receptivity. Frank explores the capacities that best serve at the time of dying such as applied compassion, calm presence and non-attachment to outcome. Weaving together moving stories, Buddhist practices, and good common sense, Frank offers an integrated, contemplative approach to dying that is experiential and goes well beyond the traditional medical models. www.mettainstitute.org
A Graceful Farewell: Putting Your Affairs in Order by Maggie Watson
It is a step-by-step guide designed to give you and your loved ones the gift of peace of mind. It will enable you to gather all of your personal and financial data, organize your thoughts on how to disperse your belongings after you pass on, and state all your wishes with unmistakable clarity. Filling out the pages in this easy-to-use workbook will help you. It comes with a CD so that you can fill out the forms on the computer. Order online: www.cypresshouse.com
My Health Care Wishes : the California Medical Association’s Advanced Health Care Directive Kit
O how this season drops my jaw,
kisses me awake like a dog’s wet nose,
calls to me, Come play before it’s too late.
The trees wear their crooked wigs
of jagged reds and feathered golds,
wave pink fingers above their heads
in the year’s last round of applause.
Ignited, the earth explodes and burns.
Nothing is spared this glazed fury.
Even green says Go. Even the air claps.
Water never was so wet. Breathing
never made such sense. This joy is a muscle
worth working. This yearning always
catches light, never loses color.
There is a moment before death
when the dying is blessed, extended
at times by hours, days, weeks, even months,
when what flushes the face is not fear,
but the inside of obvious. There is only one
thing left to do: go, sell all you have, become
an apprentice to praise.
This is how I mean to live the rest of my life:
urgent as autumn and just as relaxed—
no wasted motion,
no wooden regrets,
no waiting for winter.