Preparing for Death in Boston

I have been going back and forth about how much to reveal and whether to remain anonymous. I have decided to be open and use my real name…I have a terminal cancer diagnosis, which I am at peace with. I got the diagnosis 3 years ago. 5-year survival is 20%, so the math is pretty clear.

Initially I found Andrew’s work though through the lens of preparing for death. Having lived and worked inside the FPMT organization for many years, (with a stint in Barnet Vermont right near Karme Choling), I have been aware of his work for years.

I have had lucid dreams since childhood and throughout my life, as well as less positive phenomena such as what the Tibetan call “pressing by demons” - what scientists would call sleep paralysis.

I am keenly interested to do whatever I can to prepare for death. I have been very fortunate to have received advice from many senior teachers in the Gelug tradition. I would welcome the advice of Andrew’s students who know what events are coming up where Andrew is focusing on death and dying.

Thank you for all the student organizers who are making Andrew’s teachings available to the world - I sincerely rejoice in your efforts.

Kimber

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Kimber, so glad you found your way here. There are many resources and opportunities on the Night Club site for you to profit from, resources and teachings that can help you, and us, on the journey. Tuesday evenings Andrew is going through his new book, Dreams of Light, line, by line, page after page, adding valuable content after almost every section. You can access these Book Study meetings with Emerald membership. The link is here.

He also has a weekly “hangout” instituted at the beginning of this pandemic, a Zoom conference which is directed towards all the fears, uncertainties and questions that so many people are encountering daily and nightly! This meets on Thursdays at 3:00pm EST. The free link is here.

Andrew also has been offering online Bardo courses which focus less on the dream yoga aspect and more on preparing for the Bardo and navigating through it when there. He has one course online through Tricycle and others as well.

I know I speak for others in hoping for the best for your condition and that your preparations remain fruitful and guide you in the best way possible!

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Is this recommendation from your personal healing experience? There is conflicting information about him online.

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Fair enough. I have been reading a friend’s excellent book, Woke. An Anesthesiologist’s View, which calls into question all sorts of ways we determine our beliefs and biases and how we are influenced in so many ways to form our opinions. Instead of dismissing your advice I will do as you suggest and question it, and investigate Dr. Young’s work for myself. I see enough closed minds everywhere I look. I’d rather not add to that preponderance of contractions.

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Dear Nikki

Nikki your reaction is not uncommon. I have heard it all before and I have no illusions of changing your mind. To you I would simply say that you are welcome to treat your own terminal diagnosis however you want. You are most welcome to offer your suggestions to your own loved ones. However, I do suggest that you should refrain from doing the same to people you do not know.

This comment is EXACTLY why I was hesitant to “come out.” Luckily, I have fairly thick skin and I haven encountered this particular form of opinion many times before.

For the others who are reading this, I will attempt to explain.

Dear readers, views such as this are hurtful, harmful, and psychologically dangerous to people suffering from major illness. Those of us facing this reality are facing significant mental, psychological, spiritual and physical challenges. This type of comment pours salt in the wounds. It essentially blames the patient for their own illness and decline. Note the opening salvo: “why rush to leave?” as if it is my choice. “You do not have to die” implies that if I do pass away, which I clearly will, it was my fault. And “I have nothing against dying if it is a conscious choice.” And then the implication that I am dying because of “false beliefs.”

I am not dying because of my beliefs. I am not in a rush to leave. It is not a conscious choice.

Kimberly Fitzmorgan

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Kimberly,

There are all sorts of excellent resources for you to peruse on this website. I reiterate that I’m glad you’re here and I’m able to confirm from my own experience that the overwhelming majority of Night Club participants are non-judgemental and supportive of each other and offer compassion to all of us who are hurting in all the ways possible at this broken time in our collective and individual lives.

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Kimber,

By bravely putting yourself out here as you have you’ve immersed yourself into the consciousness of a number of fellow bardonauts…as we are all essentially on the same journey.

You may be facing this transition sooner than most of us but I think I speak for many here who have read but not posted when I say that you are not facing it alone.

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Dear Kimberly,

Since you write that you had talked already to buddhist lamas, I presume that you practice dharma. If this is so, I allow myself to reply on your request for comments on what you can do to prepare, which includes things that make sense to me from a dharma viewpoint. If this does not resonate with you, I apologize for my directness.
You might already know and perhaps have experienced, that in Dzogchen meditation, while resting in the nature of mind, there lies the opportunity to experience clear light.
Many qualified teachers of different traditions explain and teach about this tangible and real experience.
In the recent podcast of @Andrew s book study group, he also goes into the subject.

In Dream Yoga Andrew writes how this clear light can be also experienced in dreamless, lucid sleep.

And it is said that it will be experienced in the Bardo state at time of death (Chikai Bardo) - there lies the opportunity to directly experience clear light.

Dharma teachers who I have gotten to know explain the importance of recognition of clear light and refer to it as our true self.
It is said that this is the primordial eternal self.

In Dzogchen meditation one is able to experience at least glimpses of the clear light.

If any of this resonates at all, perhaps practicing clear light meditation could be a form of preparation.
Best wishes.

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Reading through all this thread and pondering, I happened upon this article by Judy Lief on helping those who are preparing for the end. It was actually shared at the same time as one of @Andrew’” ‘swritings on how to help those who are dying as part of one of Mingyur Rinpoche’s courses on the bardos. I found it especially pertinent that “not giving advice is a key instruction - just like we are training in client-centered therapy.

“Not Handing Out Advice

We could begin by accepting people as they are rather than trying to change them. It is quite common for people who are sick or dying to be bombarded with all sorts of advice. They are magnets for it. People who would not ordinarily go around telling their friends how to conduct their lives suddenly transform into pundits and experts once their friends fall ill. We are so anxious to help that we don’t wait to be asked; we just launch in. And we have all sorts of opinions and criticisms as to how our friends are doing and how they should be handling their situation. It is easier to hide out in those opinions and become judgmental and demanding than to let go of our expectations and ideas and be left with nothing to hang on to. But that nothing-to-hang-on-to point is where we can actually make a connection.

It is not easy to resist this urge to fix things and make them go our way. However, all those demands place a terrible burden on others. They are based on rejection, not acceptance, and they create barriers that separate us from one another. We could work to reverse that pattern by accepting the sick or dying person as she is without trying to make her please us by how she goes about things. That might not sound like much, but it is rare. Especially when someone is sick or in a weakened state, it is common for people to pile in and lay heavy trips on her. So merely to have someone visit who doesn’t immediately start with “You should do this, and you should do that; you should feel this, and you should feel that” is a gift. It is unusual to encounter someone who doesn’t immediately hand out advice.

Seeing the Ordinariness of Death

Beyond that, we can help by not taking the view that death is a big mistake. Daniel Callahan, the medical ethicist, once said, “Despite the casual talk in our culture of death as ‘a part of life,’ I believe that, in reality, the dominant view is actually that of death as an outsider.” In our culture, unfortunately, death is often seen as a mistake, a failure, a breakdown. Something has gone terribly wrong, and everybody feels it. The person dying feels that she has made some big mistake and is disappointing everybody by dying—and the people around her feel angry, as though she had failed them in some way by forcing them to have to deal with this messy and painful situation. There is no recognition of the ordinariness of death, no acceptance of the fact that it happens to everyone.

Death is natural to life. It is not a mistake, sad though it may be. When we encounter death in our lives, for whatever reason, death just happens to be what is going on. It does not help to make a dying person feel guilty that he is dying or that he is doing something wrong. He should not need to apologize to us for dying or try to hide it from us because it is too embarrassing. It is more helpful to respect death as it is—a powerful and challenging experience that is at the same time quite ordinary and to be expected.”

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Thank you for your thoughts. I have come back to this community to participate in the Dream Yoga book club. So your comment is very helpful.

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ChokyiThinley thank you for this. I know that people have intense fear over death, and that is often reflected in the way they react to the dying. This is a great article that explains how that feels to hear. I will definitely keep a copy of this.

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I wish you the best, I am very sorry to hear this.

@_Barry provided this link in another thread, I found it very powerful and very moving:

Keep the faith, you came to the right place, so many great resources here.