Joan Halifax, PhD, is a Zen priest and anthropologist who has served on the faculty of Columbia University and the University of Miami School of Medicine. For the past thirty years she has worked with dying people and has lectured on the subject of death and dying at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Medical School, Georgetown Medical School, and many other academic institutions. In 1990, she founded Upaya Zen Center, a Buddhist study and social action center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1994, she founded the Project on Being with Dying, which has trained hundreds of healthcare professionals in the contemplative care of dying people.
In Tibetan there’s an interesting word: ye tang che. The ye part means “totally, completely,” and the rest of it means “exhausted.” Altogether, ye tang che means totally tired out. We might say “totally fed up.” It describes an experience of complete hopelessness, of completely giving up hope. This is an important point. This is the beginning of the beginning. Without giving up hope—that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are.
We could say that the word mindfulness is pointing to being one with our experience, not dissociating, being right there when our hand touches the doorknob or the telephone rings or feelings of all kinds arise. The word mindfulness describes being
right where we are. Ye tang che, however, is not so easily digested. It expresses the renunciation that’s essential for the spiritual path.
To think that we can finally get it all together is unrealistic.
—Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, page 37–38
by Brett Campbell Nobody asks for the chaplain in the good moments. This is an unspoken rule I realized early in my career. Nobody thinks of the chaplain after they’ve delivered a healthy child...