Being with Dying

Being with Dying

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

Halifax, Joan





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 and contemplate the transformative power of the dying process. Her teachings affirm that we can open and contact our inner strength, and that we can help others who are suffering to do the same.


Publishers Weekly

In this moving meditation on palliative care, Halifax tells a story about a dying Zen teacher who confesses to his students: Maybe I will die in fear or pain. Remember there is no right way. This sentiment forms the core of a book that provides practical and philosophical guidance to caregivers. Drawing on her 30 years of experience in the contemplative care of the dying, Halifax honestly enumerates the challenges of being with the dying while exalting it as a school for unlearning the patterns of resistance… [it] enjoins us to be still, let go, listen, and be open to the unknown. According to Halifax, bearing witness to dying can teach innumerable lessons to the living—assuming we give up our tight control strategies, our ideas of what it means to die well. Halifax is a Zen priest, and while many of her teachings derive from Buddhism, her supremely readable book will attract readers of all faiths who will appreciate her clarity and compassion and the poignancy of these stories of ordinary people facing their final hours with quiet courage. (June) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


A friend of mine who is dying of cancer suggested I read this book because it had helped her deal with her prognosis. It helped relieve the rage I felt, especially because I have three other friends with cancer. It gave me a sense of peace and the ability to open myself to their needs and the inevitable. A must have as a reference to help one cope with dying friends.

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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.

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Posted on

February 12, 2015