by clicking the "Next" arrow.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Mindful : August 2015
Sue Poloway is a licensed clinical social worker who has been using meditation to help her work with the dying and their families for more than 20 years. Stress- ful work, yes. But Poloway insists that working with the dying allows you to recognize how precious life is—it allows you to commit yourself to a life that is kind, compassionate, and authentic. Tell us about what you do. Essentially, I take care of people who’ve been told they have a terminal illness, with less than six months to live. Most of them are at a stage in their lives where they no longer want more hospitalization or extra care treatment—where they’ve told them- selves, “I just want to live the rest of my life the best way I can.” That sounds hard. Yes, it can be hard. In hospice care, you come across a lot of pain and suffering, especially around the loss of independence. Many patients and their families feel the acute loss of all they held dear in the world. Still, those of us who practice hospice care will tell you that this is a call- ing—heartfelt, deeply intimate, and satisfying work. How has meditation changed the way you deal with patients? The fundamental difference is this: Before, I would have approached the family and the dying patient with a thought in my head about the right way to act. I would have been wor- rying about how to behave properly, or how I’d get this family to act or do what they need to do or know what they want to do. Meditation gives you the confidence to accept what unfolds and to trust in the people around you. But what does that really mean? The dying process strips away so much of a person’s ego, so much of the stuff that gets in the way of presence. People who are dying don’t put up with much bull. They feel it when someone is coming in with a role or an idea or a pretense. Dying is messy. People scream at you, get mad at you, want things from you that you cannot possibly deliver. Meditation helps me deal with all of that. All the ideas I might have had about how any given moment should unfold—about what I was going to say or should say—simply drop away. The moment reveals to me what to say, or do, or be. That aware- ness of presence is ver y powerful. I’m sure it is. It grounds you. That’s right. Mindfulness has helped me turn toward the patient’s suf- fering. It allows me to be with the suffering that’s there, to with be with the joy that’s there, and to be with anything that’s there. That’s what mindfulness does: It allows you to be with reality. If I can be there, I con- nect in a deeper way. Talk about that connection. I was the hospice care worker for a family whose 14-year-old daughter had a severe case of cancer. One day, after she’d taken a real turn for the worse, I got a call from the attending nurse saying that the family needed to decide whether to take the girl to the hospital or keep her at home. Now, that’s a really big decision, because if you’re not taking her to the hospi- tal, you’re essentially letting her die. At the time, I was a mother of two teenagers myself, so I understood how scared the parents must have been. When I arrived, the mother was on the phone talking to her spiritual guide. The father was in the room with his daughter, in a lot of pain. I simply sat down on the couch, not say- ing anything, just noticing my breath. I didn’t do anything. After a half hour or so, the father sat down next to me. A little later, the mother sat on the other side of me. I stayed quiet. After a few moments, the father said, “She doesn’t want to go to the hospital.” And the wife said, “I know. We’re not going to.” I feel that my sitting there, steady, not saying anything, allowed the couple to somehow have this conversation, probably the most important conversation they’d ever had about their daughter. My being steady allowed them to find the space to come to their own decision. What drives you to do your work? My passion is to see what’s in front of me clearly even if I don’t want to see it, and then to act in a world with kindness and compassion. Cultivating mindfulness is about seeing where you’re screwed up, or where you’re blind, or where you may have hurt someone. My intention, simply, is to see the truth, even as I acknowledge all my blind spots. ● Caring for the Dying By Teo Furtado Photograph by Lever Rukhin “Mindfulness helps me to be with the suffering that’s there and the joy that’s there. It allows me to be with reality.” 28 mindful August 2015 meet the meditator