In a recent meeting, our Eldercare group discussed Advanced Directives of all types. During the meeting, I realized that I had not followed up after my very first entry on this blog: “You’re Dying, What Spiritual Care Do You Want?” from February, 2019 ( https://buddhisteldercare.com/2019/02/15/youre-dying-what-spiritual-care-do-you-want/ ) where I pondered my resistance to thinking about my own death and writing a Spiritual Care Directive.
In April I sat down with my Buddhist teacher and went through the detailed Tibetan Buddhist Spiritual Care Directive provided by “Peacefully Prepared”. Note that even if this form is not exactly from your lineage or belief system, it can be a starting point to think about the details of your death, what to do with your dead body, and what might be helpful after your death. If there are things you’ve never heard of, you will have the opportunity to learn about them, then keep them or delete them from your plan. You can get a pdf copy of the Spiritual Care Directive form here: https://buddhisteldercare.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/spiritual_care_directive_ryg.pdf
I had not yet filled out my form and was looking for guidance when I met with my teacher. To hear my teacher say that I should have someone contact him and that he would know what to do was a relief. He has helped many people who were dying and it is also helpful that he knows me and my daily practices. We talked through a few particulars, but mostly meeting with him helped me to cut through my resistance to thinking about and completing my Spiritual Care Directive. After the meeting, I went to a coffee shop where I was supposed to meet a friend. My friend called to say that she was sick and wouldn’t make it to our meeting, so I sat there in the coffee shop and completed the first edition of my Spiritual Care Directive. It took me less than 30 minutes. (This after months of trying to make the time to do it.)
A few take-aways that may help you.
- If you have a teacher or spiritual friend who will be your spiritual guide when you are dying, and from a Buddhist point of view after your death, meet with him or her to directly discuss your personal Spiritual Care Directive. I found this was so helpful in increasing my confidence and comfort, and in diminishing my fear and resistance. I hope that you will plan such a meeting and that it will support you in very positive ways.
- When I visualized myself on my deathbed, I realized that the prayers and practices that would bring me peace were those that are most familiar. For example, the Four Immeasurables and Bodhicitta Prayer by Shantideva figured very large in my Directive along with other daily practices. I have completed several Nyung Ne retreats which seem to have embedded the Buddha of compassion, Avalokiteshvara, in my consciousness. I have read about numerous potential prayers, practices and mantras in books such as “How to Enjoy Death” by Lama Zopa Rinpoche ( https://shop.fpmt.org/How-to-Enjoy-Death-eBook_p_2836.html ), but realized, that although many are beautiful, they would not be as powerful for me unless I was familiar with them. I came to realize that what is familiar, what I practice daily, will be most important when I am dying. I also believe (and hope) that practices I do over and over again will be important when the conceptual mind that is dependent on the brain no longer functions and subtle forms of consciousness become prominent. As a result, this has given me added motivation to continue a daily practice, to recognize the value of repetition, and to add a few things to my daily menu. Also, it highlights the importance of deep practice retreats especially if they are followed by daily practice. This may be self evident, but this process really drove it home for me.
- Whatever you write down is a “first edition”. As we say about everything; it is impermanent. Revisions are possible and likely as you and those around you change. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of getting it done! It is worthwhile to create a “first edition” because you never know when you are going to need it.
I would love to hear your thoughts about Spiritual Care Directives as well as your experiences with them.
Submitted with love and compassion,