Pre thinking

As you watch, be aware of all the places that she has been and the people she has interacted with during her career as a global care giver.  In her own way she is sort of a new age Mother Teresa, ministering to society’s outcasts. Pay attention to her comments about death with dignity.

Why you should listen

Activist, anthropologist, author, caregiver, ecologist, LSD researcher, teacher, and Zen Buddhism priest — Joan Halifax is many things to many people. Yet they all seem to agree that no matter what role she plays, Halifax is consistently courageous and compassionate. Halifax runs the Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico, a Zen Peacemaker community she opened in 1990 after founding and leading the Ojai Foundation in California for ten years. Her practice focuses on socially engaged Buddhism, which aims to alleviate suffering through meditation, interfaith cooperation, and social service.

Who is she?

As director of the Project on Being With Dying, Halifax has helped caregivers cope with death and dying for more than three decades. Her book Being With Dying helps clergy, community activists, medical professionals, social workers and spiritual seekers remove fear from the end of life. Halifax is a distinguished invited scholar of the U.S. Library of Congress and the only woman and Buddhist on the Tony Blair Foundation’s Advisory Council.

 Discussion questions

  1. Halifax quotes the Dali Lama as saying, “Love and compassion are necessities.” What evidence does she supply to support this statement? What happens when they are missing?
  2. What does Halifax mean by the term “actively dying?” Is there such a thing as passively dying? Why or why not? (Answering this question will require further research on your part.)
  3. What is hospice? Interview a hospice worker and find out how they are trained and what they do. Write a 250-word summary of what you learn.
  4. According to Halifax “compassion has enemies.” Who are the enemies? What is the consequence?
  5. Describe the neuroscience of compassion.
  6. Halifax concludes by saying “women are lotuses in a sea of fire” (quite an image). Make up your own metaphor for compassion. Write a short poem or haiku and share it. What was the reaction?

Compassion and the true meaning of empathy with Joan Halifax

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