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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
39 SPRING 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly PonloP rinPoche: It is depressing [laughter]. ajahn amaro: ...but for young people particularly, it’s helpful to bring that into consciousness, because it helps them to real- ize that this is the deal, the contract we all sign, the rules of the game. Bringing that into consciousness brings on an “aha” moment. It helps illuminate that presumption that we should not decline or experience grief. When things do depart, rather than experiencing a sense of shock, we can have an attitude of “There it goes. Bye bye.” jan chozen Bays: Young people also need to be with old people more. The hospice movement is vitally important. For thou- sands of years, we saw people die in our own families and villages, and now it’s hidden from us. We need to bring it back into plain view and help people see death as a normal part of our lives. When I ask people in my classes if they have seen a dead body, very few people raise their hands. PonloP rinPoche: In the Tibetan refugee settlement I grew up in, we saw sick and dying people all the time. When someone dies, you usually take the body into the home for three days, so it’s very common for children to be in contact with that. It helps them get used to impermanence and to appreciate longevity, rather than fear aging. Frank ostaseski: One of the improvisational methods we used with students who we were teaching to do hospice work was to ask them to act old. They all hunched over and mimicked being weak and fragile, except for one Latina who became more powerful and graceful, because she said in her culture that was the image of old age, something fuller. Those of us who are getting older need to speak of the beauty of being older. I just went through a series of heart attacks, and the greatest gift that’s come out of that for me is a deeper appreciation of vulnerability, which is usually seen as weakness. But I’m expe- riencing it as a kind of porousness, of feeling less defended, less armored. If we can impart to younger people the gift of that vulnerability, it may help them to embrace aging. Buddhadharma: No matter how much we may appreciate the beneficial qualities of aging, old age brings some definite diminished capacity. Is there any practice advice that can help us deal with this difficult time—a time when we may not being able to practice as much or offer much to others, and in fact may need to be completely taken care of by others? jan chozen Bays: In our practice communities, I feel that we need to make adjustments so that people who are older can continue to hear and practice the dharma, so we may have to amplify talks more and provide some less rigorous schedules and ways of sitting—or even of reclining if need be. The loss of your spiritual life can be a great sorrow, and we ought not to hasten that for people. (leFt-right):riChArdyAski;BrinkmAnphotogrAphy;ryzsArdFrACkiewiCz;pAttywinter Nice Day Bad News, 1989 by Greg Curnoe ©estAteoFgregCurnoe/sodrAC(2009),photogrAphCourtesyoFwyniCk/tuCkgAllery