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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

What if we understand death as a developmental stage — like adolescence, or midlife? Dr. Ira Byock is a leading figure in palliative care and hospice in the U.S. He says we lose sight of “the remarkable value” of the time of life we call dying if we forget that it is always a personal and human event, and not just a medical one:

"I don’t want to romanticize it. Nobody looks forward to it. But we shouldn’t assume that it’s only about suffering and its avoidance or its suppression. That in addition to, concurrent with the unwanted difficult physical and emotional social strains that illness and dying impose, there is also experiences, interactions, opportunities that are of profound value for individuals and all who love them."

Krista Tippett’s interview with Ira Byock on “contemplating mortality.”

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End of Life Zen Care

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

"At one of the times that I’m supposed to be extremely miserable, I would say that this is the most loving I’ve ever been in my life."

As Rose Tisnado's physical body became ravaged by terminal cancer, she received regular visits from Robert Chodo Campbell, a Buddhist priest and co-founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care. Chodo used Buddhist practices including guided meditation and mindful breathing to help Tisnado stay present to what she was experiencing in the moment, which is profiled in the short film Love and Fear. Tisnado died in 2007 at the age of 57.

The Center is the first Buddhist chaplaincy training program in the United States that’s fully accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. Trainees, approximately 46 of them to date, don’t have to be practicing Buddhists to enroll. The program’s instructors include rabbis, nuns, as well as Buddhists. They learn to develop a Buddhist contemplative practice, and also to support people in their own faith traditions.

What differentiates a Buddhist approach to chaplaincy care? As Chodo explains to Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, most chaplains are rooted in a theology and doctrine that has predetermined ideas and rituals for helping people through illness. Whereas Buddhists, Chodo explains, are “coming in from a place of just being present to whatever is arising in the moment.”

"For most of us, we see suffering and we feel the impulse to do something," says Koshin Paley Ellison, the Center’s co-founder, in a 2008 interview with Rev. Danny Fisher. “A core of the teaching in our training program is learning that just being is enough.”

The film “Love and Fear” provided courtesy of Working Pictures.

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