Friday, August 14, 2015

Zen and the Art of Dying Well - The New York Times

 "According to the National Institute of Health, 5 percent of the most seriously ill Americans account for more than 50 percent of health care spending, with most costs incurred in the last year of life in hospital settings. Economists call this a “cure at all cost” attitude. And in the next 25 years, longer life spans and the aging of baby boomers are expected to double the number of Americans 65 years or older, to about 72 million.



What if the most promising way to fix the system is to actually do less for the dying?

That’s what the not-for-profit Zen Hospice Project has been trying to prove through a fascinating, small-scale experiment in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood.

The project, which had its origins in the San Francisco Zen Center in 1987, takes the typical hospice approach of caring, rather than curing, and puts an East Asian sensibility on it. In line with Zen Buddhist philosophy, it trains its volunteers, nurses and even cooks to care mindfully. That might mean sitting in meditative silence at the bedside of someone who is dying. Or focusing on the senses as the most direct connection to the present moment of life — cooking a fragrant meal with fresh ingredients, giving a tender hand massage, singing a favorite song."

For someone who is dying, the past can be too complicated to contemplate and the future is jarringly unknown. Focusing on the present, Zen Hospice Project believes, is where the potential for living most meaningfully — even while dying — exists.

Zen and the Art of Dying Well - The New York Times


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