The Majesty of Your Loving: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s (see below), is a Nautilus Book Awards silver medalist. It was also a finalist for two other awards: Benjamin Franklin Book Award and Foreword Magazine Book of the Year. And the book will be excerpted in Best Buddhist Writing of 2008! The Majesty of Your Loving, previously a finalist, has won first from Independent Publisher Book Awards 2009 in the category of Aging/Death & Dying.
Dharma friend, Richard Brady, has edited and contributed to an important new book:
Tuning In: Mindfulness in Teaching and Learning
Richard Brady and Irene McHenry, Editors
The essays in this collection vividly demonstrate that contemplative methods can be used with any curriculum content to support capacity development for self-understanding, empathy, emotional intelligence and social skills. These experientially-based vignettes show children, teenagers and teachers using pebbles, mandalas, literature, beanie babies, yoga, journals, homework, artwork to strengthen the core skills underlying all learning: concentration, observation, relaxation, and open, receptive awareness with a positive, curious attitude. This pedagogy teaches children a new way to think, to learn, and to know, leading to the development of critical thinking and the valuing of multiple perspectives, the capacity to solve problems and the motivation to do so as members of their local and the world community.
Published by Friends Council on Education.
Dharma brother, Dewain Belgard, has given us a very fresh approach, indeed, in his newly-released book, Breath-Centered Conscious: The Way of Equanimity. See how breath-centered consciousness relates to realization of the most ennobling teachings of the Buddha
“Breath-Centered Consciousness is a manual for practicing meditation. But don’t expect to find the same instructions in this book that you’ve read in other meditation manuals. The practice described is ancient–the practice of anapana sati or “mindfulness of breathing”–but the way it’s described may surprise you. And the way some common problems in meditation are dealt with is fresh and powerful. Distraction, for example, isn’t a matter of what we pay attention to, but of how we pay attention–in the clinging anxiety of self-centeredness or in the equanimity of breath-centered consciousness. Meditation isn’t something restricted to a special time of practice, but a way of life in which every moment is special. We meditate because we want to be happy. But we find in meditation that our happiness can’t be separated from the happiness of others. If you’re new to meditation–or if you’ve been meditating a while, but feel something is lacking in your practice–this book is for you.”
In November, 2008, Maxine was awarded the 2008 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
November 20, 2008
National Book Awards: Maxine Hong Kingston
By MOTOKO RICH
Maxine Hong Kingston, who received the 2008 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards ceremony on Wednesday night, showed that even at 68 she could adapt to the changing publishing landscape.
The National Book Foundation announced Kingston’s award in September. In her acceptance speech, she revealed that she tried to take advantage of “my fresh fame to write an article that would help Barack Obama get elected.”
When the article was rejected by every newspaper she sent it to, she said, she decided to post it online. “All I had to do was type, then click a button marked publish. Yes, there is such a button. Click, publish. Voila, I was published,” she said. The response was instantaneous, she said. “They chose me to be their Facebook friend. I felt young again. All that rejection, then miraculous publication and making new friends all over the Worldwide Web.”
She said she was currently writing page 173 of a long poem. “I am using poetic form because I’m old enough to know that I can cease to be at any moment and I can condense all I know into short lines that can stand on their own,” she said. “Thank you for accompanying me on the immense journey and thank you for giving me this spurt of praise that will carry me to the finish line.”
For more than thirty years, Wendy Johnson has been meditating and gardening at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in northern California, where the fields curve like an enormous green dragon between the hills and the ocean. Renowned for its pioneering role in California’s food revolution, Green Gulch provides choice produce to farmers’ markets and to San Francisco’s Greens restaurant. Now Johnson has distilled her lifetime of experience into this extraordinary celebration of inner and outer growth, showing how the garden cultivates the gardener even as she digs beds, heaps up compost, plants flowers and fruit trees, and harvests bushels of organic vegetables.
Johnson is a hands-on, on-her-knees gardener, and she shares with the reader a wealth of practical knowledge and fascinating garden lore. But she is also a lover of the untamed and weedy, and she evokes through her exquisite prose an abiding appreciation for the earth—both cultivated and forever wild—in a book sure to earn a place in the great tradition of American nature writing.
In 2008, Dharma Friends’ longtime advisor and colleague, Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle, published her memoir, The Majesty of Your Loving: A Couple’s Journey
Through Alzheimer’s (Green Mountain Books, P.O. Box 381487, Cambridge, MA 02238-1487).
An excerpt from her blog, http://www.journeythroughalzheimers.blogspot.com follows.
I recently read a compelling story about a man with Alzheimer’s, and I knew immediately it would become the centerpiece of this newsletter. We need to share stories like this one, because it shakes up our basic assumptions and suggests we still have much to learn about the mysteries of dementia.
Those of us caring for someone with Alzheimer’s know how challenging the process can be. We’re continually invited to stretch and open our minds to situations we could never have imagined. The following story appears in Rachel Naomi Remen’s beautiful book Kitchen Table Wisdom. Rachel, a physician in her 70’s, has been called “a pioneer in the medicine of the future.” She is both a wounded patient (Crohn’s disease) and an exceptionally gifted, wise, and compassionate healer. Through the power of story telling–based on her vast experience with people in crisis–she reminds us about hope, mystery, and the presence of soul in healing.
The story: Tim, then a teenager, had a father who’d had Alzheimer’s for ten years. Now in the late stages of the illness, his father could no longer speak and needed to be cared for like a very young child. One Sunday Tim and his brother, then fifteen and seventeen years old, were watching their father so their mother could go to the market. The boys were watching a football game on TV while their father sat silently nearby in his chair.
Suddenly, he collapsed, slumped forward and fell out his chair to the floor. The two sons realized the seriousness of the crisis. Their father’s face was ashen, his breathing erratic and rasping. As the older brother went to help his father, he told Tim to call 911. Before he could get to the telephone, much to Tim’s amazement, the voice he hadn’t heard for years–a voice he could barely remember–spoke out.
“Don’t call 911, son. Tell your mother that I love her. Tell her that I am all right.” And Tim’s father died.
By the time Tim told his story, he had become a cardiologist and was speaking at a medical meeting. He looked around at the doctors mesmerized by his story and explained that an autopsy revealed that his father’s brain was almost entirely destroyed.
“For many years, I have asked myself, ‘Who spoke?’ I have never found the slightest help from any medical textbook…. Carrying this question with me reminds me of something important, something I do not want to forget. Much of life can never be explained but only witnessed.”
Reflections: During both my husband and mother’s illnesses (recounted in The Majesty of Your Loving), I too pondered the question of what remains when the brain has been ravaged by dementia.
It’s my intuition, amplified by my incurable optimism, that something does remain. Call it consciousness or soul or spirit or whatever word works for you. Obviously this can’t be proved. Nor disproved. Wisdom teachings claim that we–the essence of who we are – are more than the mind. “We have a mind but we are not the mind,” as the saying goes. With both my husband and mother, there were situations that confirmed this intuition that we were connecting beyond the realm of words.
Suggestions: With dementia, we know that the feeling function remains for a long time. That means we can always find ways to express our affection, kindness, or love toward them. We all know the preciousness of touch. (If you’re comfortable with touch, massage their hands, feet, or back, etc.) Try connecting by singing softly to them. Pray with them. Just be with them in silence.
There’s a beautiful loving-kindness practice from the Buddhist tradition. Called metta, which means loving-kindness, these simple, prayerful phrases are usually repeated three times, silently or aloud.
May you be content
May you be free from suffering
May your heart be at ease
May you be peaceful
Or use any phrases that have special meaning for you or the other person.