Over the summer I had the pleasure of meeting Stan Goldberg at Many Rivers Books and Tea. He glows with love and warmth.
Stan's got cancer, serious cancer, and to deal with his cancer, he decided to get acquainted with the dying.
Stan's written a book called Lessons for the Living about his experiences as a hospice volunteer. His book probably won't sell well. Most people seek to avoid thinking about dying and death.
Funny, because dying is the ONE thing you can count on happening to you. Kind of important, too, don't you think? Death deserves more than suppressed thinking.
Stan's book is a worthwhile read, a reminder that happiness and fulfillment do not come from consumerism and material wealth, as advertisers and the government officials who work for them would have you believe.
Happiness comes, paradoxically, from coming into relationship with the murky and mucky but fertile unconscious, like a lotus blossom rooted in pond bottom mud.
Here's Stan, speaking for himself:
In the middle of his talk, Stan played his Native American flute. He plays it for his hospice patients. The music spoke so eloquently that I decided to invite one of these flutes into my life. I play it every day, both as a part of my daily meditation practice and in kindergarten as a musical interlude before we partake of our mid-morning snack. It's a beautiful gift.
...Hospice isn't a place—it's a state of mind, a willingness to compassionately accompany someone on their final journey, not judgmentally but as a friend who was willing to hold one's hand, cry, or just witness the end of life. As I walked that path with more than two hundred people, they became friends who led me into events that I had to face without any emotional armor. It was the first time in many years I felt authentic. These experiences reflected what's important in life more than could countless books and workshops. I watched the joy of a woman whose mouth was wired closed as she smelled a fragrant slice of apple, and I learned to accept what's possible rather than what's desired. I sat with a musician who was listening for the last time to a Grieg concerto, and I understood the beauty of things that had no words. As I played Chutes and Ladders with a child, I felt grief for the first time in my life and I cried as he told me he knew this would be our last game.
Although every one of these people has died—these people who have taught me so much, my hospice teachers—this isn't a book about death. It's a blueprint for living. I participated in events so powerful they grabbed me and said, "Listen, this is important." When I paid attention, I felt a change. It was as if every time I left the bedside of a patient, I stepped into the crispness of a fall morning. Lucky people experience these transforming moments a few times throughout their lives. I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience these spiritual moments almost weekly for the past six years.