A Simple Effective Practice for Meditation and End of Life Care

Essential Phowa Practice

By Christine Longaker

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Phowa is considered the most valuable and effective practice for death. The word phowa means the transference or ejection of consciousness into the state of truth. Its success relies on invoking the presence of a buddha (a fully enlightened being), combined with our receptivity and devotion, and the familiarity which comes from having done the practice repeatedly throughout our life.

Sogyal Rinpoche has taught an Essential Phowa practice which is not just for the moment of death. It also helps to purify our regrets, harm and negativity, and it can be used to assist in emotional or physical healing. The Essential Phowa is a practice for our whole life as well as for the time of dying, and it is the principal practice we rely on to offer spiritual support to others at the moment of death, and afterward.

If we practice the Essential Phowa again and again, our compassionate motivation and our confident devotion will grow even deeper, increasingly becoming part of our “flesh and bones.” As we begin to embody the practice, our heart and mind are opened, made more free and limitless. If we prepare for our own death with this depth of familiarity, devotion and trust, we’ll reap other rewards. For instance, our fear of death will diminish. And, even if we should be in a sudden accident, facing death without warning, we’ll know how to let go in the best way, because this profound practice has become like a reflex.

Also, by practicing the Essential Phowa regularly and as strongly as possible, we’ll find that when a loved one is in great distress or is dying, we can respond with all our love and compassion and offer this rich spiritual practice for him or her. When we hear of a great tragedy or natural disaster we will realize that we can counter our feelings of helplessness by offering a practice to spiritually benefit those who are suffering… (see more)

Posted in buddhism, clear light, death and dying, death and dying, end of life care, hospice, hospice, hospice care, Meditation, palliative care, prayers for the dying, spiritual care, spiritual care | Comments Off on A Simple Effective Practice for Meditation and End of Life Care

Benefits of Meditation

Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain.

prayers for the dying

A fascinating article in the Washington Post, looks well researched. Based on the swork of the Mindfulness Based Stress reduction Clinic in Boston. Here is a free pdf workbook that can guide you in your MBSR practice.

We talk quite a bit about these techniques in our book, Caregiver Revolution. In fact mindfulness forms the basis for expanding your practice and helping others at the end of life.

Posted in aging, caregiver stress, caregiver stress, caregiving, end of life care, humor, Meditation, mindfulness, Mindfulness, senior citizens, spiritual care, stress relief, stress relief exercises, yoga | Comments Off on Benefits of Meditation

The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Clear Light Prayer

The Clear Light Prayer, from the American Book of the Dead  is a  simple non denominational prayer that can be used for centering, or for helping another. It is based on the teachings of the The Tibetan Book of the Dead which are still practiced today.

The TBD a “guide for the dying which describes the process of dying as a natural transition. The text explains how by recognizing the mental states and physical sufferings involved we can come into contact with our own essential nature. In this way it is possible to find freedom from confusion and fear.” (from The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life  as narrated by Leonard Cohen)

The readings can be used for anyone who is undergoing transition, distress, illness or trauma. They simply guide the one in transition to recognize his or her true nature which is unaffected by the disturbance. The Clear Light Prayer is a very straightforward and “all-purpose” way to send good intentions to another. You can request readings for yourself or anyone at the Labyrinth Readers Forum.

The Clear Light Reading
Now I am experiencing the Clear Light of objective reality. Nothing is happening, nothing ever has happened or ever will happen. My present sense of self, the voyager, is in reality the void itself, having no qualities or characteristics. I remember myself as the voyager, whose deepest nature is the Clear Light itself; I am one; there is no other. I am the voidness of the void, the eternal unborn, the uncreated, neither real nor unreal. All that I have been conscious of is my own play of consciousness, a dance of light, the swirling patterns of light in infinite extension, endless endlessness, the Absolute beyond change, existence, reality. I, the voyager, am inseparable from the Clear Light; I cannot be born, die, exist, or change. I know now that this is my true nature.

–From American Book of the Dead by E.J. Gold

See also the Clear Light ORB

healing readings for others

You Can DO Something to Help Others


Posted in care giving, care giving, care giving, caregiver stress, caregiver stress, clear light, death and dying, end of life, healing, Meditation, prayers for the dying, spiritual care | Comments Off on The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Clear Light Prayer

Help in Stressful Times

Do you imagine that the universe is agitated? 

Go into the desert at night and look at the stars.

This practice should answer the question.

The superior person settles her mind as the universe settles the stars in the sky. By connecting her mind with the subtle origin, she calms it. Once calmed, it naturally expands, and ultimately her mind becomes as vast and immeasurable as the night sky.


So many beautiful and powerful reminders such as this can be found in this recently discovered edition of the Hua Hu Ching of Lao Tzu, (above is verse 5) as presented  by Brian Walker.  Reminders of what? Our true nature. The message of this little book  is a very powerful tonic, especially in these Trumpled times…

Thank you Natl. Geographic for the photo.

Posted in care giving, care giving, care giving, caregiver support, end of life care, spiritual care, stress, tai chi, taoism, taoism | Comments Off on Help in Stressful Times

The Message of the Upanishads, Swami Ranganathananda

“Strength, strength is what Upanishads speak to me from every page. This is the one great thing to remember, it has been the one great lesson I have been taught in my life…. Freedom – physical freedom, mental freedom, and spiritual freedom – are the watchwords of Upanishads.”  – Swami Vivekananda

I have just discovered this remarkable book, largely due to the efforts of a friend who is wonderful Vedic scholar. Please follow the link above for a short description of the importance of the Upanishads. They form the basis for the philosophy of Yoga and the classic Bhagavad Gita. The language of this particular text is lively and modern. It is a wonderful book with many citations of modern day philosophers and religious thinkers. Two excerpts follow:

  1. “It is the phenomenon of death that makes us ask questions about life. This mood of questioning comes to all people at some time or other in their lives.But the mood does not stay; the pressures of external life drive it away and man continues his humdrum existence, shut out from the knowledge of the mystery which alone renders life meaningful and worthwhile. But if the mood stays, man becomes philosophical; he achieves spiritual depth. If it is not properly handled, however, this mood will make man pessimistic and apathetic, and rob him of all zest in life.”
  2. “When one achieves some sort of order and stability in his/her outer life, and if her mind is not stifled in the process but continues to be creative and seeking, he is bound to feel the impact of a vaster and more significant inner world pressing upon his mind and seeking his attention. It is only then that he becomes aware of something profound and deep within himself; close to him and not far away. This recognition at once makes for a gradual silencing of the clamors of the sense organs; a mood of inwardness and peace descends on the soul of man; and she now enters on the search for the truth of experience, not in the field of sense-data, but beyond them. Only a seeker endowed with such a frame of mind, and backed by a measure of inner discipline, can pierce the outer literary form, and enter into the spiritual atmosphere, of the Upanishads.”

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The Voyager’s Prayer Project

The Voyager’s Prayer ProjectDeath-of-St-Joseph-229x300.jpg

Essential help for those in transition

The Voyager’s Prayer Project is intended to offer guidance and support to voyagers everywhere. The Labyrinth Readers Society is an international group that for over 30 years has been offering readings from the American Book of the Dead upon request and without cost for thousands of individuals in transition – including those in crisis, those struggling with a serious illness, the dying and those who have passed.

We are all beings moving through the great labyrinth of existence. At times we may wish to help another being who is in crisis. Labyrinth Reading gives us the ability to help and convey our good intentions to another being no matter what their situation. With the use of a few simple tools we can connect with each other and help each other. In Labyrinth Reading virtually any text can be used. It is the intention of the reader that is important.

Labyrinth Reading is different from prayer in that no intercessory action on a part of a deity is called for. A reading is direct being to being communication. The first steps in doing a reading are detailed in the Ten Steps to Doing a Reading brochure. The skill of  doing a reading will  be strengthened by practice and if you wish to go even further with this practice we can help.

Posted in cancer care, catholic Prayer, death and dying, end of life, healing, holistic nursing, hospice, mindfulness, palliative care, prayers for the dying, spiritual care | Comments Off on The Voyager’s Prayer Project