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Sogenji monastery

Enso House hospice

Today we had a meeting with the Roshi, Betsy and Charles for the whole sangha of Sogenji. The Roshi gave an introduction about how for people of training to face death is most important. The pain of a dying person can be taken care of, but the mind of a dying person needs also to be supported. The dying process of their teacher was closely supported and observed by Betsy and Charles, which opened the path for their vision to bring forth Enso House hospice from over 10 years ago. When taking care of someone dying, we are actually seeing our own death.

Betsy is deeply touched by the intensity of training at Sogenji: “At the beginning I was working in a big NY hospital for children and later working with older people, having seen the dying process at all stages. The experiences were dominated by the doctors who are in control, hooked up on machines, seeing death as the enemy, life needed to be extended no matter how the quality. Medicated often unconscious until the end of the life. When our teacher got sick with a terminal illness. Come with me to the threshold, and you will receive a most amazing gift. I was very excited when the Roshi shared his idea to have people die in a different way, and with an instructive way about the dying process. David and Cynthia and George Mosely were involved in this project. Enso House is on a beautiful piece of land, cool forests, warm pastures. People know they have only weeks or months left, if they cannot be cared for at home, when it is not possible at home, which would be the best situation. They receive some medical care, but not too much. The team that care for the patient are Ann Cutcher, a physician with many years of experience, and MyoO, a nurse, and many volunteers who offer their help and provide training. When people come to Enso House, dignity and resolve their life, much to a good closure as possible. Some people chose to spend their last days surrounded by family, children running around, others prefer quietude and a time to look more inward. So in Enso house people can chose how they want to die, so different to the experience in a hospital. Well known in the community, taking care of one patient at a time. It also offers the experience of being with a fellow human being coming to an end, the end of a physical body, the end of a thinking mind. When the consciousness is gone, that point is one of the most amazing experience, there is a profound silence, like an absence of life, like a veil is pulled aside and you experience what some traditions call the great mystery. That great mystery that no words can describe fully, that which lies behind what all our senses perceive, everything that unfolds in that moment, the family and friends are taken on that journey, which becomes more and more joyful, wounds can heal, love can grow, in the aura of that last point of life. This is the invitation to people of training to travel with a person who is dying, years and years of listening and practising and focus are required to get to that place.”

Charles: “I would like to thank Chisan and the Roshi for reeling us in, supporting us to come to this wonderful monastery in Japan. Thanks to our wonderful Kendra who has been a catalyst for us coming here. Appreciation to everyone in the room, putting up with us doing things in wrong ways. Enzo House has opened an avenue for connecting to your deep wisdom. Everything you do here brings great light and heeling to the world by what you do here. I think you know how much the world needs your help, it helps the balance of the world. I can maybe carry back a little bit of that depth. But would like to express my thankfulness to you all. I would like everyone to consider the possibility to spend time at Enso House. I believe it will strengthen your presence. It is needed, your presence and focus. There are volunteers, yet there is not enough help, so any help from people like you would be very important. Don´t worry about not having skills, Enso house does give you the skills, they do the training and show you what needs to be done. I wanted to emphasize what Betsy said, it was never my path, I don't like to see blood, so I worked with many NGOs and supporting groups who bring a change to the world. My spiritual journey has been very alive with Enso house. For some parts of my life I was avoiding death, about 35 years ago when our teacher became ill within a year, he invited us to come on the journey with him, and he being a very awake person, so he shared about it. Going right to the end with someone, breathing weakly, and then there is the final breath. Yet that unique person was still alive, there is a continuity of life, a significant moment in my life. Since that time I had the opportunity including a number of friends, it has always been a moving moment, some blessing, some grace. Death has been in western culture denied and hidden, a great amount of fear around death. We believe that Enso house is a place that changes that, that impermanence is part of our life, a meaningful time of change in consciousness, dying being part of life. This awakening and resistance can turn our society from being materialistic to being much lighter and more enlightened, that is why we are drawn to this work. Enso House is right next to Tahoma, and the relationship between Tahoma and Enso House, you can walk back and forth. The community has received Enso House extremely well, yet as family member went to Enso House, the family could stay as long as they wanted, with tea and sweets, the reputation is growing, loved by the community, where also volunteers are coming forth from again. And so Enso house in non denominational, a stealth introduction to Zen, also learning more about Tahoma, Zen practice. The caring that Zen represents. Thank you very much.”

Amos from Israel about his experience in Enso House: “I heard from Daichi about a hospice which I had never heard about. So I said yes! - well, it is in America, and for 6 months, and it part of your training. - I didn`t quite understand how this is part of my training. I said yes, and then started to worry, how can I practice without sanzen and sangha. So it became my challenge over there, how to do it. For me it was two parts: we had only four days with a dying patient, the other time was waiting for a patient. Tahoma and Enso house is a possible challenge to continue. You can do it there and keep going. The patient taking care of Kay, first time in my life I saw the whole process, very short only four days, the family and friends accepted death. They were sad and love Kay. So many people coming and I could learn from Kay how life can be celebrated by so many people coming by. The work of care taking, so many things I never did before, like cleaning the person who to me look like becoming a child again, going to the toilet, cleaning the bed, seeing the person, she was suffering, maybe in pain, when she died it was like freedom for her and for everyone. A strong experience to see it. The other experience was taking care of the family, speak with people a lot, forget yourself, serve them, being open with them. Enso House is open, the community is always coming by, the place is about taking care of death, but it has so much life, always people coming by. After she died I did not get any answer, but the question became stronger. The body stopped working during four days, more and more, and from some point she was like a statue, nothing. Before you could feel there was life in it. It is possible to do the practise anywhere, that is what was important to see. Dairin is really great, I could do Dokusesshin for 5 days. It was good for me to do it there.”

Q and A

Domyo: How about supported death?

The right to have some choice of how to die, raising awareness of how to die. Washington state is one of the few state who passed laws any individual who would die within 1-2 months, the right to go to a physician who would give them medicine to end their life. We had many conversations about this, with Roshi and Daichi as well, I don´t want to state an outcome, but it has not been an issue at Enso House. It did trigger some good conversations, would we want people to know Enso House as a place where people gte assisted in dying, rather than cared for at the end of their life. We would consider everyone individually. We would encourage people to trust the process, that dying would not be so fearful about the process of dying. Very few people who are given the medication ever take it. Once they have it they feel like can be in control, yet as the process unfolds, they are able to stay with it.

Kosho: How are spiritual needs met by the folk at Enso House?

We learn what the patients spiritual need is, a special religion, their minister from the church will come, mostly Christian people. You do not have to be Buddhist to be able to enter Enso house.

Yamato: Could you talk more about the continuation of life after death?

The essence of our dying teaching was like perfume in the air, it lasted for several days, then it diminished, a sense of great liberation from the limited, pained body. He was no longer conscious in his body, yet he was very present. He didn`t just disappear. It was like a certainty.

Roshi´s last resolution: “The three people gave their experience of how a body dies, but how they were able to feel that something bigger stayed. From there our experience of life comes forth. We look at the world from a level of 2m height, from there we see everything. Russel Schweikhard who was an astronaut, and when he was on space walk, there was no sound, no heaviness. He wanted to repair some wire, but the Nasa camera of his work was stuck, so he had 5 minutes free from the schedule. We have sounds, weight, sights – all that is gone. His brain became empty, not knowing why he was here. He was a scientist, not a spiritual person. Then he saw the earth below himself, and realized intuitively why he is on this planet. When returning to the earth, his life had changed. When a person dies, it is not the person, but we are actually facing our own death, without any dualism. Completely letting go, the death of our parents, of our friends, not only in a hospice, the funny personality, where is that gone? We can experience that we were always surrounded by some greater life. That is our zazen, letting go of our thoughts, that is like the death of a person right next to us, free from any ideas about it. We can feel it intuitively. The truth of this world in our consciousness. Letting go of our body, piercing through all three world, all times. That is Buddhism. That is the experience we are all looking for. We can´t let go of our thought. But when we can feel it intuitively, we face our own truth right in that very moment. That is how far I would like everyone to go. Right there the experience for everyone is waiting. That is the resolution. Enso House is not a public hospice. It would need eight people to be an officially working and financially supported hospice. But that would be hard, 20 people would be needed for the staff, there would be no time to take care of each patient. Like Betsy said at the beginning. Yet Enso House is possible because the people there work for free, there is hardly any place like this in this world. Enso House is only possible because there it does not work for money, but it work in faith and trust for the deep realization, for that people work. Nowadays society is not like that. Enso House tries to find insurance for people working there, financial support from the country. This is a blessed situation,possible only because of the staff´s faith. Everyone has this prepared base, where from experience of the empty self it is possible. If you do not have deep enough faith, you will see this right up front, deep belief and faith coming forth from there.”



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