IT HAS BEEN SAID that we will die in much the same way as we have lived. If we lead a good life with love, compassion and less selfishness in our relationships and daily life, then the force of that goodness will lead us to a peaceful and loving death.

The Dalai Lama and other great teachers tell us that to die with bodhichitta,the wish to be of benefit to all beings, is the best way to die. The heart that is filled with love and compassion is the essence of the enlightened mind.

“While I live, I shall meditate on bodhichitta.  This is what gives meaning to my life.  At the moment of death, I will meditate on bodhichitta.  It will help me continue on my way to enlightenment.” 

     -Dalai Lama 

We can begin to develop our good heart through our practice of meditation. We learn to drop into the process of seeing our confusion more clearly and how to rest within it. As we develop stability, we become less concerned with our busy mind and it is easier to rest in the natural stillness that is always present. Through resting in that stillness, we learn to have confidence in our open heart and true nature that will help us to not feel so confused in life and lost in death. Our heart opens and compassion flows as we realize our inter-connection with others and relax our fixation on ourself. Negative thoughts and actions are purified and we accumulate positive tendencies leading to more positive and loving circumstances.

The entire spiritual path is about relaxing, letting go, preparing us for death and easing our transition with peace and love.

As we reflect on what is of value and meaning in our life, it is easier to look at what is impermanent and changing. This can motivate us to look at the effects of our attachments and to relax with the impermanence and change as it plays out in our life. What we truly are is awareness, which opens us to the path of genuine happiness, free of clinging and beyond birth and death. Awareness is none other than our open compassionate heart.

Receiving a terminal diagnosis presents an extraordinary opportunity for growth that inspired my nursing career. At the height of the AIDs crisis, I took care of a young man in the ICU who was dying from this dreaded disease. As his condition worsened, the doctors offered to put him back on the breathing machine in hopes he would have another remission. Knowing his death was near, he declined.

His last days were a struggle as he moved through the gauntlet of emotions with his approaching death. He decided to spend his last hours with his loved ones. On his last day, he radiated love, filling everyone at his bedside and the unit with sweet sadness and compassionate presence. For a young man with so little time to prepare for his death, his transformation from anger, resistance, and planning for an imagined future to open-hearted love and presence was truly a wonder to observe.

For the life that is connected to the path of compassion, every experience is an opportunity to deepen and open to one’s pure inner nature. 

Each difficulty and crisis helps us to look at how we relate to life, to our relationships, and to our death. Our practice turns us to awareness and acceptance, opening us to the freedom to live more fully in each changing moment. Turning everything in life and at death toward the path awakens our open and compassionate heart.

In friendship,

Lama Pat Berube


Meet Lama Pat at the March 8th Introduction to the Dharma Training Program information session.