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Tag Archives: Jizo ceremony

caregiver’s curiosity

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I hosted a jizo ceremony for members of our mediation group yesterday — an occasion to reflect on personal losses, sew little garment, and place them on statues in our meditation garden. All done in silence, except for a couple of chants and poems; solemn, some tears. Afterwards two people wrote to say that “it was more profound and beautiful than I could have imagined. We both noticed a sense of lightness ….”

While I guided the proceedings, I also visited my own grief. Once everyone had left, I marvelled at this wonderful practice. How did I get to be so fortunate (blessed?) to have the tools and opportunity to be of service? I felt drained and took to bed; woke up an hour later, refreshed and still.

Many friends are caregivers: nurses, counsellors, health care providers, volunteers, companions, teachers, parents. How do you do it, day in and day out?

What motivates a caregiver’s actions?
Why are we willing to be with another’s pain?
Who can say?
We want to help,
but that’s not the whole story.
We feel obliged,
but that’s not it either.

Beneath the many motives of the conditioned mind
rests the mysterious Tao,
which is the true source of all caring.
We can’t see it or understand it.
We can only trust that it
is the origin of what we do
and the power that helps us see it through.

source: Martin, W. & M. (2011). The caregiver’s Tao te Ching. Novato, CA: New World Library, p. 24. The Tao te Ching is a 2600-year old Chinese text. The term tao can be translated as “way” to mean course of life and its relation to eternal truth. 


healing [updated]

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This morning seven people will come to my home for a Jizo ceremony — to remember and set adrift the spirit of a baby that died a while ago. I may say more about this later in the day. Stephen Levine writes that “the secret to healing is no secret at all.”

Lather that day. I feel so tired. Could be that spending two hours amidst a close-knit group mourning the loss of an unborn child weighs heavily on my heart. The kind of ache that even a mid-day nap won’t erase. Could be that my body has assumed some of the pain felt by others — not unlike Quan Yin, the Buddhist guardian of compassion, who “hears the cries of the world.” Or simply a cold coming on.

This morning I read aloud these lines by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore: 

Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way.

May all beings be at ease.

source: Levine, S. (1987). Healing into life and death. New York: Anchor Books, p. xiii.

unborn babies

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Babies have been rearing their little heads in my life recently — metaphorically and otherwise. Two weeks ago someone contacted me to arrange a Jizo ceremony* for friends who’d had a miscarriage and wanted to honour and let go of their little one. Last night, while passing a towel to ~P~ as she stepped out of the shower, I said something about “thirty years from now” to which she replied, “I’ll be well into menopause and you’ll be dead.” No babies for us, alas. Then this morning after a breakfast of French toast, ~C~ spoke of her own miscarriage four years ago, one that even her parents don’t know about.

Tears come easily. My friend’s loss, kept as a secret. The couple who’ll soon gather at our zendo to sew red garments in remembrance. And the realization that I’ll never be a father and a startling reminder of old age and missed opportunities.

* This old post describes a previous Jizo ceremony I did. I’ll soon be offering a similar one in Victoria BC for anyone who’s lost anyone, not just babies. My teacher Jan Chozen Bays MD is the author of the definitive Jizo Bodhisattva: modern healing and traditional Buddhist practice. She regularly offers Jizo ceremonies at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon. image: