June 25, 2024


'The Bodhisattva of Compassion from the Depths of Prajna Wisdom': A Talk With Leanne Cooke About Birth and Death

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Joel David Lesses
'The Bodhisattva of Compassion from the Depths of Prajna Wisdom': A Talk With Leanne Cooke About Birth and Death
Unraveling Religion
'The Bodhisattva of Compassion from the Depths of Prajna Wisdom': A Talk With Leanne Cooke About Birth and Death

Jun 25 2024 | 00:56:20


Show Notes

Leanne and Joel met at the Lamberton Conservatory move to sit on the grass near Poet's Park in Rochester's Highland Park. The time opens with Leanne asking Joel about his sweatshirt and the meaning of 'Am Yisrael Chai' as Joel explains the emblem on the sweatshirt, a Hamsa and the talk moves to intentions of people, ill intention and service orientated intention and how the Universe mirrors our intentions by giving what we give and offering what we offer. A blanket is set and the Soul, biking, hiking in relation to health is discussed. The topic of hiking arises and Joel shares how he met his 'good friend' Dave at a Zen group and the intuitive knowing that arose guiding the connection. Leanne talks and teaches about Green Burial, birth, and Isiah House a hospice house for people at end of life without options to afford hospice care otherwise. Leanne shares more about Green Burial and the talk moves to Bardos and Karma. Joel shares the story of a most influential mentor and 'good friend' John Bednarchik (Pictured) and John's passing from this world in 2012.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: What does your sweatshirt say? [00:00:02] Speaker B: The sweatshirt says, am yisrael hai. Oh, this way. [00:00:08] Speaker A: Thanks. [00:00:09] Speaker B: It's Hebrew. It says, am yisra'el hai, and it means the jewish people are eternal. The jewish people. Israel lives, or Israel lives forever. And the insignia on it is a. I think it's called a hamsa, which is a palm. Yeah. It's regional. It's not native to Judaism, but it's regional. And thank you guys so much. So Hamsa is Arabic for five, because there are five fingers in the Palm. And the metaphysical aspect of it is that it's used regionally. So it's not just Judaism, but it's to counteract. Well, I have the blanket. Do you want to? Yeah, come on. Yeah. It's to ward off the evil eye. So, like, when people have ill intention or negative intention toward you, this is a protection against ill intention. So non constructive intention, it protects against that. [00:01:28] Speaker A: So I've heard of the evil eye in Judaism as well as Turkey. I know some mediterranean places. Popular. [00:01:37] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:01:37] Speaker A: Is it? I don't know if the jewish understanding of the evil eye is similar or different. Sounds pretty similar. I'm not sure. [00:01:46] Speaker B: Yeah. I think that the nature of it is, you know, there's actually the poet's park, which is so awesome. Do you know the poet's park? The nature of it, essentially, it just boils down to, like, you know, when we offer to others, like, this all totally ties in. But, like, when we offer to others, like, you know, enhancements. Like, enhancements in the quality of your life. If my intention for you, Leanne, is service, like, how might I serve you on your journey? You know, that's. That's one way you could break it down. Just fundamentally, all things are a subsection of service, but then there are certain elements, because we are pure potentiation. Intention. That is not service. So it's to counter. 1 may have their own agenda about how things should go for you, and so trying to direct another's path that is not service for them is ill intention. So that would all fall under the subsection, probably, like, the evil eye. You know what I mean? It's just those two. You want. We can go this way if you want. I can lay the blanket down because. Yeah. Is this good? [00:02:58] Speaker A: Yeah, it's perfect, and I've seen it. It's like the blue. Blue circle with the dot in the middle. Is that. I don't know if that's a universal, like, image of the evil eye. [00:03:11] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:03:12] Speaker A: Different ways, these. Thanks. [00:03:20] Speaker B: That's my favorite pillow. [00:03:35] Speaker A: Oh, that's a nice. Fine. This is really warm, too. [00:03:38] Speaker B: It's better. It's better. I mean, I don't think in the car, if needed, I have, like, jackets and stuff and sweaters and stuff. [00:03:45] Speaker A: I feel really cozy. [00:03:46] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:03:48] Speaker A: Oh, yeah. Especially in the sun. We might lose it in a minute, but we'll be back. [00:03:52] Speaker B: Yeah. Well, we were talking about, before we transitioned, we were talking about kind of, like, your fascination with, like, the elements of introduction into this world and birthday and departure from the physical. You know, in Buddhism. It's funny, in Zen, in the Zen monasteries in China and Japan, the body is known as the rice bag. [00:04:15] Speaker A: So, like, interesting. [00:04:17] Speaker B: Yeah, they cut, you know, is a way of, like, emphasizing the spiritual. They. They. The brother monks or sister monks or sibling monks would call one another. They say, like, you, old rice bag. [00:04:27] Speaker A: Interesting. Wow, that's really cool. I like that. That's interesting. What does that mean to you? [00:04:41] Speaker B: Just that it kind of. That, number one, the body is temporary, and we're here for a short amount of time, and that. It's like a vehicle. It's just a vehicle for the soul. I mean, it's like a car. I mean, it's like a organic car. You know, it's like. And we are like a time machine, because we have access to pass through our memory, and we have, like, through the windshield of our life, we see where we want to go, but we are no different than a car. I mean, the body is an organic car. [00:05:15] Speaker A: Wow, that's really interesting, because you are. [00:05:18] Speaker B: Not the body, and I am not the body. We are a soul. You are a soul. And so there are so many different ways to forget that, which is a part of why this is built this way. And there are so many different ways to remember that, which is why this is built this way. [00:05:36] Speaker A: That's interesting. [00:05:37] Speaker B: Yeah, it's just this is a place of. This is like a huge, massive. Like the universe or creation. The physical creation is a sandbox, really, is fundamentally for the soul. It's a sandbox for the soul. You know, we're here to play, but, you know, there are different kinds of lessons for us. You know? I mean, some. Some are not easy. Death presents a whole complexity. I mean, our nature is to attach as social beings, as human beings, we are social beings, and attachment and emotion are significant to us. So again and again, we are taught and required to learn how to let that go. That is very painful. [00:06:29] Speaker A: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That's interesting what you say. I feel like I have. I'm not sure what my relationship is to the body entirely, because I think of, like, what you're saying about the body being a car or a vehicle. I see that, and I appreciate that in a lot of ways. Like, I think of a quote by Ram Dass that I'm trying to remember the whole thing. It was talking about, if you learn to see yourself as a soul, you identify with your soul, and you learn to see yourself as a soul, then you see other people as souls, and souls love each other. Just a very beautiful. [00:07:10] Speaker B: A wholesome way of viewing relationship. [00:07:12] Speaker A: Yeah, yeah. And just very, very transcendental. And I think of that, and I see that it makes a lot of sense. But I also have a very. I think that my spirituality is, like, very physical, which is really interesting. Like, it's kind of an oxymoron, and I'm feeling it out. But, like, I feel like my spirituality is very earth based. And that's why. Yeah, I think that's why green burial and this tactile experience of caring for the dead is so, like the, you know, living and the dying process and the body and into the earth. Why that feels so necessary to me clicks in so much. And like, that quote that I, you know, talked about a few times I shared earlier of Robin Wall Kimmerer saying that she taught her daughters to garden so they would always have a mother after she was gone. It's like that deep, deep felt relationship to the earth and people as earth. [00:08:27] Speaker B: Yeah, well, you had mentioned that before we started recording, so I'm so glad that you read, reintroduce that idea. [00:08:33] Speaker A: Yeah, I thought it was worth. It's worth mentioning a few times. [00:08:36] Speaker B: Yeah, yeah. Not to ever forget. [00:08:39] Speaker A: Yeah. And I feel, um. Just really feel that deep felt connection, and I've, like, nurtured it over some years of becoming deeper and deeper. And so I feel like I don't know where I'm at with that. I feel like my body is the spirit in a lot of ways as well, because it's so tied to the earth and the things that you experience. Like what I was saying with birth, I think that's part of why I feel so passionate about it, is interrupting the natural, the oxytocin and the kinds of endorphins that are natural to experience. Experience in a. In a safely held, well, emotionally held birth is like, it's this really beautiful physical process that's creating these really special experiences. And to interrupt that with, like, you know, the bright lights, the intrusions. And again, like, many things can be necessary at different times, never want to say, that's always not the answer, but, um. But yeah. To interrupt that unnecessarily, it feels so jarring to me because it's a physical, spiritual experience, and, um. But it's, yeah, so it's an interesting, I'm not sure where I am with that, like, the body being spiritual and, but also, like a fast looks, there's something that kind of continues. [00:10:19] Speaker B: And it's so funny because when you suggested, like, you, you kind of, like, for you, you were like, you were kind of like, oh, a car. Yeah. And then it made me realize, like, that's one way that I look at it, but I do look at it also as an interface of lesson, and it has its own sanctity that we experience. You know, the whole point of Judaism is to elevate the mundane to the spiritual, to infuse spirituality into the mundane world. That's a human being's, a jewish person, or a human being's role is to infuse spirituality, to elevate it, and by elevating it, you give it meaning and purpose. And so, yeah, the body, obviously, you know, I was talking about it as a rice bag or a car, but it's also very sanctified. I think I offered that to highlight the soul's relationship to the body, but the body itself is also very sanctified. [00:11:18] Speaker A: That's interesting. Yeah, it's interesting the two parts of that. And I often think, I don't know if this is useful to think about, but, yeah, I think maybe this thing I just don't know enough about, but I try to think about anything spiritual or like, that should be universal. It has to work for everyone. Right? And I think of people who are like, completely paralyzed and just like they're, or in just excruciating chronic pain, which is so complicated. And not to say that you can't have a great relationship to your body in either of those cases, but just, I imagine it's very different and I don't know. Yeah, I think as I'm saying this, I'm realizing it's like, well, the answer is I'm talking to more people, those experiences, but, um. Yeah, I don't know how accessible the deep felt like spirituality that I feel with the earth and connection to the earth and body, like, of being a. Yeah, just like the body being miracle and the body being spirituality is accessible. But, but yeah, as I say that, I think I just need to talk to more people, those experiences, but yeah. What are your, like, thoughts and experiences on? I guess just after death care in general, because I know we haven't talked about the after death care a lot. I don't know what your experiences are like in that or thoughts or. [00:12:59] Speaker B: Well, it's funny because, you know, I think about, you know, how you and I came to this conversation, and it was just through this, like, gentle, like, I think Ken Kelbaugh, before you quiet eyes, you had gone there and you were curious about poetry. That's what got introduced for poetry. I think you went to, like a ground in spot. And then, you know, we sort of kept in touch and then, but we've always had, like, a depth of conversational connection. And when I think about that, I think about kind of like karma, because literally, as I understand it, karma means existence in time. But karma exists not just in the physical realm, but also in the bardo's. And so we were talking about the word bardo's. And so a bardo is a mahayana or buddhist term meaning non physical realms where people, where we go once we depart from the body. So bardos are places of arrival for people who leave the physical realm. And so I tie all that together by thinking about how, because we were also talking about meaning, mission and service and how deeply karma and service beneficial. Karma is deeply tied for me in my thorough, as much as I can have examined it in this life, as much as I can bring myself to, to scrutinize what am I doing here. The point of arrival that I come to is that I'm here to serve. I'm here to serve all the trees, the environment, the climate, the people, the animals, the sky, all other souls have just served. And so what that looks like can be very complex because we have a range of conditions and intentions and actions in the world that are not always so wholesome. Right? But as I cultivate my path in this incarnation, I do see, I do have, like, an intonation of a thread in me that is familiar, of service. And, you know, before you and I started recording today, we were at Java and we spoke a little bit about the song of the Rochester, and I was sharing how I felt that the multiplicity of lives that may be my community that I incarnate and reincarnate with as a kind of like home base or a community, or, I don't know that those words are so exact, but I would say familiarity. There's familiarity there. And so what is familiar familiarity, hopefully, is, in the mid and long term, built on trust, on sanctity and trust. So if I'm traveling with people, incarnation after incarnation, there's sanctity and trust there. Does that answer your question? I don't know. [00:16:17] Speaker A: Yeah, I mean, I'm trying to thread it all together. I feel like that's the question of what was it originally? Relationship to, like, after death. And, yeah. And so I think that it comes down to a continued relationship. [00:16:39] Speaker B: Yeah. Yeah. [00:16:39] Speaker A: Is that like. Yeah, so much. [00:16:41] Speaker B: So can I just share this one thing real quick? Because I have a very special friend who, his name is Dave, and he was a part of the, and I'll probably edit the names out, but, like, I have a friend who is a part of Zen Mountain monastery, which is, I don't know how familiar you are with the different schools of Zen in America. There was a naval officer who trained and became a Roshi Zen teacher. His name was John Dido Dore. He founded Zen Mountain monastery out, like, in eastern New York. And so they have a city group in Buffalo, Zen Dharma community, which meets every Tuesday at 07:00 they sit for 2 hours. And so because I'm in Buffalo, I'm affiliated with the Rochester Zen center, but I would go, because I'm in Buffalo, to the Zen Dharma community to sit Zazen or Zen meditation. One day I go there, Leanne, and as I'm approaching the students of Zen Mountain monastery who are in Buffalo, they may have been in their special robes. I come upon this one person, and immediately I'm telling you, this. This is like, this is not spun. This is not for any kind of, like, effect. Literally, I see this person, and I'm like, oh, I'm here for him. [00:18:05] Speaker A: Interesting. [00:18:06] Speaker B: That was about 2006, seven or eight. Dave now lives with me when he's in the area. He left his it job at University of Buffalo school, social work. He was the it person. He has a master's in social work, but never practiced social work. And he left it for what? He left it to hike the appalachian trail and to hike all the time. He's getting ready right now to hike the Pacific crest trail. Yes. [00:18:36] Speaker A: I love it. [00:18:36] Speaker B: 2683. Three. 2683 miles. [00:18:42] Speaker A: Wow. Oh, that makes me feel so good. [00:18:45] Speaker B: Listen, and I mean, if I'm graceful, the blessing of introducing to you two would really hit it off. He's a heart. He's so beautiful, and he stays with me, you know, whenever he's in Buffalo, like, I, you know, I have a zendo in my, in my condominium. A zendo is a meditation hall. Okay, so it's just a second bedroom, but I converted it into a zendo. [00:19:09] Speaker A: Oh, nice. [00:19:10] Speaker B: And, um, but that whole notion. Now, he and I know when I first met him, I had never seen him before or seen him once or twice, but, like, here's day, it was like, oh, I'm here for him. And we developed not. It wasn't like, you know, I didn't. We didn't. I don't even know how we, the threads even wove together in our first friendship. But it took years. It was probably five, six, seven years before we even started corresponding. [00:19:37] Speaker A: Wow. [00:19:38] Speaker B: We were calling one another, and that would be about, probably 20, 1011 or twelve. And now we talk daily, multiple times a day. [00:19:47] Speaker A: Wow. [00:19:49] Speaker B: I was deeply a part of his process to leave his work to concert. So I should give you the. [00:19:57] Speaker A: Oh, no, I got a little hello here, but I'm listening. [00:20:03] Speaker B: But I was deeply part of his process to decide, like, he's a very conventional in the sense of, like, he's practical. So, like, to leave work, and he's very structured and regimented. So to leave work was like a massive. And then he's, like, trying to think, like, do I keep 1ft in and, like, try to come back after the appalachian trial? And you were like, no, you're gonna do it. You're all in. He is thriving. He's an example. He's a light and an example of walking your path. Right. [00:20:30] Speaker A: It's extraordinary. Yeah. [00:20:32] Speaker B: So, I mean, that touches on many things that we're talking about, but, like, part of that is so much. So, like, how did I know that? What? I mean, even just asking the question. So it's intuition. But even this question is very potent. Like, what is that? What is intuition? Where does that come from and why is it there? [00:20:53] Speaker A: Yeah, that's amazing. [00:20:55] Speaker B: And you had that with your documentary when. When you had. You had an intuitive connection with sort of like, this direct bearing of family members. Right? [00:21:04] Speaker A: Yeah. It was like. It literally, like, a door just opens and you're like, oh, there it is. That's what it clicks it. [00:21:11] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:21:11] Speaker A: Yeah. Wow. That's amazing. I love that, that you just knew that person was supposed to be in your life. [00:21:20] Speaker B: It's not the only time that's happened. It's not the only time that it's happened. [00:21:23] Speaker A: I love that. And I love that he is doing what just feels good for him. Doing all that hiking. That's something that I mentioned earlier. It's like, I feel like right now, in the place I am in my life, just my bike rides are really. They're like a little thread, needle and thread, pulling things together in a way. And I've been thinking of that as we're sitting in the sun right now and it's warming up for the summer, I'm feeling so strongly like it would be so healthy to take really long bike rides this summer. I don't think I'm in shape for it yet, but I can get there. But, like, long bike rides. Like, ideally, eventually, I'd like to go from one side of New York to the other. Yeah, I'm not gonna jump into that, but, yeah, just those. There's something about that again, the physicality and the. The whole person health. Yeah. Just the things you can. I don't know how to describe it. Yeah, just the things you can feel from that. From these physical experiences that. Yeah, your mental health, I guess, to put it as simply as possible, it's good for your mental health. [00:22:41] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:22:42] Speaker A: Just have all of that space just, like, physically processed, just, you know, on the Pacific crest trail, just step by step by step, just, oh, how healthy to just be in nature for that and let it all organize itself. And I feel. [00:22:59] Speaker B: I mean, that's so interesting that you say that it organizes itself. What are you noticing that organizes itself. Right. What in you is organizing itself in ways that are organic. [00:23:10] Speaker A: Yeah, that's really. Yeah, that's interesting. I didn't really think about that as I said it, but I appreciate you bringing thought to that, because I feel like. Yeah, I think that that's my draw to wanting to do these long bike rides. I feel like I'm trying to organize a little in my life, and. Yeah, I'm just like, that sounds more efficient. Let me let this organize itself. Let me, like, take a long bike ride and just let my brain do what it's supposed to do. Have you taken a trip like that? Like, I don't know. I don't know how to quantify it. Like, you know, walking a trail, long ride, something like that. I know you've done some traveling and spend time in different places. Is that kind of, like, physical movement appealing to you, of a long walk or bike or. I know also, you do a lot of meditation practice, so maybe, like, a more. I don't know if this is true, but maybe a more appealing journey to you is more of the, like, sitting practice and letting your mind work in its way, like, through meditation. I don't know if that was a clear question. [00:24:23] Speaker B: It was. Yeah. I fully received the spirit of what you're offering. I think so. I do think that, you know, I spent some time on a volunteer program in Nepal, and so there was just to get there from one village to the next was like a several hour walk. And so there's something that we are missing in our community when we don't. When we don't do that. [00:24:51] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:24:51] Speaker B: You trade convenience for something. We don't even know what that trading is because we don't have the opportunity to explore it. [00:24:58] Speaker A: That's so true. Yeah, of course, like, pros and cons, that. But that huge pro of the space, like, that's what I was saying earlier when we met at Java's. I ridden my bike there and I was like, I'm so happy to be in a place where just in. Where I just moved to, that I can just ride my bike places that I can have that little. I can have more space in my day. I love to drive, I love to listen to my music. And it's nice. It's not the same space as the movement. Yeah. Oh, I'm just feeling that, like, feeling really grateful for that right now. [00:25:46] Speaker B: So I just wanted to ask you a little bit about Isaiah House, because when we had initially spoke about, like, talking, it was sort of this investigation into what is Isaiah House and sort of your relationship to that, why you were so passionate about it. [00:26:02] Speaker A: Yeah. Wow. I know. We've talked about so many other things, I forgot this original topic, which is so, um, so poignant. Where do I even start on that? I guess to describe it for anyone listening, is the Isaiah house is just a house. It's a two bedroom house in the city of Rochester, where we accept residents who are diagnosed with three months or less to live into either bedroom. We can take two people at a time, and we focus on taking people just who have the least options for support, whether that's financially, just familial support in physical caregiving, like, whatever it is, it's a barrier to care. We accept people who are struggling to find that. And, yeah, it's a place where volunteers and some aides and on call nurse will just be taking care of that person. Twenty four seven. And so that's the very technical, technical description of what it is. But what it is, to me, like, oh, my gosh, it's. Oh, my gosh, this feels so corny to say this, but I feel like people always describe something as a second home, and it's a second home to me. Like, I just go there. I'm a volunteer there. I've been a volunteer there for a while, over a year. I also do the social media marketing there. And just, just lots of things. Just anything to help with the house. And be there, but I just go there. I just walk in the door and usually. [00:27:55] Speaker B: What drew you there? How did you find Isaiah house? How did you come to feel connected to it? [00:28:02] Speaker A: What drew me there? Well, when I was, no, we're going further back, I think from the very. Oh my gosh, this is like such a long, long answer. What drew me to Isaiah House? I think that death from a peripheral standpoint, has been a big part of my life since childhood, which is for many people. My earliest really big experience with that was when I was maybe eleven and, and my grandparents started to have some health issues and to varying degrees. And I remember watching my mom, especially my parents, care for my grandparents, especially with my mom's mom, who's my middle namesake, Jeanette. Watching my mom care for her through very difficult illnesses process. And I don't know if I want to say I wasn't old enough to help care for her. I think that in our culture and the way my family works and everything, I, you know, someone of that age, just the adults wanted to handle it more. But I like the idea of kids being able to have a little bit more active care. But anyways, I think that watching my mom take care of her mom and putting in all the effort that someone can possibly do, all the effort you can possibly do for someone you love, like someone who's really sick, they can't move, can't talk. It's like taking care of a newborn baby. That's the hardest job 24/7 for anyone. And seeing her do that labor of love and just not having enough support like that takes a bit, takes a village. It's such a cliche, you know, phrase, but it does, it really does. And seeing that help not be there was just very impactful. Like, just, I think if she could have had like rest and just support, you know, and know that there are more. There were some people, you know, trying to take care of my girl, but if there were more people getting more support, that just would have made such a difference. And I always remembered that and was just always drawn to eldercare. In high school, I volunteered doing elder care, and I was fortunate enough to take a class my senior year of high school many years ago that was just called death and dying. And it was taught by a person working in hospice and with the local comfort care homes, where the same structure is Isaiah House with two beds, volunteers largely take care of people. And they just taught us about death and dying and they just taught me the most basic life things I still remember, like what was that. [00:31:18] Speaker B: What did they teach you? [00:31:20] Speaker A: Yeah, I remember just. It's the most, what seems to me now, the most obvious things, like just explaining that people at the end of life or, you know, I mean, people who are sick, or ultimately, a lot of times they don't have as much touch as the average person because people are uncomfortable with how to hug them in the way wheelchair or, like, they're just, you know, uncomfortable for whatever reason. And just explaining to us, like, people need touch. This is how to give someone just comforting, warm, bringing them in, like, hold their hand, just greet them this way. Obviously, you know, some people don't like to be touched, and there's that. [00:32:06] Speaker B: But. [00:32:07] Speaker A: But just that kind of rule of thumb of stuff that we don't realize, and we're just, through our culture, kind of think a different way. We just don't realize that. So, yeah, just teaching those basic things. And through that, we volunteered at a local comfort care home. And, yeah, I just would go and spend time with a guy who was there who was dying, and, you know, my mom would make him. What did he want? Something very specific. It was like grits and corn bread, I think some kind of soul food. He really wanted that. And my mom would make that for him, and he wouldn't eat a lot, but he loved it. He loved to have it. And I just go and hang out with him. And, you know, he just talked to me. And, um, that was just a. Just an important connection. And I noticed, like, there's just so much that you're confronted with in it, of. I think it just makes you, like, yeah, just the easiest way to say is it just makes me a better person. Like, I remember another one of my first people that I volunteered with. Um, she was very. What's the word? She was down. She was just down. You know, she was sad about dying, and she had a lot of regrets, and she felt alone. And. And I would sit and talk with her, and sometimes when she would be really open about her, you know, her downness or her regrets. At that time, at that age, I could really feel myself, like, pull away from that and feel like I didn't know how to respond and feel really uncomfortable and use what I would now call toxic positivity of, like, oh, well, you know, look on the bright side kind of thing. And I think about that and how uncomfortable I could be at that time. And now I would never do that after sitting with so many people and seeing that, like, just people just want authentic connection and so much in our culture where we just don't want to look at it. You know, we just. We don't want to look at it. That's the thing. And just feel like it's okay to look at it. And people just want you to sit with them and look at it all together, and that's. [00:34:46] Speaker B: They don't want to be alone. [00:34:47] Speaker A: Yeah, they don't want to be alone. And so it's just been, like, such a privilege to me to just sit with people who are dying and just get, like. I just. I always think of it as just the most ripe, like, stage of life. I'm like, oh, my gosh. I get to read as much as you'll share, but, like, read the whole complete book of your life, the whole thing to the end. Like, very cool and very special. Yes. I hope that answers the question of what draws me there and what I get from it. And especially at Isaiah House, the house is unique in that we take people who, as I mentioned, don't have. I'm gonna start that over, I guess. We take people who society has marginalized, essentially, most of the time. And so many times, the community that those people receive there is the most loved and cared for and supported they've ever felt, the most connected they've ever felt, and so they find peace there. It's not just about making them comfortable. It's not just about medicating them. It's about, like, can we heal together? And I remember one woman we had a year and a half ago, she had a lot of challenges in life, some severe mental illnesses that, you know, just made her life really challenging, made her relationships really challenging. And she was with us for some months, like, a long time, and she was just such a joy and so nice. And she would always say, she just had so much fun there. And she would always say, like, now that I'm dying, I'm living the best time of my life. She's like, this is the best time of my life right now, and. And I love to be part of it. Thanks for letting me be part of the best time of your life. This was great. [00:37:04] Speaker B: What else would you want to do? [00:37:06] Speaker A: Yeah. Like, that's just. And just to know, then every moment you're there, it's like, yeah, what else would you want to do? Like, how could I be better spending my time like, this is. [00:37:16] Speaker B: It is so substantive. [00:37:19] Speaker A: Yeah. And I just remember them. I just remember all of them. And I think that. Who said this? It might have been our director, Kristen, our founder, Kathy. But someone said, you know, something along the lines when people die. They die with. With the memories that they shared and everything, but we get to keep on living with them, like, we. Like, with what they taught us, like, we get to keep on living with it. So just to get these big gifts from everyone, I'm like, oh, my gosh. Thank you for that, for my life. So, yeah, that's really great. [00:38:02] Speaker B: It's interesting because in Judaism, there's, when people pass on, there's a phrase that they say about that person. May their memory be a blessing. [00:38:13] Speaker A: I've heard that. [00:38:14] Speaker B: Yeah. And it's also very much that when someone lives and passes that they're remembered. You know, there's the Yurzeit ceremony, where, on the anniversary of the passing of a person, a Yurzeit candle, a Yortsight candle, is that which runs for about 24 hours, I think. And, you know, you say mourners Kaddish, which is a blessing that is said when someone dies in Judaism. [00:38:44] Speaker A: And mourners cottage. Witch, is that. Does that translate to may their memory be a blessing or is that a different. [00:38:54] Speaker B: So mourners cottage. Mourners is English, but cottage. [00:38:57] Speaker A: Oh. Oh, I see. [00:38:58] Speaker B: No, no, no. Yeah, so cottage. It's a good question. I mean, Kaddish comes from the same root as kadosh, which in Hebrew means holiness, to sanctify. So the kaddish is a sanctification of someone's life. [00:39:20] Speaker A: That's really beautiful. Yeah, I know that Judaism has a lot of really beautiful practice. Yeah. It's just. It's so old and rich in ritual and. Yeah. Just practices and I don't know if this is something you want to go into. And I know that you mentioned that you have had a close friend, at least one that's passed away, I guess. Yeah, I guess to make a broad question, is there any person that you've had that's passed away that felt like a very, I don't know, just potent experience that you'd want to speak to at all? [00:40:01] Speaker B: Oh, my goodness. Yeah. I shared this with you when we were talking on the phone, my friend John Benarczyk. So John and I met. I had gone to Israel. I did a program called Project Ozma, and that was a ten month social services program in Israel for, like, Americans who are, you know, early twenties. And I had read the Snow leopard. I had done a pretty intense introspection and investigation into world's mysticisms and traditions and was really just trying to figure out myself. I had had, like, very significant trauma in high school and very significant trauma in early childhood. And so and all that was repressed. The memories were repressed. So I had no contact with the memory. So there was a mismatch in sort of what I saw in others as ease of relating with one another in my own experience of, like, there was this tremendous struggle and, like, real grappling with, like, serious, serious violence that was not conscious in my memory. And so, you know, that all formed a question, you know, and then there's this illogical question is called a koan. I don't know if you've heard that term before. [00:41:27] Speaker A: It's kind of like a. Like a. Very loosely translated to a riddle. [00:41:31] Speaker B: Yeah, it's a riddle. And it formed in China, in the Zen communities in China. Jhana is Chinese. Zen. It's the same word. It means meditation. It comes from the Sanskrit Diana. And in India it was Dayana. In China, it's Chan. In Japanese, it's Zen. It's just the translation of the word through the different cultures. But a Zen koan that formed in me was, what is the matter with me? So this struggle in me formed in this corner. What is the matter with me? Because I didn't have contact with the memories of what had happened, the events. And so it really facilitated a deep awakening in me that in about August 1994, I had a very significant opening. And so what had happened was that when I returned, I asked, I had read the Snow leopard, which was the seminal book that I've read in my life. And the snow leopard talks is about Zen Buddhism, essentially. It's about. Peter Matheson is the author, and it's his journals about three or four months through Nepal and Tibet. And he was invited by the naturalist, the biologist George Schaller, who was a very famous, I guess, very well respected biologist who was looking for, of all things, the link between the sheep and the goat. We thought it was the himalayan blue sheep that was found in the Himalayas, that had broken off into sort of the darwinian differences in sort of the two. The two genres of sheep and goat. And so Matheson documents in his. In this book, you know, a tremendous journaling. And for five years afterward, you brushed in the political, social, mystical histories and interwove it with this gorgeous mysticism that is universal. And when I read that book, it blew doors and windows out of my mind, like I just could not believe, because I was grappling with this question, what is the matter with me? And here comes the deeper element of existence in this book. And so. But it was not, you know, it wasn't such a fairy tale of an experience because I think that I'd had this opening, and then, and it's open, and it's open, and so what happened then? You have to step into it and what is there, right? So I've spent all of my life reassembling from the high school and early childhood experiences, but it's given me a rich kind of, like, perspective on life and death, for sure. You know, and myself, I think I understand myself. But, you know, all that ties into John Benarczyk, who he was. I think he was 40 years older than I was. And in our first conversation, which I remember I shared with you when we spoke on the phone, we spoke for like an hour, 45 minutes or a little more than an hour or something like that. And he's like, hey, we had just, I was asking about past lives without even knowing what I was asking. He said something that I will never forget. He said, I hope the difference in our age is not an impediment to us being good friends. And it never was. We were best friends during the last 15 years of his life. And so, and I know you beyond most people can appreciate that, that there's this. There is like a, you know, I don't even know, I don't even want to taint it with words, but there's just something, you know, that exists that, yeah, you know, you just leave it be because you don't, you don't need to stir the pot. It's so valuable that you don't want to put words to it. But John was the co leader of the Zen Buffalo group, which is an affiliate of the Rochester Zen center. And so through the years, John introduced me first took me to the Zen center to be tested for my opening because it was like a Kensho, an initial awakening. And he took me there, and they wouldn't even see me. Like, it just worked out. The karmas were like, just, it didn't open there. And then I actually, I met my spiritual teacher about two months later that I didn't. It was my professor from college age, Reagan. And I didn't, had no idea that he was like, is the kind of teacher that he was, but he was definitely what I had needed. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. That was true in my case. So I'd gone through this, and Mage is a poet, and he introduced me to poetry and spirituality. So mage and I had a very profound karma. Like, you know, I know that. I know that he and I were brothers in a previous life and in the, in the history of ground and sky, the collection anthology that's coming out. I talk very much about how in tibetan culture, student teacher, it leapfrogs in the answer. That student becomes the teacher in one incarnation, and in the next incarnation, it could be the inverse. [00:46:39] Speaker A: Oh, wow, that's so interesting. [00:46:41] Speaker B: My deep intuitive sense is that made. That is major, and I, that we do this for one another. And he. He, more than anyone, is kind of my guide, but I, for him, too, in different incarnations, am a guide. Yeah. [00:46:54] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:46:55] Speaker B: So all this lends itself to death and dying. And so John and I sat through the years. I became a member of the Rochester Zen center, and, you know, he began to get frail toward the end of his life. I think he was 82. He was 82 when he passed. It was 2012, and I was taking care of him. I was, like, taking him for groceries and stuff, and my cognitive being slipped. He was very frail. He had diabetes. He couldn't see. He was an art teacher his whole life. He taught art, beautiful artists, and I have some of his original stuff that he gave to me. But, you know, when he died, he had something very transcendent. I would say it's transcendent. It's not. There's. There's no way to quantify or qualify it. But he. I got a call from his aide, Deborah, who said, you know, john's getting ready to go. And so I raced over. I was in the car. I don't even know what I was doing. I, like, broke all plans and was there in 15 minutes, and he had waited for me. And you will understand this, and I said this to you in the phone conversation, but, you know, I come and John, how you doing? And he's in the hospital bed, and I think I had called ROSHI to see about burial. His teacher was Roshi Bodhin, and I called to see about burial arrangements for Buddhist Zen. Buddhist traditions. There are certain things, and so I'm there with John, and I'm saying goodbye. And intuitively I felt like, you know, I had my phone with me. It was a smartphone at the time. And I played for him the heart sutra, which is the condensed teachings of the Buddha. Teachings of the Buddha start with the bodhisattva of compassion. From the depths of Prajna, or intuitive wisdom, saw the emptiness of all five elements that bind us to life. So there was an awakened being, a bodhisattva, that so deeply meditated that he sundered or shattered the bonds that cause all suffering. This is the fundamental teaching of the heart sutra, that form is emptiness. And emptiness is form, feeling, thought and choice, consciousness itself are all the same as this, meaning they're empty. So what are we doing here? Right? But. So I played this for John, and it was literally the Rochester Zen center Sangha, chanting this. I had it on my phone. And so he's there. And then as it's playing, like, Roshi Bodin calls in returning my call about the burial stuff, I have to deny the call because I'm here with John in this sanctified place. But Roshi, his teacher, calls him at this time. By the end of the Hart sutra, John had passed. He had left for his next. Wherever he is now, or wherever he's going. But the thing about that is that several years later, probably at least five years later, I ran into, you know, I said John was the co leader of the Zen Buffalo group. Dennis Holman was the other co leader. And John and Dennis had their differences, but they were friends and they traveled one place. And Dennis shared with me the story. After I shared with him how John passed, he said, you know, I had traveled with John, and during a long car ride, John had shared that he wanted to go out listening to the heart sutra. [00:50:44] Speaker A: I love that. I love that. [00:50:48] Speaker B: And so I look at that. I've shared this before, but, like, I look at that as a heart of service. We were talking about service before Leanne. And so I feel like the universe mirrors our relationship to it, so that if I try to steal that nut from that squirrel, the universe will invert and take my own version of that nut for me to teach me not to do that. But when my heart is in service, man, it's full on that. The universe flips and inverts itself and gives everything it can to those whose hearts are in service. And I feel like the way John passed was because his heart was in service. And I know that. I just know that that's the invisible mechanism of this world. You know what I mean? [00:51:31] Speaker A: That's so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. I talked about that a little while ago. You shared the story, but there's always, like, there's little more pieces that you hear and, like, a little bit of different part of it and angle. It's just so precious. I appreciate you sharing that. [00:51:51] Speaker B: Yeah. The other interesting thing about that is that I don't have any regret with John going because I said my goodbye, my peace was expressed, and my witness of him departing was fulfilled. So I don't worry about John or if he exists or not. Like, that ain't the question for me. You know what I mean? And you know what? He ain't too far. Like, he doesn't go too far. And you don't need to worry in certain kinds of regards about, you know, Reina Mirilka says that, you know, we have atrophied the senses to which we could grasp death and spirit world and visions. We've atrophied them from not using them. [00:52:39] Speaker A: Yeah, that's. Yeah, I understand that. [00:52:42] Speaker B: And so that, that awakening that I had was the formation a reconnection with these senses, these intuitive senses or, or non ordinary states of consciousness or whatever you want to call them. But, you know, the dead, what we call the dead, are very close to us, guiding, watching, loving. And I'll share with you one last thing before I turn it back over to you, is that in Judaism, there's another beautiful teaching. I love the richness of Judaism, but it says the righteous, meaning souls whose hearts are in service. The literal teaching, I mean, to paraphrase the spirit of it, is the righteous are more powerful, even after their passing, to affect the world in positive ways than they were even in life. [00:53:32] Speaker A: Wow, that's so interesting. [00:53:34] Speaker B: They've generated merit in this world through their discipline and their devotion that carries with them in karma to affect in the upper worlds, this world. [00:53:47] Speaker A: Wow, that's amazing. I really like that. I like that idea a lot. [00:53:52] Speaker B: Yeah, I think it's. I think it's a deep rooted truth. [00:53:55] Speaker A: Wow, that's beautiful. I'm. That's really interesting. I don't know if I don't want to say I've never thought about that, but if I have thought about that, I haven't thought about that a long time. Like, growing up Catholic, you, you know, have saints that, you know, like, okay, this person can, you know, help with this thing and this kind of thing like that. But, um, so there's a little bit of that idea of the influence of an individual person or spirit, but that's just really interesting. I'm gonna sit with that. Thank you for sharing that. That's really interesting, but I'm actually starting to get a little bit cold. [00:54:39] Speaker B: I was just. So why don't we just sort of. Is there anything else you'd like to share? Offer with today's talk or anything else. [00:54:51] Speaker A: I like to say? [00:54:53] Speaker B: Anything you're feeling called to share? [00:55:13] Speaker A: Well, I think just the appreciation for the feeling of, you know, just being able to learn from people in that space, I feel like, again, so much of, you know, depends on a lot of things, but. And just so much of our culture, we're just, we're removed from these things, from birth and death, and, like, just the opportunity to be able to be around them. I just feel really grateful for it. And. And I always think, like, if we really understood birth and death, then the rest, and I think you said something very similar to this, we really understood those. The rest in the middle would just take care of itself. So, yeah, I just appreciate being able to be in that space and being able to talk about it. So thanks for, you know, listening and sharing and. Yeah, I love to talk about this stuff, and. Yeah. Appreciate it. [00:56:08] Speaker B: Thank you so much for today. [00:56:10] Speaker A: Yeah, thank you. And thanks for my matcha.

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