Compassion in Living & Dying

“If compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”.   Jack Kornfield


Preparing for End of Life

“In the end, only three things matter:  how much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”    Gautama Buddha

One of our deepest human values is to be compassionate: to truly care for and be concerned for another’s well-being and happiness. At some point in our lifetime, each one of us will need the caring support from another, be that a loved one or a professional or volunteer caregiver. No one knows when, but a day will come when we discover our body or our mind is breaking down. It’s natural, and yet it can be the most frightening time in our lives. All we know for sure about death is that it will visit us one day.  The most important thing about dying is to be prepared when it arrives.

In the more recent past, our awareness of death has grown. So has our need for education and wisdom in meeting such an important time in our lives.  Finding wisdom in death and dying can be difficult in our society where suffering and loss of control is feared. While it’s home is dark and mysterious, opening the dialogue with family and friends is way to bring light to a process we seem to want to avoid.

Sarana Institute is committed to exploring the skillful means in meeting death with humility and fearlessness as we navigate our unique journeys with illness, dying and death.  This territory may bring us in contact with the most spiritual and the most profane faces of our human experience.

Compassion in Caregiving

“Many of us think that compassion drains us, but I promise you, it is something that truly enlivens us.”  Roshi Joan Halifax 

For most of us, this may be our most challenging time—discovering a lump, feeling racing heart that lands us in an emergency room, a terrible accident, realizing our memory is vanishing, or noticing our speech is slurring or our words are disappearing. Also for most of us, we struggle to accept that we must turn towards others. Some of us fight this time, while others easily embrace it. It is an emotional and stressful time for all of us. Regardless of how we deal with an illness or any physical or mental limitation, compassion is an essential skill to learn. When it moves in both directions, towards ourselves and towards others, this is when it is healthiest and sustainable.

Like the handbook we never received in raising children, we received very little instruction on how to care for a parent with dementia, a partner with MS, a child with cancer, or a loved one dying of old age.  And while it’s true that in our culture many have a very hard time talking about death, for some reason, we have the most difficulty giving compassion towards ourselves. Over time, our caring breaks down, as it flows away from our own needs and flows towards those we are caring for. It feels “right” to do this, to put ourselves aside, but gradually we become exhausted or depressed. If the caregiver, whether a professional or other, begins to suffer fatigue, then everyone’s well-being becomes compromised. This is where the training becomes a wonderful resource.

In 2015, through the support of the Applied Mindfulness Meditation Program through Continuing Studies in the department of Social Work, we launched our first professional training program. The feedback was glowing and this year we have partnered with the Mindfulness Project at SickKids Hospital where we will bring the training program within the hospital setting. We will also offering ongoing support to graduates in order for them to maintain the skills.

Our goal is to develop another level of training for “Trainers” to teach and sustain the practice skills across various disciplines including family caregivers and volunteers serving in hospice, home and hospital settings.

“I wish I had been exposed to the concepts of the entire course earlier in my career.” Participant 2016 program

Everyone can benefit from the foundations of mindful awareness and compassion to sustain themselves.  This comprehensive training will provide the tools to support professional caregivers in meeting the challenges and stress in meeting patients with greater awareness and compassion. The Sarana Institute  Mindfulness & Compassion Care Certificate Program spans 9-months and is designed to give frontline healthcare professionals a foundation in mindfulness practices including a daily sitting, everyday skills, as well as enhanced training in Mindful Listening, Relational Mindfulness, Healthy Empathy and Compassion.

Learn More:  detailed description all 5 Training Modules




Joan Halifax -Compassion and the True Meaning of Empathy 

Mattieu Ricard: Brain Plasticity after Compassion and Empathy Training