I once saw a short Italian film about a 10 year old boy whose widowed father, a highly- regarded author, was killed by a pig. The father was walking under a balcony in an old Italian village. The balcony crumbled due to  the weight of a huge hog – which spent its life sunning on the balcony and consuming leftovers.

When at boarding school everyone laughed at this boy when they heard how the his father died. The boy was mortified and ashamed.

Fast forward in the story.

A young man- let’s say…. a young teen,  he falls in love with a young woman. He is deeply smitten. So smitten  he invites the young woman to visit with is dour, maiden Aunt, his only living relative.

His  Aunt has deified her late brother, having built an altar-like centerpiece in her living room featuring all the books her late brother wrote, celebratory reviews, photos, etc.  The shrine creates  a haunting, stuffy, and sad  atmosphere.

Prior to  this visit, all the girl knows is that her beau is fatherless. So, upon seeing the altar she is motivated to ask, “Exactly; how did he die?”

You have to remember that this young man has become a withdrawn and hesitant fellow due to the barrage of laughs shot at him whenever he had to recount that his illustrious father was killed by a falling pig.

In the climactic scene, the girl’s innocent, and perfectly reasonable question hangs in the air.

Our hero gazes at her, swallows hard. His  Aunt proceeds to recount the facts.

The young couple remain staring  at one another. Her eyes register some question-but she hesitates, and they remain silent.

After the meal we see the young couple walking, holding hands, glad to be out the tomb-like cage of the Aunt’s flat. Then the young woman turns to him, and with love in her eyes asks, “ Is it true? Is that really how your father died.” He hesitates…. We feel his tension, but, love is at stake. Trembling with newly found, never-before-used  courage  he says,  “Yes, that’s how it happened.”

Their eyes locked;  she laughs…… and so does he(!!) for the first time.

This same sentiment is the theme of the compilation Exit Laughing, How Humor Takes the Sting Out of Death, edited by Victoria Zackheim (North Atlantic Books, 2012).

This comforting book makes the reader feel as if she has been invited to a dinner party to share not only good food, but personal stories about how humor appeared at times of death of a loved one.

Most of the stories are written about the author’s experience of caring for an elderly parent. The stories reveal how humor arises, unplanned and unchoreographed – it just happens in the juxtaposition of dealing with one of the greatest mysteries of living- that of dying.

Through the stories we experience  the power humor has  to dissolve old competitions between siblings, and long-held grudges against parents. Moments of profound tenderness and love make surprise appearances. These are not contrived tales or overly sweetened messages. Each entry is written with clear eyes and an opened-heart.

This “generosity of spirit” can empower and inspire the rest of us to step into the role of caregiver, free of old  and petty arguments, eager to feel the unique sort of love that is only possible when caring for a dying parent.

It’s a great time to be a lifelong learner. Technology is creating an explosion of platforms and opportunities to take courses from colleges and universities at your own home computer— for free! And there are webinars, Youtube tutorials, Skype options and apps  — all delivering a cornucopia of content ranging from the classics to the avant garde.  This explosion of  learning opportunities has also opened up the channels of traditional delivery systems – think books- to extend their reach.

Shambhla Publications, recognized for bringing a wide range of books on Buddhism to the general readership has bested itself with their new title; Confusion Arises as Wisdom: Gampopa’s Heart Advice on the Path of Mahamudra by Ringu Tulku.

The Kagyu lineage lists Gampopa as the foremost student of Tibet’s most famous yogi, Milarepa, who had been a student of Marpa the Translator. Before he met Milarepa, Gampopa trained as monk in the Kadampa tradition, with its emphasis on the Mahayana qualities of bodhichitta, emptiness, and compassion. Gampopa brought together the Mahayana teachings of the Kadampas with the Vajrayana teachings of Mahamudra and the Six Yogas. The way he joined these teachings has shaped the study and practice of the Kagyu lineage to this day.

Ringu Tulku, born in Eastern Tibet in 1952, has acquired a friendly and effective  manner to communicate  these deep teachings to Westerners over the past seventeen years as a professor of Tibetan studies at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado and at various meditation centers in Europe, across the USA and in India.

The eighteen short “community talks” are profound dharma teachings. Ringu Tulku anticipates some of the questions that will naturally arise in the Western mind and weaves into the chapters the root text, stories, along with anecdotes from his experiences as a teacher.

The result is a rich guide for Mahamudra meditation practice and the Vajrayana view and practice; an excellent addition to the library of someone with an established meditation practice, and a heartening experience for a lifelong learner who wants to explore unadulterated Buddhist text.

by B. Allan Wallace

This is a wonderfully written book.

The author’s deep knowledge about Lucid Dreaming and Tibetan Dream Yoga is shared with a clear confidence that can only be the result of his experiences as a former monk, scholar, and teacher.

Lucid dreaming is simply being conscious that you are dreaming.

In Dreaming Yourself Awake, B. Alan Wallace gives us a clear set of techniques to follow, along with guidance to adapt those techniques to our individual needs and abilities, to create a practice that will propel us beyond the murky somnambulance of our habits on the path towards awakening.


You can listen to our interview and discussion about bringing wellness tools to caregivers on the eCareDiary blog talk radio

We all know the stresses of caregiving. The stresses are so familiar, there is a popular term for them- caregiver burnout.

Wellness tools can help  relieve  caregiver burnout.
Our wellness kit, Seasons of Care™,  helps caregivers strengthen their inner resilience, alleviate the stresses, and  supports better  communication between the caregiver and the person receiving care.

Seasons of Care™ includes a collection of meditations written and produced specifically for caregivers.

You can sample one here,  to help you Catch Your Breath div> .

And who doesn’t need the simple gift of grace, especially when it comes wrapped in the captivating, heavenly compelling magic of the Tango!??

That simple gift of grace is medicine for more than downed spirits of a lonely heart or the pining over a lost love–it’s also REAL MEDICINE-

Tango is being used therapeutically with people suffering with Parkinson’s Disease.
Studies have shown that the pleasurable effects of tango decreased falls, shuffling, and improved balance and that the experience of dancing with a partner increased desire to exercise and  participate with others.

Look here at Washington University School of Medicine?play=tango

How to Be Sick

“I’ve written How to Be Sick to help inspire the chronically ill and their caregivers as they meet the challenges posed by any chronic illness or condition…..”  These honest, friendly  and noble words greet readers of this unusual memoir written by Toni Bernhard.

After becoming ill in May 2001, Toni began her challenge of living with chronic illness –  and delving into the depths of the Buddha’s teaching

Though blurbs on the cover of the book say, true enough, that  “Readers need not be Buddhist to benefit…” regardless —  for readers with any sort of meditation practice, How to Be Sick has the truth and clarity of  applied physics. The art of meditation becomes more than philpsophical; and the insights and clarity gained from a  meditation practice are shared with undeniable authenticity.

We are all scared of chronic illness. And those of us who have cared for loved ones who had such suffering have met personal challenge and limitation. How to Be Sick illuminates that shared experience of chronic illness and offers hope that there is a way to walk that most unwelcomed path with real courage and grace.