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Lions Roar : November 2017
present in our lives, then death doesn’t come as such a shock. You’re here, you’re at a retreat, you’re grocery shopping—and suddenly you’re not. What is more important than understand- ing how quickly it can end—that there’s no rhyme or reason— and having some kind of spiritual foundation that can hold you in that?” Chodo and Koshin met as Buddhist chaplains, and became both romantic partners and partners in end-of-life care. Their idea to start a small hospice house developed into the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care in Manhattan. In addition to Zen Buddhist practice and study, NYZCCC offers training in end-of-life care for medical professionals, caregivers, loved ones, and those who are themselves dying. “99.9% of people we care for are not Buddhists. These are people who are looking for an extra layer of support,” says Koshin. “But all the work we do is grounded in the Zen pre- cepts. One of the things we continually try to address is the equality of everyone who is on the care team as well as the dying person.” “What Zen Buddhist practice allows for is the idea that there’s no receiver and there’s no giver of care,” says Eishin Schapiro, who studied at NYZCCC. “Care is found in relation- ship. I find that very powerful in theory and in action. So much of my Buddhist practice didn’t make sense until I was doing this caregiving work.” Compassion means allowing death to look different ways, says Koshin. He tells the story of being called to deal with some- one people described as difficult and violent. “I had to drop all ideas, even what I heard about this woman—because that’s not who she is, that’s who she was to those people.” Below: “There is no single definition of a good death,” Koshin says. “Caring for someone who is dying means allowing them to decide what that is.” Students in the contemplative care program at NYZCCC.