Being With Our Dying NEWS

With growing community support, our Being With Our Dying program continues to be guided by vision, scaled to our capacity and practiced with joy as we deepen our relationship to healing and dying.  The ever expanding team of Kanae Kinoshita, Andrea Warnick, Lysa Toye, Pauline Abrahams, Shari Geller, with Angie and Andrew are focusing on 3 main areas:

Education such as the program at Sunnybrook & UHA that Kanae spearheaded to bring Roshi to teach to health professionals, as well as an annual daylong, Contemplating Our Death, where we each look at how we wish to die.  This will be held early in 2008.

Counselling & Support in healing and in dying will continue as part of our path of service.  While still in the early stage of development, we are investigating core funding to develop this service.  While we are currently offering services in a small capacity, grant writers are needed for this to expand!

Community Development is a strong value at the centre, so we are actively expanding the human resources for our Being With Our Dying program.  Over the years so many skillful and committed friends have attend our programs, in the next cycle we look to the means to bring a volunteer community together.  This would give rise to another grant proposal for funding.

Being With Our Dying program

This theoretical and experiential program, inspired by the work of Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD and Barbara Dossey, RN, PhD who developed the “Compassionate Care of the Dying Training Manual”, provides methods for lay and professionals working with the dying. Being With Our Dying Programs were designed to offer us opportunities to explore “being with” this profound time of living that leads to our final death.  While dying may involve a great deal of suffering as we begin to realize that our life is slipping away from us, preparing for death can alleviate some of it. Facing it today can open a door to another truth:  every one will cross the threshold of death towards an unknown destination.  Why then are we  so ill-prepared in this society?  Why is there such fear and anguish associated with death? 

 It seems in many cases that death is only a painful cleaving of loved ones towards a dark, unknown abyss.  Yet Gitche M'Qua, our founder, showed us another view of death.  His passing inspired a community to explore a spiritual life.  While his spirituality was rooted in Christianity, as well as Native and Buddhist views, his approach to dying was healing.  In his dying he was committed to healing, and though he did not accept death, outwardly, he inwardly approached his living with such integrity that his world become a sanctuary.  The community bonded around him and supported all his needs.  While Hospice and other Palliative Services were included in his care, a core circle of friends surrounded him in prayer, sound healing, hands-on-healing, drumming, mediation, and silence.  It was a living example of conscious dying, where the spiritual faith in each individual was tested and practiced.  Each one honoured their own faith and in this way many traditions were honoured, practiced and observed.

We discovered stage-specific issues that emerged in the creation of his sanctuary.  Here we discovered that it was the strength of his wife, Angie, who was willing to ask for support and to allow a radical transformation to occur in their home.  As one approaches dying everyone may want to see their dying friend one more time.  The last  stage, which could be named 'active dying', is the most challenging.  When one is sick with a terminal illness, we rarely acknowledge this time. We are so focussed on curing that we miss the point.  As Roshi Joan Halifax said, “curing is not always possible but  healing always is.”  And while having a positive attitude to curing ourselves is also crucial to healing, we rarely have a positive attitude towards dying.  At a certain point of the journey—different for each one—there is no more physical healing.  Some very clear changes occur which are outlined in detail in the Tibetan view of dying, i.e, changes related to physical functioning like appetite, elimination, fatigue, dryness, etc.. One example is our loved one no longer wishes to eat food.  We, on the other hand, want our love one to eat, as this means they will still be with us.  Yet, if we are to create a healing environment for dying, then it is helpful to recognize some of these signs.

When the time of dying occurs, one could see this as the ultimate spiritual time, much like birth, or as a highly energized, spiritual experience or an epiphany. It is an experience when the importance of everyday living is relinquished, when time is suspended, when the numinous & spiritual world expands, when signs from nature and dreams emerge, when our heart is rooted and present in each moment.  If you have been present for a death or at a highly charged situation like an emergency, you may know this state. Or even from meditation, prayer or being deeply connected in nature, you may have felt this state.  Dying can awaken meaning in our living, although for many it is too late.  So a central component in a “healing death” is making meaning today around our dying and this helps profoundly in how we are living in our dying.


In creating educational programs, Gitche M'Qua Centre first wanted to address our collective views of death, and to invite our spiritual, meaning-making, consciousness into the forefront. One of our cofounders, Andrew Blake, a psychotherapist and meditation teacher, developed a series of modules or courses to explore both our own dying and the skills to support the healing passage of another. These courses will be offered in the winter-spring and then again in the fall. In addition by reaching into the local and international community of End-of-Life educators, we will also offer evening lectures, as well as courses and weekend intensives, such as our June Retreat with Roshi Joan Halifax.  Looking to the diversity of spiritual approaches and to educators in this field, we hope that your vision of dying will be served and enriched.

Watch our calendar listings for dates of upcoming BWOD programs. Currently, we are focussed on three levels of training:

LEVEL 1:  CONSCIOUS DYING: Facing the Inevitable, Exploring Death

This is our recommended starting course which includes facing the truth that each of us will die; that the time is uncertain; that because we will all cross this threshold then its good to have a plan; and finally that it serves others to know in detail and with some clarity what is your picture of end-of-life.  By creating a written description of your vision it enables you to address how you are living and it may awaken you to other meaning-making issues.  In this regard we explore a vision of leading a full life, so that dying is meaningful.  This aspect of dying is how we awaken conscious living. Are we ready for our ideal vision of death?  This course will be offered as 1/2-day, full-day, and weekend retreats.  The longer programs are recommended as it allows us to deeply contemplate this profound truth.

LEVEL 2: TOOLS FOR THE CAREGIVER: Caring for Ourselves, Caring for the Dying

Designed for those working directly, or wishing to work, with the dying and for those wishing to deepen their relationship with living a conscious life, each module includes meditation instruction, council process, expressive writing & arts, and group discussion. Past modules have included the following themes:

Three Tenets of Being with Dying

World Views on Death & Dying

Suffering & Pain in Compassionate Care

A Model for Relationship-Centered Care

Preparing for the Inevitable: Living & Planning for Death

Lovingkindness: Towards Yourself First

The Shadow of Caregiving

Grief & Honouring our Ancestors

Caregiver as Healer: Creating a Context for Healing Rituals

Meditations for Caregivers: Awakening the Heart of Tonglen



Gitche M'Qua is currently creating an interdisciplinary team of professional and lay, from conventional and alternative disciplines, to provide support to individuals and their families.  Our team members will visit you in your home and in cooperation with other services and family, assist you in navigating this important stage of living. 

Please contact us directly for inquiries and more information  at 416-651-1846 or info@gitchemqua.org

As this program receives more funding we will hire a volunteer co-ordinator to assist us building more teams to serve you.

 Since all of us will die one day and inevitably face the complex issues of dying, the Centre wishes to explore their ‘Relationship-Centered” model for caring.  With the dying person’s needs as the focus, we will create training modules and support for front-line healthcare providers, as well as for family, friends, hospice volunteers, etc., in bringing compassion to the dying. Our vision is to train lay and professionals and to interface within existing palliative care and hospice communities where we invite people to volunteer an hour a week to assist those in need.  And eventually, the Centre will provide counseling, support, and resources for families and individuals to encourage a peaceful death at home or in an institutional setting.

Click here for course information and registration

Spiritual Living

We are developing programs that offer the opportunities to explore practices from various traditions in leading a spiritual life.  By inviting spiritual teachers to our community, we facilitate cross-cultural/spiritual programs, including ceremonies and festivals that demonstrate living spiritual practices.  By developing ongoing training in spiritual study and practice in traditions such as Native, Buddhist, Celtic, Mayan and so forth, we intend to foster spiritual living as we embrace the preciousness of life.

Click here for more course information and registration

Being With Our Healing

The Centre is developing classes, courses, and workshops in healing practices for our body, mind, and soul, such as our Sheng Zhen Qigong program, based on the work of Master Li Jun Feng.  We are committed to offering ongoing programs that develop our skills as healers and in healing ourselves.