In this video teaching, Tsunma Jamyang discusses issues surrounding a long, involved dying process with children. She reminds us that we don’t know what people may hear or feel even when it appears that the child is in a coma or uncommunicative. Often those who have awakened from comas do report some awareness of what was going on and especially what they heard. Even when the situation looks bleak we can communicate our love.
Tsunma advises us not to stop communicating, and to keep the child foremost in our thoughts. We need to be sensitive to the fact that the child may be able to hear things even when we think they cannot. They also may be very aware when people are praying for them, or practicing meditations with or for them. It can be a help to engage in tonglen, or “giving and taking” practice with children, and parents and relatives are often very receptive to this practice. Tonglen can be effective particularly in situations where we cannot hold or touch the child physically. We can still feel deep connection and generosity when we practice extending in this way—it can become a virtual hug for the child.
If you are already experienced with tonglen practice, you can work with the child as your object of focus. If you are not familiar with tonglen, then you may want to review a Samye Institute Blog post on Beginner Tonglen. In this teaching, Tulku Migmar Tsering teaches a very gentle form of this giving and taking practice.
Finally, Tsunma-la reminds us that the dying process is a very sacred occasion, and even though the process may be painful and difficult for the caregivers, it can also actually be a gift.