Over the years, we have learned from many wonderful teachers, whom we continue to turn to for wisdom and guidance. Here are four significant ones, followed by a bibliography of our favorite works.
Buddhist teacher, founder of the Metta Institute, leading voice in contemplative end-of-life care. more »
Geriatric specialist, founder of Thetford House, a home for people with Alzheimer’s Disease. more »
David Hilfiker, MD
Dr. Hilfiker is the founder of Joseph’s House. He was trained as a family practitioner and spent seven years in a rural Minnesota clinic as a “country doctor” and ten years at Community of Hope Health Services, an inner-city clinic in Washington, DC. He and his family lived for five years at Christ House, a 34-bed medical recovery shelter for homeless men that he helped to found. In 1990, he left Christ House to found Joseph’s House, where he and his family lived until 1993. David thinks and writes deeply about social justice issues. He continues to be a member of the Joseph’s House community, teaching a class to our full-time volunteers and helping to spread the word about our work to new friends. To read more about him and his work, visit his website.
In 1987, Frank Ostaseski helped form the Zen Hospice Project, the first Buddhist hospice in America. In 2004, he created the Metta Institute to broaden this work and seed the culture with innovative approaches to end-of-life care that reaffirm the spiritual dimensions of dying. A number of Joseph’s House staff members have participated in Metta Institute programs and Frank has come to D.C. to visit the house and lead workshops.
Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND
Sister Rose Mary Dougherty has ministered in the D.C. area of spirituality for over 30 years and is well known to many as a spiritual teacher, author, end-of-life companion and spiritual guide. She is currently co-director of Companioning the Dying: Opening Fully to Living , an experiential learning program for compassionate companioning. She leads monthly mindfulness days, as well as retreats, for the Joseph’s House community.
Emily Carton founded Thetford House, a small assisted living home that cares for people with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, after having worked in many aspects of geriatric service. She has studied poetry therapy and has authored articles for a number of publications. She leads a class each fall for our full-time volunteers.
Joseph’s House Bibliography
Bolen, Jean Shinoda, Close to the Bone: Life Threatening Illness as a Soul Journey, Conari Press, 2007 Using myths and symbols, the author helps those facing a life-threatening illness to explore the losses and find new strength. She helps readers acknowledge the illness’ impact on their lives and those around them, and to discover purpose in the journey. A deep, rich, thoroughly useful book.
Brown, Rebecca, The Gifts of the Body, Harper Collins, 1994 The narrator is a home-care worker who assists people with AIDS taking us on her rounds, telling us their stories as she cooks their meals, cleans their houses, does their laundry, helps them bathe, and companions them in everyday gestures that sustain life in the face of death.
Cassell, Eric J., The Healer’s Art, 1976. Dr. Cassell discusses the world of the sick, the healing connection and healer’s battle, the role of omnipotence in the healer’s art, illness and disease, and overcoming the fear of death. A pivotal book.
Cassell, Eric J., Talking with Patients, Volume 1: The Theory of Doctor-Patient Communication; Volume 2: Clinical Technique; MIT, 1985. Spoken language is the most important diagnostic and therapeutic tool in medicine. To help doctors achieve precision in listening and speaking, these two volumes analyze the way spoken language functions in medicine. Volume 1 focuses on the workings of spoken language in the clinical setting, and Volume 2 demonstrates the process of history taking and describes ways the doctor can make the most of the information the patient has to offer.
De Hennezel, Marie, Intimate Death: How the Dying Teach Us How to Live, First Vintage Books, 1997. The author worked as a psychologist in a hospital for the terminally ill in Paris; this book tells the stories of her patients and their families, and discusses the importance of an honest relationship, the value of ritual, and the necessity of touch.
Fischer, Norman, Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer’s Odyssey to Navigate Life’s Perils and Pitfalls, Free Press, 2008. Zen master and poet Norman Fischer reflects on the wanderings of the wily Odysseus in light of the wisdom of the Zen tradition.
Fischer, Norman, Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up, Harper Collins, 2003. Growing up happens whether we like it or not, but maturity must be cultivated. This book demonstrates why this cultivation is essential for our lives and shows how we can go about achieving maturity.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon, Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness, Hyperion, 2005. Dr. Kabat-Zinn writes deeply about the connection between mindfulness and our physical and spiritual well-being.
Kearney, Michael, M.D., Mortally Wounded: Stories of Soul Pain, Death and Healing, Touchstone, 1996. Dr. Kearney reflects on his personal experiences working with the dying and shows that it is possible to die well or in one piece, psychologically speaking.
Kornfield, Jack, A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, Bantam Books, 1993. This book is a guide to meditation, the process of inner transformation, and the integration of Zen spiritual practice into the American lifestyle.
Levine, Stephen, Healing Into Life and Death, Anchor Press, 1997. From his years of experience working with the terminally ill, Stephen Levine shares lessons about the choice and application of treatments, offering original techniques for working with pain and grief and the development of merciful awareness.
Levine, Stephen, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as if it Were Your Last, Bell Tower, 1997. Stephen Levine spent a year trying to live as if each moment were his last. These are notes from the experiment.
Vanier, Jean, Community and Growth, Paulist Press, 1989. Founder of the L’Arche community, Jean Vanier wrote a series of starting points for reflection on the nature and meaning of community