Whilst travelling in Germany this summer, I researched "Buddhist Hospices" and found this incredible place , "Sukhavati" It's upon a beautiful lake in the small town of - Bad Saarow.
Here is what I discovered....
When I reflect on my recent visit to Sukhavati Tibetan Buddhist Hospice in Germany - Sukhavati meaning Pure Land of Bliss - I am left with reassuring feelings of warmth and heartfelt gratitude. First and foremost because such a place exists in the world!
The Buddhists who live and work at Sukavhati are that of the Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen Teachings and Nygma Lineage.
Throughout the buildings there are beautiful attestments to this in the Meditation rooms and the statues and decor around the buildings and in the atmosphere in the place which is pervaded by peace, love and respect and devotion in their service to the sick and dying.
There is a framed letter from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Reception, proudly displayed on the wall.
In his letter, the Dali Lama gives his blessings and explains why places like Sukavhati are needed in this world in supporting and meeting people who are dying with such care, kindness and love.
The letter and message from His Holiness The Dalai Lama
The Hospice itself has a grass roof and cannot be seen from street level, so people have their privacy from the main view.
It has 8 bedrooms, each with floor- to- ceiling windows opening out to their verandas overlooking the incredible lake, with its ever -changing lights and reflections upon both the lake and sky. There is also a communal dining room and kitchen and people are also welcome to take their meals at the Bistro which is open to everyone.
You don't have to have a spiritual background or spiritual beliefs to come to Sukhavati, or even want to talk about death, all are so welcome.
You could be homeless or a millionaire or anything inbetween, it is open to everyone for free. Health insurance covers 95% of the costs and the other 5% is fundraised for by the organisation and a team of volunteers.
photo taken by Oliver Peters
The Hospice and their dedicated and caring team of medical staff and volunteers, offer Palliative Care to support with pain relief.
There is also a homeopathic Doctor who comes weekly and these visits are independently sponsored, treating the people who would like this.
There are other complimentary therapies on offer, such as Aromatherapy, Music and Sound massage, Tambora, Soul therapy and visiting Death Doulas.
When people arrive, some people are open to talking about death, but not everyone is, which is completely respected and honoured.
The Hospice has its own kitchen and dining room and there are staff there 24 hours to support people with whatever they want, be it food, drink or someone to talk with or medical care. People who come to stay are usually 2-3 weeks towards the end of their lives, but it has been the case that people are so well cared for that they decide they want to continue living and have a complete turnaround!
One such person has now been living and volunteering here for 2 years! The team at Sukhavati their role as Servants of the Dying and this is so obvious from the moment you walk over the threshold.
When a person dies, their body is laid out, washed and dressed, and a vigil is kept for three days. (death watch)
Prayers are then said for for 49 days, following their death in the daily meditations as well as prayers for those who are sick and poor throughout the world, as it the Dzogchen tradition.
As well as the Hospice, there are Apartments for Assisted living and people can get involved with the Veg growing projects and with community life, or go about their daily lives as normal.
They can bring their pets with them too!
When people first arrive to live as part of Assisted Living, they and their families are invited to come together to talk about aspects of end-of -life planning and there is a Social Support team to help with all getting all the practical aspects in place.
It is set in the town and of the lake of Bad Saarow, and members of the public come and dine in the Bistro or have a coffee. There are also classes in different types of meditation, yoga and healing.
The wonderful Kitchen and Bistro Team
After my tour around the grounds and buildings by Oliver Peters, the Head of Spiritual care and Volunteers, and his beautiful dog Rocky, I was invited to stay overnight in one of their beautiful guest apartments overlooking the lake.
Oliver Peters and his dog Rocky
This felt like a wonderful way to honour and celebrate the beginning of my 58th birthday and to reflect on the impermanence of life. It was particularly powerful and poignant, as 58 was the age that my own mum died whiich enhanced this experience.
People are welcome to stay in the beautiful guest apartments as part of a holiday, weekend break or for personal retreats.
There are beautiful oak trees and gardens, with prayer flags and water features, and a winding path that takes you down to the lake.
Prayer flags in the garden
Here you can sit on the deck,or on the veranda looking out at the lake, with sailboats and the occasional swimmer passing by in the distance.
View of the lake
I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Sukhavati Buddhist Hospice and to see such love, care and compassion in action for older people and for the dying, and wish for this to become a reality everywhere in the world.
For more information about Sukavhati, visit their website: https://www.sukhavati.eu
My amazing 58th Birthday Breakfast at Sukhavati
If you would like to talk about getting clear on your End -of- life planning wishes, then please email me: email@example.com
Thank you so much for reading,