62 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 1997
There's no self-help baloney or New Age airheadedness in this book. In it you'll find the deeply moving words of a man who really knows something about extreme pain and suffering and what you can do to cope with them.
Levine has the ability to put into words concepts that are very hard to get at. If you've been put off by people teaching meditation, or if other past experience has made you think you simply can't meditate, you may find, as I did, that this book opens up a new kind of meditation that really can help you find peace and inner healing.
It also helps you think about illness and suffering in new ways, very different from those you'll find in most self-help books. Levine moves you away from the idea of "beating illness" which can become intensely self-destructive if you are not experiencing the usual New Age Book miracle cure. He shows you how much anger you feel towards yourself when you are in pain, and how this self-directed anger can intensify your pain. Finally he shows you how to "make room" around your pain and let it float, with a series of directed meditations that I have found to be extremely helpful.
The techniques in this book are particularly good for people who are in physical pain or who are dealing with incurable illness, though they also work well for people dealing with emotional crises.
This is such a useful book, I'd say, don't wait until you are in the sort of crisis where you need the techniques it teaches. Every one of us will face pain and death at some point, and this book gives you practical, down-to-earth tools for living with them.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2000
I just mailed a copy of this book to a friend who is dealing with headaches caused by pressure on the brain - she isn't dying, but the pain is constant, surgery a long way away, and medication doesn't help.
Levine's book offers a refreshing way of dealing with pain caused by a variety of diseases - from cancer to the unknown. Often we turn against ourselves. We judge how well we do with 'fighting' pain or 'beating' death or even 'praying for someone to heal' by the outcome. If we fought hard enough, or bargained well enough, our prayers were answered. If we 'gave up,' that was failure. Levine's approach is different, freeing. Rather than fighting the pain, we recognize it as part of us and go with it, often learning surprising things.
Levine offers guided meditations, something I'm not particularly fond of, but for those who like to do these, these look like they would be good for people to do with an ailing family member.
He offers stories of the ways people have successfully dealt with their pain (physical and emotional). One that stands out is of a woman who had lead a fairly self-centered, bitter life (before the pain!). In the hospital, she was so hard to get along with that nurses were slow to answer her ring. She was sharp and mean-spirited to her own family, and eventually they stopped visiting her.
Her pain became so great that, quite uncharacteristically, she began envisioning other people who might have experienced the pain. The idea that her pain wasn't just hers - that it wasn't wasn't a punishment exclusively for her, but something that many others have had somehow opened her heart, and she did not die alone. This isn't written in a sappy manner - there are happy and sad endings in the book.
Levine himself suddenly came to a realization that praying for someone to get well wasn't working - what did work was praying that people be able to handle what was given to them. That takes a load of guilt and betrayal off of those whose prayers aren't answered, perhaps because they are trying to direct, not be open to, what is happening between body, mind and spirit.
Some of the people he writes about have healed into dying a more peaceful death. Some have healed back into life. This book has to be read to be appreciated, for it is really hard to explain how helpful this book is. If you or a loved one is in pain, and you are trying to find out how to alleviate it, and you are open to alternative ways (in addition to, in conjuction with traditional methods), please read this book.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 1999
This book is very moving. At least it is moving me to change my life, to be much more mindful of the present, of my body, of my emotions, of the whole package that makes up me. I think it would be a help to anyone facing serious injury, loss, or illness, or anyone who might in the future. And who does that not include?
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2003
This book is fantastic. Stephen Levine is an amazingly gifted writer. Everything he writes has the flavor of poetry. His ability to express things which come very close, by their very nature, to being inexpressible is stunning. Like I said, his writing has the flavor of poetry. But GOOD poetry. Like Rumi. As one reviewer said, this is NOT a "new agey" book. I totally agree with that. This is a book about the Truth. Does it get "touchy-feely" at times? Yeah, but those moments are more than balanced by the overwhelming feeling that "this guy knows what he's talking about!". He's been "in the trenches" and LIVED this stuff. It's not theory to him.... it's life.
You may resonate more powerfully with this book if you have even a passing familiarity with Zen/Buddhist philosophy. But it is certainly not a prerequisite. This is a book for everyone. "Sick" or "well", "happy" or "depressed", "contented" or "fed up". It speaks to the HUMAN condition in all it's manifestations. Almost anyone would classify this book as being a "spiritually" oriented book but it is so grounded in the "suchness" (as Stephen puts it) of everyday life that it comes closer to being a nitty gritty Ultimate Guide to Living A Human Life than it does any airy, ungrounded "spiritual" read.
I'm not a big fan of guided meditations either. And I've found that all "techniques" will fail you eventually if you see them as an end in themselves. But Stephen does an EXCELLENT job of not just suggesting some things to try but explaining WHY YOU ARE DOING THEM! You understand why he is telling you to "breathe with a soft belly"... he doesn't just hit you over the head with.... "Enlightenment in 30 days through the use of the amazing Soft Belly technique" which is the take of so many books. After reading Healing into Life and Death, you will have such an expanded view of yourself and "illness" vs. "health" that you will easily be able to use whatever feels right to YOU... the things that will take you more and more deeply into yourself, where True healing lies. Yeah, he gives you some tools, but makes it clear that they are just that.... TOOLS.... like rafts you use to cross the river and then leave on the banks.
This book is filled with hope but NOT promises (just like life). It never gives the impression that if you will just do as it suggests, you will get well. But it does make it clear that to be with yourself... look deeply at your own experience... refuse to run away and actually LIVE your life are ALWAYS better than the alternatives. After all.... we've all tried the alternatives ad nauseum. If you want to see how far that has gotten us as a species..... take a look at this world.
This isn't a book about "illness", it's a book about Life. This is the book we all should've been given when we were born. The world would be a much better place for it.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2007
This book is one of the most thought-provoking and illuminating reads of our time on the subject of death. It was first published in 1987 but did not come across my radar screen until after the sudden loss of my own parents just a few years back. Stephen Levine has taken a taboo subject (the thought of our own demise) and reshaped it into something glorious and spectacular. I love the many beautiful life stories that anchor this book along the way, particularly the letter from Bill in Chapter 11 and his analogy, "soon my body will drop away from me like a cocoon and my spirit will fly like a butterfly- beautiful and perfect." Other favorite and poignant passages (of which there are many) include, "truly we have been waiting our whole life to hear I love you in our own voice", "making a cup of green tea, I stop the war", and "we become who we have always been, that which preceded birth and survives death." For anyone who is looking to find comfort in the midst of illness, loss, and grief, this book is simply exquisite and in a league all it's own.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2010
Stephen is not spouting self help. He is sharing what he KNOWS. This book was my bible as I underwent chemotherapy four years ago. I have reread it many, many times. It is still the best book out there on being with "illness." Thank you Stephen and Ondrea for your practice. May you be at peace.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2006
Like all stephen's books we should all be given them at school!The person who hated the book because they cried should maybe read it again....and again....
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2006
Often the most profound healing took place in those who did eventually die, but their deaths were transformed into experiences of beauty and grace. Levine concluded that real healing occurred when the heart was opened and there was a balanced integration of body, mind, heart, and soul.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2011
I am still reading this book and already am recommending it. It is unique and heartfelt and has something for everyone - I am enjoying the meditations. Learning to experience 'self' as separate from pain and suffering is profound and truly transformative. Easy and gentle to read.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2012
I got my first copy of this book in the 80s and have read it so often that the pages have fallen out. I've read many, many other books on spirituality , meditation and self-help and haven't found any that are as wise. Stephen Levine and his wife Andrea have been in the trenches with the dying and gravely ill. They spent years there and also lived through Andrea's own severe cancer. This isn't some 'great idea' or feel good fluff. Rather, it speaks directly to the source of suffering, of both body and mind, and offers skillful meditations that, if practiced regularly, can open us to the heart of compassion and deep healing. The healing may affect the body, it may not. It does reach the core of what makes us human and humane. If I were stuck with only one book, this is the one I'd choose.