Looking at the Buddhist approach to life, death

By Alicia Doyle, Ventura County Star, July 31, 2008

Specialist in neurofeedback to be speaker

Ventura, CA (USA) -- Living and dying in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition will be the topic this week when the Wellness Community presents the next in its ongoing series of evening talks open to those affected by cancer.

The event tonight in Westlake Village will feature a discussion by Dr. David Dubin, a medical doctor and a senior student of Shambhala Buddhism with a practice specializing in EEG neurofeedback.

Dubin, 55, of Topanga, will address attitudes relating to living, dying and cancer.

Approaching death and life "both require the same attitude," he said.

Life and death "are part of one ongoing thing," he said. "One of the traditional reminders in Buddhism is that life is short; you're not going to live forever. It's just a reminder to wake up now and not waste time."

Dubin read about Buddhism for 10 years, starting in high school and becoming part of Shambhala (Tibetan) Buddhism in 1980.

Taught Shambhala programs

He has since taught many Shambhala Buddhist programs and for two years taught a course in meditation at Reed College in Portland, Ore. He also was an emergency room physician for 10 years.

He currently has a practice in Santa Monica specializing in neurofeedback, a specialized form of biofeedback. Neurofeedback is direct training of brain function, by which the brain learns to function more efficiently.

"This is emerging technology that is proving to be very, very useful for many central nervous system-related problems, including traumatic brain injury, ADD, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder," Dubin said.

His upcoming discussion is part of Spiritual Perspectives, an ongoing series of evening workshops at the Wellness Community featuring speakers from a variety of spiritual disciplines.

The Wellness Community Valley/Ventura is a place for people affected by cancer — including cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, family and friends of all ages — to receive free programs that offer psychological, social and emotional support so they can fight for their recovery along with their physicians and healthcare teams, said Jodi McIntosh, associate program director.

"In keeping with our mission, we hope that those who attend Dr. Dubin's talk will benefit from hearing his perspective on life meaning and the cancer journey," McIntosh said. "Although living with cancer is a very physical experience, we know that it affects the person emotionally and psychologically as well."

Finding meaning in one's life is a very human struggle that seems to become a high priority when faced with a life-threatening illness, McIntosh added.

"Spirituality is often associated with religion, and many people are hesitant to talk about that," she said. "And yet, there is a need to be able to ponder and discuss these big questions within a supportive community."

New thinking

"We developed this series to support the cancer survivor's search to find meaning in life and his/her personal cancer experience," McIntosh said. "Spiritual Perspectives offers participants a variety of perspectives on life meaning and the cancer journey that may provide hope or a new way of looking at their experience."

It's really about how to live in this world in the most pragmatic way, Dubin said.

"My focus is on integrating the spiritual and secular in everyday life," he said. "It's relevant to everybody, especially those who are most concerned about death."

Each culture and perspective has much to offer its global neighbors, if only we took the time to listen and learn, McIntosh said.

"I think that many people are curious about Buddhism," she said. "Dr. Dubin's presentation is an opportunity to learn from him personally what he has found to be valuable about this tradition.

"This perspective might contain a seed of hope for a cancer survivor. If nothing else, the information may foster greater understanding and, hopefully, respect for the Buddhist perspective and people who espouse this tradition."