One of the most beloved teachers of the Eastern contemplative tradition through Western philosophy, Stephen Levine passed this Sunday. It is often argued that Levine is best known for his work in and around geriatrics, surrounding death and dying, but I can’t help but think of his love for his wife and partner of 40 years, Ondrea. I know of the Levines and their work through their son, my friend and once teacher, Noah Levine. Through his influence I was initially introduced to their Year To Live book and practice. Later on, while in a relationship with a fellow Buddhist and meditation practitioner, we attempted to use their collectively written book Embracing the Beloved: Relationship as a Path of Awakening during a turbulent time in our relationship.
His work with death and dying, his books and talks, have been a great help to me during times of mourning. I have taken a great deal of inspiration from Levine, his wife, and his son, and have since begun my own path to teaching meditation. Their lives, lives dedicated to service of others are the lighthouse by which I navigate my own life. I never met the guy, but many of the students, and one time students, of his son, and countless others, witnessed his vulnerability and authenticity in his books and talks, and many of us feel as if we have known him our whole lives.
A deep loss is felt today through the Buddhist world, as well as a bit of the Vedic and yoga worlds as well. A great heart and a great teacher is gone. But in the spirit of Levines endless humor, I must note the irony that many will find themselves using the very man’s books whose absence we must learn to walk through. In celebration of Stephen’s work, I hope to prepare myself to practice his Year to Live practice, as my own mortality becomes more and more apparent.
My deepest condolences to his son Noah and his wife Ondrea. There are millions with you in their hearts this week.
Thank you Stephen.