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Farewell Lee Lipsenthal

by Cassandra Vieten

Beloved IONS Board member, colleague, and friend Lee Lipsenthal passed away last Tuesday, September 20, after a two-year battle with untreatable esophageal cancer. 

I learned of his passing while in customs at the San Francisco airport, returning from a trip to Italy, where Lee and I had been scheduled to lead a Noetic Sciences workshop together. Lee was not able to make that trip. Though expected, the news of his transition came earlier than any of us thought, and I was overwhelmed with sadness—and gratitude. 

Lee, an integrative medicine physician who dedicated his life to helping doctors and others find the source of their healing from within, was an inspiration to many. He was fearless and unequivocally dedicated to savoring all that life had to offer. He loved his work: the honor of helping others find their true nature through inquiry, breath-work, and holding a strong and loving presence for transformation. He did this with deep wisdom combined with impish humor, always holding the work with lightness, humility, and an unshakable good nature. Most of all he loved his wife and family as well as his circle of friends, who he persistently challenged to grow and lighten up!

Recently, Lee led me and a group of colleagues and friends in an exercise. “Imagine you are me,” he said, eyes twinkling, “and you’ve just been told you have less than six months to live. What do you need to do? Who do you need to talk to? Where do you need to visit? What’s left undone? What will you need to prepare, and what activities are you ready to let go of? How will you spend the time you have left?” These questions helped us identify our priorities, our unfinished business, and our sources of joy in life. He’d have wanted us all to continue to explore these questions and act accordingly.

One Lee-ism I remember fondly is how his genuine engagement with others sometimes began with, “Do you mind if I push you a little?” It was always followed by a loving inquiry that illuminated something more, something one hadn’t been aware of. 

Lee’s approach to life—and to death—and his legacy of insights and wisdom will continue to benefit the healing of others through his book, Enjoy Every Sandwich, which describes his journey since his diagnosis. Enjoy Every Sandwich will be published on November 8, 2011, by Crown Books.

Lee’s approach to death was actually more of an embrace, and he encouraged everyone to do the same—with compassion and understanding for those of us in his circle and family who weren’t ready for him to go. Especially today, I encourage you to enjoy Lee’s recent blog post on Noetic Now to get a taste of his gentle “push” to inquire within. We can honor Lee’s enduring healing touch by being our highest selves, attending to what is most important, and remembering to enjoy every experience, every relationship, every sandwich, as though it were our last. And by keeping a sense of humor while doing it!

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