We were deeply saddened to hear that beloved Buddhist teacher Michael Stone had suddenly taken ill on July 13th and had reportedly fallen into a coma. We’ve now learned that Stone has been taken off of life support as of Sunday evening, July 16, according to his partner.
Michael Stone is a British Columbia-based Buddhist teacher, yogi, author and social activist. Though he was based in Canada, Stone often traveled internationally to teach workshops and lead retreats. He’s the author of multiple books bridging Buddhism, yoga, and social action, most recently Family Wakes Us Up, a collaboration with Matthew Remski, and according to his recent Facebook posts, he was working on several more, including The National Parks of the Mind: A Field Guide to Mental States.
On Friday, July 14, a status update was posted to Stone’s Facebook page: “This post is to let you all know that Michael was hospitalized in Victoria yesterday evening. He is in a coma, and being monitored closely. Carina is by his side. We ask that you send them both your thoughts and prayers. We cannot answer any individual questions at this time but will update this page as soon as more information becomes available, and according to the family’s wishes. Thank you.”
Stone’s partner Carina posted later Friday evening that Michael was “between worlds right now,” and encouraged his friends and students to “sit, feel, cry, stand up and move your body.”
Though little is known yet as to the cause of Stone’s sudden condition, Carina shared that Stone “didn’t return from a day trip to town” and that “he was taken to the hospital in a coma and had lost all brain function by the time he arrived,” she said in a message posted Sunday afternoon, July 16. She also shared that they would be taking him off life support.
Here is the full message via Michael Stone’s Facebook page:
Dear Michael’s Friends, Students and Loved Ones,
Thank you all for your love and support for Michael during this difficult time. We are writing to keep you informed of what is happening.
On Thursday night Michael didn’t return from a day trip to town. He was taken to the hospital in a coma and had lost all brain function by the time he arrived. His body has been kept on life support over the weekend while his family came to say their goodbyes and surround him with love. He will remain on life support until tonight (Sunday) between 8pm and 1am Pacific Time. If you can practice and send love and blessings in whatever way you can during that time, it would be a welcome and loving support to Michael and all of us.
We are still piecing together what happened and will need some time to learn, process and share more with you. In the meantime, we would appreciate your patience, understanding and support as we move through this experience.
With Immense Love,
Carina and Jayme
For those who know Michael Stone or know of his teachings, we invite you to share your thoughts, prayers and good memories below, or over on his Facebook page where the outpouring of love and admiration continues to flow.
We will keep you posted on any updates.
We leave you with this. Take a few minutes to breathe, courtesy of Michael Stone and his Awake in the World podcast.
UPDATE: Michael Stone has passed. A message from his partner Carina was posted on his Facebook page around 2pm (eastern).
This is Carina.
Michael left beautifully and peacefully last night. There was joy and release in his time of transformation.
Unfathomable. Heart opening. Mind grasping for knowing every unknowable.
Deep feelings of peace.
A blue heron landed on our deck
Another at the oceans edge
Three turns of the earth
Always in a moment
Face of a Buddha
A hand on my shoulder
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhisvaha
Prajna heart sutra
Thank you for your love and practice
Michael Stone’s Passing – Official Statement
from Carina Stone, Erin Robinsong & Rose Riccio
Michael Stone passed suddenly from this world last weekend in Victoria, BC. He was found on July 14th and remained on life support until July 16th. The story of what led to this moment is complex and heartbreaking.
Michael was loved for his brilliant mind and generous heart. He was an eminent Buddhist and yoga teacher, author, uncommon activist and human being. He had a gift for making really old practices fresh and relevant. He shone brightly. He was the bedrock of a community of yoga and meditation practitioners, first in Toronto and now an expanded international community. If you met or studied with Michael you may remember him as wise, charismatic and poetic. He seemed unshakeable and capable of holding everyone else’s suffering. And he did, but he struggled with his own.
Michael lived with bipolar disorder his whole life. Bipolar disorder is characterized by a fluctuation between normalcy, mania and depression. This manifested in visible and invisible ways. He was aroused by life, he sought experiences. As a young man he drove race cars, followed the Grateful Dead, and experimented with psychedelics. He perceived the world with incredible sensitivity, through music, art and literature. Along with this lust for life was an impulsivity that he struggled to quell through yoga and Buddhist practice. His brain was rapidfire and wide open. It was part of his brilliance and his sensitive nature.
Michael came to spiritual practice innately at a young age, and then to formal study as a teenager. It was also a way to take care of his mental health. For a long time he was well enough to resist the diagnosis and stay balanced naturally through practice and self-care, but as things got worse, he opened up more to family and friends, and sought medical help. Taking care of his extreme mental states became a full-time job for him and his partner Carina. They were a team. They were doing well. His international work was incredibly inspired and flourishing. They established self-care routines. He exercised. He went to bed early. He ate a special diet. They joked about fecal transplants. He saw naturopaths and herbalists and trainers and therapists. He continued his daily practice. As things worsened he turned to psychiatry and medication as well. Balancing his meds was ever-changing and precarious. He struggled to be completely open with those around him about how much and how deeply he struggled. He tried.
In 2015, Michael shared-
“You’d think that given all this inner work, an incredible network of support, strong friendships, a loving partner and kids, and lastly, a life dedicated to embodying the dharma (literally every single day includes practice and study), that I’d be immune to extreme mental states.
It can be hard to admit even to ourselves that there are times when the stability of awareness that we discover in [meditation] just isn’t there. When this started happening I’d say my practice needs to get deeper. But the truth is, there was a chemical change in my brain.”
As versed as Michael was with the silence around mental health issues in our culture, he feared the stigma of his diagnosis. He was on the cusp of revealing publicly how shaped he was by bipolar disorder, and how he was doing.
In the silencing he hid desires he had for relief. This spring his mania began to cycle more rapidly. The psychiatrist had always said the most dangerous part of bipolar disorder is the manic episode. It’s the part they treat. In an effort to stabilize him, his medication dosage was increased. Now and then he would mention a wish for a safe, non-addictive prescribed natural form of opium. He discussed it with his psychiatrist and Carina. He thought it might calm his overactive mind.
Unbeknownst to everybody, he was growing more desperate. On Thursday July 13, Michael left his Gulf Island home for a routine trip to Victoria. On the way into town, he called a substance abuse and addictions pharmacy, likely to ask for a safe, controlled drug to self-medicate. He was not a candidate. He got a haircut, exercised, ran household errands and finally acquired a street drug. Initial toxicology tests suggest inconclusively that he had opioids, including fentanyl, in his system. Because of the back up due to the fentanyl crisis, it will be five months before the conclusive toxicology test results are in.
When he didn’t come home, Carina initiated a missing persons search with the RCMP and he was found around midnight on Thursday. He was unresponsive and found to have no brain function upon arrival at the hospital. He was declared brain dead on July 14th and was kept on life support for the purposes of being an organ donor on Sunday, July 16th. Within hours of the operation, three people received new life through his organs. His lungs, and kidneys.
His time in hospital was beautiful and peaceful, full of love and gratitude. Carina was by his side night and day until the last moment. He was surrounded by his family, his children and dear friends.
It may be hard to put one’s mind into his, to imagine how he could take such a risk with a young family, baby on the way, with such a full life and such fortune. It could be easy to shake one’s head and think, what a shame. Culturally we don’t have enough language to talk about this. Rather than feel the shame and tragedy of it, can we find questions? What was he feeling? How was he coping? What am I uncomfortable hearing? What can we do for ourselves and others who have impulses or behaviors we cannot understand? Impulses that scare us and silence us? How can we take care of each other?
Michael did amazing work in the world and changed the lives of so many. He was a beautiful father and loving husband. He loved his life, his work and his students deeply. He was loved immeasurably. He continues.
“In a statement released last Thursday, his wife, Carina Stone, and students revealed he’d been living with bipolar disorder and may have been trying to alleviate his symptoms when he died.
Stone was on his way to Victoria for a “routine” day trip on July 13 when he sought help, the statement said.
“On the way into town, he called a substance abuse and addictions pharmacy, likely to ask for a safe, controlled drug to self-medicate,” it reads. “He was not a candidate.”
Stone eventually bought and took an unspecified “street drug,” the statement said. RCMP found him unresponsive around midnight after his wife reported him missing.
Stone was declared brain dead in hospital and died on July 16, having remained on life support for two days so his lungs and kidneys could be donated.”