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Introduction

"Spirituality is the most overlooked factor in relieving physical pain..."
Cicely Saunders, MD, Founder of the Modern Hospice Movement

DESCRIPTION

Sacred Art of Living & Dying is more about living than about dying. These workshops draw from the wisdom of our ancestors that the quality of life is enhanced when we do not live in fear or denial of suffering and mortality. The results of facing or "leaning into" existential/spiritual pain are profound and may include the improvement of physical health and enhanced capacity for healing—as well as peace of mind and the transformation of spirit. These insights, while critical at the end of life, are also useful throughout the many other real "deaths" that occur throughout every person's lifetime including times of illness and loss and the normal stages of transition such as birth, adolescence and elderhood.

 

PROGRAM GOALS

  • To assist all caregivers in re-connecting the "soul and role" of their professional and personal lives.
  • To explore the nature and inter-relationship among all the dimensions of human health and suffering— physical, emotional and psycho-spiritual.
  • To learn "best practices" for caregivers based on the Total Pain model of Dr. Cicely Saunders and other clinically tested pain management practices.

CORE TEACHING

  • There is remarkable wisdom and available from human history and culture regarding the sacred art of living and dying which continues to offer important lessons for today's caregivers.
  • The relationship between spiritual suffering and physical-emotional distress is real yet often goes "un-diagnosed."
  • Every person shares common existential/spiritual needs regardless of whether they ascribe to a particular religious or faith system of belief.
  • There are four sources of emotional-spiritual suffering: meaning, forgiveness, relatedness and hope. 
  • By first identifying and then leaning into the source of psycho-spiritual pain, doors open to the possibility of inner healing which also supports physical health and recovery from illness.
  • In order to recognize the "soul-pain" in another, we first have to identify these same realities in ourselves.The "new sciences" emerging in our time are confirming some of the same principles and practices found in the traditional healing arts.

PROGRAM LESSONS

  • The art of living well and the art of dying well are one and the same.
  • We are the medicine, meaning, that we all have the capacity to be healers for ourselves and to one another in our willingness to be present to another.
  • We do not fix the suffering of others, however, the way in which care is given can touch the most hidden places.
  • There is a critical distinction between pain and suffering.
  • When dealing with spiritual suffering, the cardinal principle is to always "lean into the pain."
  • The core teaching of the world's great wisdom traditions is that one should never respond to the spiritual pain of another until it has first been 'diagnosed' [i.e. the origin of the "wound" is identified].
  • In addressing any form of spiritual suffering, we should not recommend a "tool" or practice for another unless we have experienced it ourselves.
  • Regarding the language of the "soul" [also called the essence or heart of a person], experience teaches that—

          -the soul usually speaks in metaphor
          -the soul is generally shy
          -the soul already knows what it needs and,
          -the soul recognizes when it can safely reveal itself to another

METHODOLOGY


The nature of this highly personal and challenging material requires an approach that balances both:
     [1] the history, knowledge and lessons of the sacred art of living and dying as they speak to contemporary persons and
     [2] an opportunity to test and experience these teachings personally.

To achieve these goals, Sacred Art of Living & Dying workshops offer a creative blend of content-oriented presentations, personal reflection, group processes and sacred ritual. The facilitator's role is to create a space for participants to engage with the course material in a way that confirms their own experience and also opens the possibility of new insight. While there are concrete learning outcomes for each unit, the two-day program also creates a retreat-like environment that nurtures and encourages the soul of the caregiver to show up. These programs are non-denominational in approach, meaning, that they respect the spiritual path of every person, regardless of any religious affiliation.

WISDOM FROM OUR ANCESTORS

May you have the commitment

to know what has hurt you,

to allow it to come closer to you

and in the end, to become one with you.

From the Ars Moriendi, the Sacred Art of Living & Dying, 11th century