(Schedule in EDT)
9:00 – 9:20 AM Introduction and Opening Remarks–Ralph White
9:20 – 10:15 AM Facing Death: Finding Meaning and Living into the Last Breath–Henry Fersko-Weiss, LCSW
As people approach death, it is quite natural to question the meaning of their lives and wonder if they truly mattered, but too often, the fear of death engenders a reluctance to explore these difficult yet essential questions. Facing death openly may in fact be the key to finding meaning and living fully, right up to the last breath. Henry Fersko-Weiss, the Executive Director of the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), will discuss how to help dying people explore questions about their life’s meaning, as well as how facing death and exploring these questions at any point can infuse our lives with purpose, meaning and even unshakable inner joy.
10:30 -11:15 AM How Good Death Education Supports Health and –Jeanne Denney, MA
Students of death awareness are often amazed at how well their bodies and psyches respond to learning about death with others. Good “Death Ed” routinely enhances both life and health, and we don’t always recognize why. Jeanne Denney, MA, will bring the perspective of a somatic psychotherapist to this question. Therapeutic work shows that the awareness of death is one of our most formative influences. It has powerful effects on our minds and bodies throughout our lives, and resistance to accepting death can dramatically block our vitality. We will consider how death consciousness can remove these blocks, restore our health and radically enhance our well-being.
11:15 AM – 12:00 PM Breakout sessions
2:00 – 2:50 PM Changing the Culture of Medicine–Leslie Blackhall, MD
In the past 40 years, death with dignity movements in the U.S. revolutionized end of life care, leading to the rise of hospice and palliative care as well as changes in medical and nursing education, but, despite these changes, most people still spend the end of their lives in and out of nursing homes, hospitals and ICUs. We have changed the culture, but not the deep culture. In this session we will discuss the deep roots of our societal denial of death and how can we truly transform the care of the dying, as well as the art of living.
3:00 – 3:50 PM The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Gift of Original Contemplative Life Science–Robert “Tenzin’ Thurman, Ph.D.
In this session, the great Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman will look at the science of death—what it is, how it relates to life (which cannot be understood without understanding death), and how Tibetan Buddhists developed their picture of the bardo states, the intervals between lives, between death and rebirth, vividly described in the Bardo Thodol (known in the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead). We will also look at how we can cultivate the art of dying well, consciously, without fear and we will engage in a meditation practice designed to familiarize us with optimal ways to navigate dying and the bardo states.
4:10 – 5:00 PM Being a Compassionate Companion–Frank Ostaseski
Caring for people who are dying can be an intense intimate experience. It often challenges our most basic beliefs. It is a journey of continuous discovery, requiring courage and flexibility. We have to learn to open ourselves, take risks, and forgive constantly. Taken as a practice of awareness, it can reveal both our deep clinging and our capacity to embrace another person’s suffering as our own. This presentation presents a mindful and compassionate approach to addressing the practical, emotional, and spiritual issues inherent in this unique relationship. By focusing on the development of three key elements: self-awareness, compassion and skillful action, we will learn how to cultivate the necessary skills to be able to accompany those facing death with openness and love.
5:00 PM-Reconvene and closure of the day—Ralph White