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End-of-Life Practitioner Program

Opening to Mystery
Wednesday, July 15-Sunday, July 19, 2015
Santa Sabina Retreat Center, San Rafael, CA

Metta Institute Programs will be on hiatus in 2016. Stay tuned for new programs in 2017.

Our Approach

Play Sample Audio Clip:
Rabbi Alan Lew
Lifting the Veil of Mystery

This course offers an approach to end of life care that is mindfulness-based, compassion-focused and relationship-centered. We use a range of learning modalities to address both personal and professional development emphasizing experiential learning and pragmatic application.

Why This Course?

The conventional medical model, while effective in many ways, emphasizes measurement and management. In treating the dying the medical approach primarily focuses on the tangible aspects such as pain management and symptom control. However, dying is much more than a medical event. It is a time and a process of transformation which include intangible experiences that we cannot predict, measure or explain.

Angeles Arrien

Faculty member,  Angeles Arrien, Cross-Cultural Anthropologist, Author, Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary

An intimate encounter with death is so profound that it challenges our most basic beliefs and cherished views. It can also inspire us and offer us a deep sense of meaning. Acknowledging the mystery near death sustains the heart of our work, and allows us to foster an integrated, balanced approach that reduces mechanistic care. For those we serve, it heightens the potential for growth, even at the end of life.

Course Description

Honoring the mystery provides strength, comfort, healing and hope. This course will help us relinquish our obsession with mastery and learn to trust in mystery. We will explore the profound psycho-spiritual transformations that frequently occur at the edge of life and death. At the core of Opening to Mystery is the understanding that there is an opportunity for growth that lives in the encounter with death, and that this potential exists for the dying person, his or her family and for the healthcare professionals.

We will discover the importance of embracing paradox, of developing the willingness to "not know" and of finding our own humility in the territory of unanswerable questions. We will engage in practices that build our capacity to bear witness to the mystery that cannot be measured but can only be experienced directly.

"If we learn to let go into uncertainty, to trust that our basic nature and that of the world are not different, then the fact that things are not solid and fixed becomes, rather than a threat, a liberating opportunity."
-Buddhist Teaching

We will learn to differentiate between the need for psychological, religious and spiritual support. We will explore the value of ritual, the importance of dreams, of accessing the unconscious, of working with the archetypical influences and we will offer techniques for accompanying those with altered or non-ordinary states of mind. We will introduce practices of compassion, forgiveness and equanimity that can be used by the dying person and his or her family and friends.

Through contemplative practices, small group discussion, experiential exercises, story telling, poetry, journal writing and imagery, we will learn to reclaim a sense of awe and wonder in our work, recognize the unexplainable in our everyday experiences and bring a fresh level of clarity and intention to our calling as healers.

Merilee, Lauren and Silvia

Program Graduates, Merilee Schultheiss RN, Denver, CO. , Lauren Muser Cate, Clinical Supervisor of Hospital/Oncology Massage, VA.  Silvia Austerlic, Latino Community Liaison at Hospice of Santa Cruz, CA

Course Outcomes

The course introduces tools, practices and skills that cultivate an opening to the mystery, and develop the ability to facilitate the transformation that is fundamental to dying. Participants will have the opportunity to learn to:

  • Develop greater openness and competency in discussing the dimension of spirit, mystery and awe with colleagues, patients and family members;
  • Recognize and facilitate the primary tasks and stages of dying;
  • Facilitate rituals before, during and after dying;
  • Support others in altered and non-ordinary states of mind;
  • Gain greater comprehension of mystery as a factor in the decision-making process and compliance of patients;
  • Develop a forgiveness practice and learn how to explore forgiveness with patients;
  • Access the unconscious, develop intuition and work with archetypes;
  • Use poetry, images and symbols to access mystery and transformation;
  • Develop contemplative practices of stability, compassion, and equanimity and their use with the dying and their families;
  • Understand similarities between the process of dying and the patterns of transformation common to the world's wisdom traditions.

Register now for this 5-day program and step into a deep experience of the transformative power of dying that will enable you to humbly and gracefully companion those you serve.

Who should attend:

The course is primarily aimed at healthcare professionals. Participants include physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, psycho-therapists, counselors, chaplains, social workers, physical therapists, massage therapists, experienced hospice volunteers and others in the healing professions.

We encourage participants to attend in groups to support the implementation of the course content in their respective settings. Groups of three or more participants from the same institution or organization receive a discount.

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