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Buddhadharma : Spri 2013
SPRING 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 55 ANNA DOUGLAS: It will be a two-year program for about ninety people. We’re taking applications now. The program will look at what the Buddha called the four heavenly messengers: old age, sickness, death, and the potential for liberation when we turn toward these realities, as has been said. There will be five weeklong retreats where people contemplate and practice with these teachings, as well as a service component that Frank Ostaseski will bring from his work at the Metta Institute, about how to be compassionate companions to people who are ill or dying. We hope people will come to this program from all over the country and be equipped to take these teach- ings back to their own dharma centers. SUSAN O’CONNELL: We’re doing something similar to Heavenly Messengers. Our program, the Contemplative Caregiver Course, has a slightly different format; it’s a one-year curricu- lum that started at the end of January with a career practicum in the middle and it’s informed by some of the same learning that came out of Zen Hospice training. We’re presenting a new curriculum, developed by Jennifer Block, around what we’re calling contemplative care. The heart of the vision we have for the Zen-inspired senior living community is this contemplative care practice, to be studied by the people who live there as well as the people who work there. It’s not like there are well people and sick people. The point is we’re all aging, so we all need to enter into this with our eyes wide open. BUDDHADHARMA: What are some other things you would like to be doing down the road to support the elders in your community? SUSAN O’CONNELL: I would like to see us better organize our banded together and formed a group-buying organization, which enabled them to contract with plumbers, electricians, and others to get lower rates and priority access to these ser- vices that somebody who is living in a house and is getting older might need. They call it the “village movement,” and it has sprouted up in a number of other places to help people get whatever services they need so they can age in place. SUSAN O’CONNELL: There’s something similar happening here called San Francisco Village, so I think different cities are experimenting with this. DAVID WHITEHORN: Another thing I wanted to mention is that Shambhala has been using online teaching and meetings for a number of years, I think with a lot of success. We realized, after the fact, that online programming addresses the issue of physical accessibility. A number of older practitioners were telling us they couldn’t go to the rural land centers for pro- grams anymore because it’s too physically demanding. Even getting to and from an urban center late at night can be dif- ficult. So this technology can help keep people connected both in terms of receiving teachings and in feeling they’re part of the community. ANNA DOUGLAS: I must mention an online course started by the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies called Going Forth, which is a virtual community for people who are retired or nearing retirement age. Their focus is on daily practice and study of Pali texts as well as participation in an online forum. Anybody can join, and they’ve had a wonderful response. BUDDHADHARMA: Anna, can you also say more about the Heavenly Messengers program that Spirit Rock is starting this year? June Crow (with her teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche), 1980 and 2012 PHOTOS (L-R): UNKNOWN, LIZA MATTHEWS