What are your names and where are you from?
EH: My name is Evan Henritze and I’m from New York City, and I am here working with the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.  

KPE: My name is Koshin Paley Ellison, I am also from the island of Manhattan, and from the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.

RS: And I’m Red Schiller. I'm from Brooklyn. I serve on the Board of the Zen Center.

Would you mind explaining what the Zen Center is and what you do and are striving to do?
KPE: The New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care’s mission is to address old age, vulnerability, illness and dying through three things: a daily Zen meditation practice and training, and we have a direct care program that provides the extra layer of support for continuity of care for anyone with serious illness through their dying process and for their loved ones after the death, and we also have education programs, for doctors, nurses, social workers and lay people because 75% of all care is given by friends and family and so part of our mission is to give people those tools and community. And we are here this week to work on a new initiative of the Fellowship for Contemplative Care for clinicians who really want to do a deep dive into changing the way they are in themselves so they can actually be more resilient and compassionate to all their relationships, including those that they are in care partnerships with.  

What would you say is lacking in the medical profession right now as to how they deal with patients?  And what exactly are you striving to improve upon?
KPE: Red, why don’t you take that?

RS: I am happy to.  For people who are professional caregivers, the biggest challenge is the limitations they feel right now in their ability to give compassionate care.  The people who are trained as nurse practitioners and doctors are being asked to do so much more and give more of themselves.  The problems people have are complicated; they occur on multiple levels, and often involve things outside the control of the professionals.  But if you feel responsible and committed to making a difference, that creates these really challenging tensions.  So part of what we are inspired to do, is to design a training program that is going to start with themselves and understand that caring for others really starts with taking care of yourself, and having compassion for yourself and others—together.  And then giving them the skills of daily practice, and insights from the Zen tradition to help transform their work environment and their work relationships, so it becomes easier to do the right thing and it is self sustaining.  With the ultimate goal that the experiences they have had will be translated to their coworkers and the families and patients that they care for.  

EH: One of our core intentions at the Zen Center is to cultivate community, so when we are designing this program this week, we are putting a lot of energy into thinking which ways we can really cultivate community so people are connected, so clinicians feel connected, and feel that they can have resources as they go through the challenges of the work that they do and can integrate their contemplative practice and investigate their contemplative practice, and community and with others in relationship with that.  So we are excited to use technology to sustain that over long periods of time, in addition to having in person residential weeks as well.  

KPE: Also, one modern epidemic is social isolation, and that impacts both for the patients and the care provider.  That is a caring partnership.  So it is difficult for those in the clinician roll to address if they haven’t addressed that in themselves.  So what we see is that more and more care providers themselves do not have the support that really nourishes compassion and resilience in themselves.  So they really don’t open the door to having those conversations with their patients and their loved ones because it is difficult to have conversations about something that you’re not doing.  Our work is about building that integrated bridge that we are not actually separate, and the more we do our work, and build community, the richer and healthier we all are.

Where have you been spending most of your time here at SPACE?
KPE: In Kay Hall

Which part?
KPE: The living room

Have you gone venturing into different parts of the campus?
KPE: We have visited with the chickens, sheep, horses, ducks and geese.

What’s your favorite animal here?
RS: The chickens.  We love the chickens.

EH: Yeah, I’ve been really appreciating going on runs in the morning, and having the space back towards the lake to get ready for my day and get energized.  And it has been so sweet to wake up and know breakfast is waiting on the table inside.  It’s just so supportive to know that the meals are ready to go and that it is going to be nourishing. I mean yeah, I don’t know for you guys but it has been super supportive in allowing myself to engage in my thoughts and play and have the freedom to play in that way.  We have been looking forward to having this time and it just continues to grow throughout the week.

If you reincarnated as a farm animal, what would you be and why?
EH: I think the snapping turtle energy really lands for me—

KPE: No, she said in your NEXT life

EH: Oh, not now, I see—

Yeah I’m sorry, I should have specified—
EH: Yeah I think it would be nice to have that protective shell and also be able to snap whenever I need to snap out of things—

RS: You have been controlling yourself quite well right now—I just wanted to give you that feedback

EH: Thanks—thank you

RS: I’ll come back as a pig, I just want to lie in the slop.  And we’re smart!  But I don’t want to be pork. Hopefully I am reincarnated when the world is vegan and our role is to be wise and lie in the mud.

And you Koshin?
KPE: A wild pony running with others.