Compassion and Presence: Rigpa's International Spiritual Care Conference

Hotel Europe in Killarney, Ireland

The first international spiritual care conference organized by Rigpa will be held from 27 - 28 April 2009 at the Hotel Europe in Killarney, Ireland. The application of contemplative methods in health care has greatly increased over the past ten years, and meditation is now commonly used in treating stress, pain and burnout. This ground-breaking conference will address the widespread recognition that mindfulness and compassion are fundamental to genuine and effective care giving, and it will present a range of practical resources that can support health care professionals and benefit those they care for.

The conference will coincide with the official opening of Dechen Shying Spiritual Care Centre at Dzogchen Beara, and will bring together doctors, psychologists, therapists, palliative care specialists and pioneers in the use of contemplative methods by caregivers. The speakers will include Sogyal Rinpoche, Dr Tony Bates, Ursula Bates, Dr Gian Borasio, Dr Ira Byock, Marie de Hennezel, Susan Delaney, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, Christine Longaker, Dr Ciaran O’Boyle and Dr Tony O’Brien. They will present different spiritual and contemplative approaches to care, showing how these can be applied in any setting and how they can help to meet some of the major challenges that caregivers face today.

Participants will also be offered workshops in mindfulness meditation, compassion, loving kindness, listening skills and methods for preventing burnout. In addition, Sogyal Rinpoche will give a public talk at the Hotel Europe on 26 April. The conference will be of particular interest to professionals and volunteers in health care, and to hospice and hospital directors and policy makers, including those in research and health care education.

The conference is being organized by Rigpa’s Spiritual Care Education Programme, which is inspired by Sogyal Rinpoche’s highly acclaimed book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and offers specialized trainings for medical professionals and caregivers in Europe, the United States and Australia. At the heart of the programme’s activity is the new Spiritual Care Centre at Dzogchen Beara, Rigpa’s retreat centre in south-west Ireland, where people who are dying, bereaved or seriously ill can come to seek support and rest. The importance of the centre’s vision was highlighted by the visit of the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, in September 2007. Building work was completed in July 2008, and a series of weekend seminars for healthcare professionals and the general public is already being offered at the centre. It will be ready to receive its first guests in early 2009.

It is hoped that the conference in Killarney will be as seminal as the Rigpa congress that took place in Munich, Germany in 1996. The congress had a significant impact on the development of palliative care in Germany and elsewhere in Europe by raising awareness and fostering dialogue about the spiritual needs of the dying. Just over a decade later, those needs are widely recognized, and scientists and leaders in palliative care are working together to meet them. The conference will draw on the most recent developments in this area, including scientific evidence, to offer specific techniques and tools that can benefit patients and caregivers alike.