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Cultivating Wisdom: An Experiential Journey with Koshin Paley Ellison and Robert Chodo Campbell

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Koshin and Chodo share the stage of a large ballroom, sitting comfortably side by side in their beautiful blue Zen robes, as they begin to explore the differences between compassion and empathy and the practical benefits of meditation practices. The two co-founders of New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care are the opening act of this year's Integrative Healthcare Symposium. Their lighthearted demeanor and easy-going banter is in bright contrast to their life work of training health care professionals and volunteers to face illness, disease, dying and living within a spiritually contemplative perspective.

There is a Zen saying: "Different body, same heart and mind." Koshin and Chodo discuss the need to cultivate wisdom through the experience of being present. First we are asked to take a moment to focus on our own breath and our own presence in our chair, in our body, in the room that morning. Next they invite us, a huge room full of hundreds of practitioners, to find someone we do not know and turn our chairs to face one another. We are instructed to just sit and look at one another, not speaking, smiling or touching. Just looking into one another's eyes, sitting perfectly still, being completely present. This four-minute exercise is uncomfortable at first, then excruciatingly difficult, and then something happens. A shift occurs, and for just a minute or two we are completely connected and present with another human being. Everyone understands the Zen saying a bit more deeply than before the exercise.

Directly supporting patients and medical staff, these two gentlemen, within the framework of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, are lovingly and creatively transforming pastoral care one caregiver at a time. This month they opened up the hearts of several hundred more practitioners with their meditation and experiential presentation.

As true pioneers and leaders in the Buddhist Chaplaincy field, they have also established the first and only Buddhist organization to offer a fully-accredited ACPE Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program in America.

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This April 28 the Contemplative Care Awards 2011 will be honoring Dr. Diane Meier, Dr. Russell Portenoy and Sharon Salzberg. For more info go to http://www.zencare.org.

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