Dying into Life: A Six-Month Experiment in Renewal, Self-Compassion, and Courage
What if we were to compassionately turn toward the truth of our mortality?
This being human is filled with wonder, grace, connection, awe, joy. And yet the urgency of living can distract us from our connection to the relationships, values, and causes that nourish us most. With mortality as our teacher, what might we discover in the space between life and death, love and sorrow, trance and intentionality?
May 12 – Oct. 20, 2023
We meet three times per month on Fridays, 8-10 a.m. Pacific.
(convert to your local time zone)
Teachers: Aimee Eckhardt, Tracy Ochester, Ruth Williamson, and Aaron Shipps
Choose your price (USD):
$1070 (Lend a hand)
$715 (Need a hand)
This six month experiment for MSC graduates is a rare opportunity to immerse in what matters most to each of us by embracing the truth of our own mortality. This course, which is taught through the lens of mindfulness and self-compassion, is inspired by Frank Ostaseski’s Five Invitations, Stephen Jenkinson’s Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, and Stephen Levine’s A Year to Live.
In this course, we’ll explore:
- What specifically makes my life, this one life, worth living?
- What is my relationship with my mortality, and death in general?
- What unfinished “business of life” is calling for my attention?
- What holds me back from taking my full birth?
- What freedom might be on the other side of fear?
- What is my place in the family of things?
- What impulses to creativity, connection, love, and joy might I be forgetting?
- How can self-compassion and mindfulness support me?
- How may I serve? What is mine to do?
Elements of the course:
- Classes meet two times per month (second and fourth Fridays) for two hours.
- Practice sessions on the current month’s theme take place first Fridays for one hour.
- Optional peer-led gatherings (strongly encouraged; we will offer ideas and facilitate connections where needed)
Schedule (subject to change based on emergent class needs):
|May 12||Class 1||Mortality as Teacher: What is Ours to Do?|
|May 19||Peer Practice Gathering|
1 of 5
|May 26||Class 2||Everyday Deaths: Relating Skillfully with Change|
|Jun 2||Teacher-Facilitated Practice|
|Jun 9||Class 3||Buoyancy Practices as Resources for Befriending Impermanence|
|Jun 16||Peer Practice Gathering |
2 of 5
|Jun 23||Class 4||Broken-heartedness as a Skill in a Bittersweet World|
|Jun 30||REST WEEK – no class|
|Jul 7||Teacher-Facilitated Practice|
|Jul 14||Class 5||Cradling Fear, Cultivating Courage|
|Jul 21||Peer Practice Gathering |
3 of 5
|Jul 28||Class 6||Forgiveness and Reconciliation|
|Aug 4||Teacher-Facilitated Practice|
|Aug 11||Class 7||Living and Dying in Community|
(Sergio Moreno, Hospital Chaplain)
|Aug 18||Peer Practice Gathering |
4 of 5
|Aug 25||Class 8||Life Review as a Portal to Presence|
|Sep 1||Teacher-Facilitated Practice||2-Hour Life Review workshop|
(Christine Pollock, end-of-life doula)
|Sep 8||Class 9||Planting Seeds: Attending to Legacy|
|Sep 15||Peer Practice Gathering |
5 of 5
|Sep 22||Class 10||Earth, Water, Fire, Air: Our Kinship with Nature and Her Cycles|
|Sep 29||REST WEEK – No class|
|Oct 6||Teacher-Facilitated Practice|
|Oct 13||Class 11||Making your Mark: Will, Memorial, Obituary|
|Oct 20||Class 12||Saying Goodbye: What is Needed is Already Here|
- By its nature, this course explores a variety of rich, sensitive topics. Full-hearted participation will invite both fierce and tender self-compassion. Teachers will filter all discussions, activities, and meditations through a lens of self-compassion and choice, but most crucial to your safety will be your personal practice and your personal emotional support, whether a therapist, a chaplain, counselor, trauma-informed meditation teacher, etc. We ask that applicants take an objective look at the course outline and consider whether this is the right time in life for a deep dive into these life-affirming, but potentially activating topics.
- This is a journey we’ll take as a community. As such, each person’s presence supports the shared experience of their classmates. Please put live classes and practice sessions on your calendar well in advance and attend them as often as you are compassionately able. We’re keeping the class small so that we can practice loving, connected presence with one another. Your presence matters.
- This is a uniquely engaged and active course. There will be specific homework offered each week, and participants’ wholehearted commitment to regular meditation practice will support and enrich the experience. Peer-led gatherings (we will share ideas and facilitate connections) are also strongly encouraged for deep engagement with the material and assignments.
- Participants agree to be familiar with the following prior to the course:
- The Five Invitations, by Frank Ostaseski (required)
- Stephen Jenkinson’s Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul (strongly encouraged)
- A Year to Live by Stephen Levine (encouraged)
Meet the Teachers
Aimee Eckhardt, CDP Creator and Certified MSC Teacher
Durango, Colorado, United States
The call to explore dying is as fierce as the call to explore living. My life’s journey has presented me with many rich opportunities to contemplate death, and I bring those discoveries with me to this course as my muse. I’ve worked as a media witness to five executions in the death chamber of a Texas prison, and I spent time as an EMT in a busy emergency room where dying was a common occurrence. But perhaps my ultimate learnings have come from profoundly personal familial losses. It is through this growing intimacy with dying that I have come to internalize the fragility of this life. I aspire to look directly at what is here, to open to the mystery of what I cannot understand, to leave no curious stone unturned. As finite as this body is, I delight in asking myself and those who come along for the experiment of Dying into Life: This life is short; with great compassion and respect, what is ours to do?
Tracy Ochester, PsyD, Psychotherapist and HeartMind Coordinator of the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness
Kansas City, Missouri, United States
From an early age I’ve carried an awareness of endings into new beginnings – ever since I learned from my sweet mother that dust was tiny bits of things falling apart. But discovering our shared nothingness and everythingness is a more recent revelation that has been both liberating and connecting. I’m enlivened by the mystery and emboldened by the opportunity to explore it together in community.
Tracy Ochester is Heart-Mind Coordinator for the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness. She’s also a psychologist, Certified Mindfulness Teacher and Mentor, Registered Yoga Teacher, a student of Compassion Cultivation, and an aspirant of Embodied Activism who believes that mindfulness can be a pathway for learning the fundamental skills necessary for personal and collective wellbeing.
Aaron Shipps, LPCC pending, Specializing in Grief and Loss
Durango, CO, United States
To hold death in one form or another is to connect with essential vulnerability. While death asks us, perhaps, to live with open eyes, just maybe it does so in a way we can’t preconceive. It calls us to put complacency at the foot of our awareness one moment, while simultaneously inviting our egos to run for the door. Death brings forward conundrums that pin our knowing minds to the mat, calling forth qualities of heart and humility. Importantly, death is no academic subject. It can bring us to our knees while squeezing the heart into shapes never imagined. This is real territory best traveled with honesty, compassion, and a healthy willingness to listen and respond.
While having traveled my own terrain of grief I’ve also lived with a life long reverence for listening deeply….. to dying as much as to living. Honoring a need for service and communion, I’ve recently received my LPCC in counseling, and am specializing in grief and loss. It is undeniably an honor to join you all in this exploration in Dying Into Life.
Ruth Williamson, PCC, CDTLF Chaplain, Upaya Zen Center
Bend, OR, United States
Ruth Williamson is a chaplain in the Soto Zen lineage of the Upaya Zen Center under the guidance of Roshi Joan Halifax. She is a trained teacher of Mindfulness and Self Compassion, an Integrative Enneagram Practitioner, and a certified facilitator of Dare to Lead™ and other curricula of Dr. Brené Brown. Ruth holds a PCC credential from the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She is a social justice activist in her community of Bend, Oregon. Ruth loves mountains and rivers, her beloved family and her dog, Stu.
Tree and sun photo by Jeremy Bishop from Pexels