Beyond Measure » T2: Zen Approaches to Aging, Sickness, & Dying
San Francisco Zen Center
Four 2-day sessions: May 22-August 8, 2015
with Jennifer Block, Susan O’Connell & Grace Dammann
Location: San Francisco Zen Center

This course brings together Zen wisdom and compassionate care to meet the needs of people who are elderly, sick, and facing death. Whether you are a professional or family caregiver, you can learn to engage and express the qualities of an awakened heart – love, kindness, joy and equanimity – as you provide care to family or clients, as well as yourself.

A team of core and guest faculty offer Buddhist teachings for coping with change, preparing for one’s own aging and death, supporting people in end-of-life decisions, maintaining realistic expectations in caregiving, and Zen rituals for death and dying.  The dynamic curriculum combines face-to-face class interaction with activities to complete one one’s own. This approach makes it easier for people to participate while balancing work and family commitments.

By engaging in our dynamic curriculum, you will develop skills and authenticity for providing emotional and spiritual support.  Decreased fear, increased understanding, greater compassion and even hope in the face of death are the transformative results.  These yield helpful insights for living as well as develop the healing power of presence for service to people in need.

We welcome family and professional caregivers, people living with illness and aging, and those who are drawn to this work in whatever way is personally meaningful. No previous meditation or caregiving experience is required, although a willingness to practice meditation is required.

Session Themes & Dates:

Meeting Change with Curiosity May 22, 4 to 9pm & May 23, 9am to 6pm
The Zen of Aging and Illness June 19, 4 to 9pm & June 20, 9am to 6pm
Facing Death Courageously July 10, 4 to 9pm & July 11, 9am to 6pm
The Gifts Hidden in Grief August 7, 4 to 9pm—and—August 8, 9am to 6pm

Course Components:

  • Four education sessions with lecture, discussion, and experiential learning
  • Supervised instruction in contemplative practices
  • Integrative peer and faculty meetings
  • Comprehensive reading curriculum

Faculty: A core faculty of leaders from caregiving institutions and contemplative communities guide the course. Adjunct faculty are healthcare leaders, educators, and scholars. All faculty share a dedication to caring for people who are aging, frail, or approaching the end of life.

  • Jennifer Block is a Buddhist chaplain and educator who has developed education programs for Zen Hospice Project and the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies. Read more.
  • Susan O’Connell is President of San Francisco Zen Center and teaches Zen from her own life experience which ranges from Hollywood to the Ventana wilderness. Read more.
  • Dr. Grace Dammann is a revered physician who was honored by the Dalai Lama for her extraordinary work with AIDS patients during the height of the epidemic and has been a resident of Green Gulch Farm for many decades. A new documentary, States of Grace, reveals how her Zen practice supported her recovery from a debilitating car accident on the Golden Gate Bridge. Read more.


Who Attends: This course is designed for people who presently care for others, or expect to in the future.  It is also useful for those considering working in hospice care.  We welcome participants from a diverse range of backgrounds—from nurses to yoga instructors to lawyers, mothers, clergy, psychologists, etc.  No experience with meditation or Zen are required.

Continuing Education Credit: 30 Continuing Education (CE) credit hours are available for MFTs, LCSWs, psychologists and nurses, for an additional fee of $50.00.  For more information, click here

Accommodations:  Meals are provided for Friday dinner and Saturday lunch.  Participants are responsible for travel arrangements and costs, including airfare and ground transportation.  Overnight Accommodations are not provided, though arrangements can be made to stay overnight at San Francisco Zen Center for an additional fee, click here for more info. There are also several hotels in the area within walking distance.

Enrollment:  An application is required for enrollment. Its purpose is to communicate your readiness and motivation. Unlike a job or college application, you need not worry about having specific skills, degrees, qualifications, etc. Most people are accepted into the program. Those with lives are enriched by other academic studies, extended periods of travel, or major life transitions are advised to carefully consider to their capacity for this time and energy commitment.

Tuition: $1,100

We appreciate that some people need support in discerning if this course is appropriate for them.  Calls are welcome: 415-354-0360, and emails as well: