Sharon Ufberg, DC highlights a meditation session led by the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, held during the 2010 Integrative Healthcare Symposium.

by Sharon Ufberg, DC

Koshin Paley Ellison and Robert Chodo Campbell, Zen Buddhist priests & chaplains delighted the participants early Saturday morning at the annual Integrative Health Symposium, held in New York City.  Providing one of the new experiential sessions of the weekend, this hour of contemplative awareness was the highlight for many of the practitioners attending this year’s conference.

Their work in partnership with the Beth Israel Medical Center, and its Department of Integrative Medicine, the Visiting Nurses Service of New York Hospice and the Robert Mapplethorpe Residential Facility is a model for integrating contemplative spiritual practice and care into more mainstream chaplaincy settings.

Trained in a multi-faith chaplaincy program several years ago through  Health Care Chaplaincy New York, it was not until 2006 that  Koshin and Chodo established the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care (NYZCCC) in New York City; a manifestation of their Buddhist practice, thought and tradition to address suffering, old age, sickness and death.

The story of their partnership is a heartwarming tale about connection and inspiration. The main character is Koshin’s grandmother Mimi. Koshin, as the devoted and doting grandson and Chodo as the chaplaincy caregiver worked closely with Mimi during her end of life journey. This special time together with Mimi at her death gave birth to Chodo and Koshin’s vision of a contemplative center that would provide support and training for patients, families and healthcare providers.  Listening to Koshin and Chodo share their stories about Mimi was a joyfully, intimate glimpse into the passion and care they bring to their work.

Chodo explains, “Our guiding values are compassion, equanimity, courage, inquiry and learning. With compassionate wisdom we meet a person where they are at that moment- through meditation, breathing exercises or simple conversation, we encourage and support the whole person with understanding and love.”

“By bearing witness and teaching a person to trust themselves we can often make a patient more comfortable, more empowered and more accepting of the medical odds they may be facing,” Koshin said, “Training healthcare professionals and volunteers to face illness, disease, dying and living within a spiritually and emotionally contemplative perspective can change the entire culture on a hospital ward or clinic.”

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.

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. NYZCCC integrates Buddhist contemplative practices into the professional training, creating a dynamic program that is interfaith and experience-based, geared toward developing professionals and those seeking to deepen their spiritual, care giving practice. A year-long Foundations in Contemplative Caregiving Training Program is also offered through NYZCCC.  The training program goals include: building care giving skills, stress reduction, meditation development, contemplative practices, deep inquiry, spiritual care, and open dialogue. While the training is delivered from a Buddhist perspective, the care is accessible and tailored to people of all faiths and traditions.

“We are proud to be the first Buddhist organization to graduate Buddhist Chaplain students with ACPE accreditation. This is made possible through our partnership with Healthcare Chaplaincy of New York.”

More information about the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care can be found at www.zencare.org. I highly recommend watching the 10 minute video – enjoy!


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