Spiritual care conference

The view from the new Spiritual Care Centre at Dzogchen Beara Retreat Centre, West Cork

The view from the new Spiritual Care Centre at Dzogchen Beara Retreat Centre

I have just returned from a wonderful two days in Killarney, attending the first international conference Compassion and Presence: Spiritual Care for the Living and Dying. The conference  featured outstanding talks from some of the most inspiring teachers of mindfulness across the globe and from other healthcare workers who have been exploring its benefits and applications in their field of work.

There were so many highlights at this remarkable conference, from the captivating talk given by Soygal Rinpoche, author of the acclaimed book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, to the thought provoking presentations given by Tony Bates on mindfulness and changing paradigms in mental health and Ursula Bates on mindfulness in the Irish public health service. Many of the presentations, including Jon Kabat-Zinn’s, Dr Gian Domenico Borasio’s  scientific evidence on spiritual care and Dr Ciaran O’Boyle’s is it possible to measure individual quality of life in a scientific manner? put forward compelling scientific evidence to back up the benefits of mindfulness in a clinical setting.

Perhaps for me personally the greatest highlight of all was meeting Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in the application of mindfulness to stress reduction and health. He held the audience spell-bound with his presentation and when he read a poem of John O’Donoghue’s called Blessing, many in the audience were moved to tears. Indeed there were many points during the two days, when I had to wipe away the tears and I saw the same tears in others eyes, so moved were we by the depth and beauty with which the presenters spoke – not what you would routinely experience at a medical conference! A point echoed by Jon Kabat-Zinn himself who also admitted to tears at the number of times with which the word love was evoked by the speakers. If this all sounds like it belongs in some touchy feely world not related to a serious gathering of medics and health care workers, that proves just how unique and special this meeting was. Participants and presenters showed their very real and human side and the integrity of the presenters and their commitment to showing compassionate care  for their patients shone through.

There is so much to report back on from this conference that I will be returning to this again in future posts. For now, all I want to say is well done to the organisers of this remarkable event and to the presenters and participants who made this a truly unique occasion for everyone.


Jon Kabat-Zinn will be giving a public talk this evening, Wednesday, 29th April at 7.30pm-9.30pm in D4 Ballsbridge Inn (formally Jurys). I would recommend that if you can, go along and hear for yourself this remarkable man. Tickets may still be available if you are lucky. For further information go online at http://www.seminars.ie or call 01- 2875524.