Circling the Drain: Living Intentionally with Mortality

 

This workshop is designed for anyone who wants to expand their ability to withstand and accept existential realities, and develop healthier, more related responses to encounters with mortality among their family, friends, and in the wider community and culture.

 

Dates/Time:

This workshop is sixteen weekly sessions, each session is 90 minutes long.

The workshop will be held on Mondays at: 4:00 Pacific, 5:00 Mountain, 6:00 Central, 7:00 Eastern via Zoom

Starting Date: Monday March 1st 2021.

Meeting dates will be:

  • 3/1, 8, 15, 29 – off on March 22nd
  • 4/5, 12, 19, 26
  • 5/3, 10, 17, 24, – off for Memorial Day
  • 6/7, 14, 21 & 28

Workshop participants will be limited to 12 people.

 

 

The Spirit and Purpose of the Group:

 

Many people, including helping professionals, feel fearful, overwhelmed, and unsure of how to best respond when they are in proximity to death, dying and bereavement processes. As death in the United States, has become an increasingly invisible and medicalized process our collective willingness, and ability to talk and listen about death and dying has atrophied, and is often left to specialists. The pandemic, the disruption of bedside vigils and funeral rites and enforced isolation has only intensified this dissociation.

 

I believe that it is everyone’s work to be able to talk about death and dying, and to be able to support those who are in close proximity to it through caretaking, bereavement, exposure to scarcity and violence, or potentially terminal illness. Those immersed in death, dying and bereavement processes too often experience extreme feelings of alienation from the wider community as a result of our inadequately developed skills and lack of familiarity with end of life.

 

Content:

 

The syllabus will offer suggested readings prior to each session, often from my ebook, Circling the Drain: Essays from the Edge of the Abyss, which I complied as a companion to this workshop, and which will be provided as a pdf to participants.

Each session is a facilitated discussion focused around a theme and a series of discussion prompts: evocative excerpts from relevant works of memoir, non-fiction, poetry, psychology, philosophy, thanatology and theology.

Discussion is followed by a period of guided contemplation and brief silence, offering an opportunity to integrate the content. Before closing the session, time will be reserved to share any after-thoughts that may have emerged during reflection.

 

Some subjects covered in this workshop:

  • Recent cultural history of death and dying
  • Caretaking
  • Defining “a good death”
  • The psychological labor of dying
  • Racism, white supremacy and the distribution of death
  • Climate change and existential anxiety
  • Ancestors and Object Constancy
  • Dreams, visions, psychedelics and end of life
  • Meditations on impermanence and mortality
  • Living with dying

 

Disclaimers and Requirements:

I do need to state clearly that this content is challenging, and this serves is a content warning for the workshop in its entirety. The goal of this workshop is to help people incrementally test and gently expand past their anxiety line – to increase their comfort and tolerance of end of life discussions. My hope – and my personal experience – is that by withstanding these fears more than our avoidant culture encourages, that we become  braver, freer and more connected to our lives and the lives of other people and species.

This is not a psychotherapy group, or a bereavement group – although I hope it will offer us space to heal and grieve along the way.  I strongly encourage each person who participates to arrange to have some psycho-spiritual support in some form – a therapist, spiritual advisor, a bereavement group, a mentor or elder – available to you.

Those struggling with active or passive suicidal thoughts or gestures, or severe traumatic symptoms should not enroll in this workshop. (Contemplation of legal methods of hastening death for those terminally ill, physician assisted suicide, death with dignity etc. are not considered “suicidality” for the purposes of this group)

Also: this workshop does explore various spiritual, religious perspectives on death and dying from an agnostic and respectful perspective– including various Buddhist, Catholic and shamanic viewpoints. If discussions of religiosity or spirituality are offensive or annoying to you, this workshop will not be a good fit.

 

Fees:

 

Because this is the “maiden voyage” of this workshop, I am offering it at a reduced fee:

$700 will be the standard initial fee, with several scholarships and fee-reductions available for anyone experiencing financial hardship or living on a restrictive income. It is important to me that these groups be socioeconomically inclusive so please don’t hesitate to let me know what is affordable for you.

For later iterations of this workshop, the standard fee will be $1200-$1500 for the full sixteen weeks/24 hours of programming (with the same commitment to providing scholarships/fee flexibility).

 

Registration Questionnaire:

 

After I receive the registration questionnaire below, I will let you know if there is an available space in the group and send payment information.  As we get closer to March and the workshop membership is finalized I will send out a Zoom link, syllabus, reference list, and a pdf to the ebook.

It will be helpful to me to know a little about you so I understand what is bringing you to this group. Please take as little or as much space to answer these questions as you are led.

I will not share this information.

Copy and email your response to these questions to whatashrinkthinks@yahoo.com.

 

  1. What drew you to this workshop? What are your goals? What would you like to receive? Is your interest personal, professional, or both? If you have a professional interest in this workshop, please share your vocation.
  2. Are you in psychotherapy? Is your therapist receptive to this work?
  3. If you aren’t in therapy who are your primary supports?
  4. If you think it would be prudent or you would like to share an emergency contact with me, you are welcome to.
  5. Are you in close proximity to death and dying processes currently? Through your profession, caretaking, bereavement, or diagnosis?
  6. Do you have friends, family, clients who are in immediate medical jeopardy due to the continuing pandemic or are you yourself at high risk?
  7. Do you have a regular meditation, prayer, creative, or contemplative practice?
  8. Have you ever had significant difficulties with voice hearing, psychosis, addiction or psychiatric hospitalization? (This work can be too overwhelming when we are contending with such vulnerabilities – and it is important to be strong enough and able to stay grounded in consensual reality and secure in our impulse control.) If you have had difficulties or challenges in this area, how long ago and what/who are your current supports and disciplines that keep you grounded?
  9. Please let me know if you are in need of scholarship funding. I am able to offer some fee reductions based on need, depending also upon the make-up of the group.
  10. What is your racial/ethnic and gender identity?
  11. Is there anything else that you would want me to know about you or your participation in this group?