A Day of Exploring Contemplative Caregiving

Written by: Jonathan Prescott and George Draffan

Irene Shaba Goto, at the Bon Odori dance in Seattle.

Irene Shaba Goto, at the Bon Odori dance in Seattle.
Photos by: Irene Shaba Goto, Jon Prescott

On a sunny autumn day in October, 20 people gathered in Seattle to discuss contemplative care: the type of care that begins with a heart opened by contemplative practice, and follows with appropriate response. 

Workshop participants included chaplains, hospice professionals and volunteers, nurses, social workers, Buddhist teachers and ministers, as well as non-professionals who are caring for family members and friends.

Jon Prescott at a rural school in Vietnam supported by The Loving Work Foundation.

Jon Prescott at a rural school in Vietnam supported by The Loving Work Foundation.

Leading the daylong workshop was recently retired chaplain and counselor Jonathan Prescott.

The focus of the day, at the 100-year-old Betsuin Temple in south Seattle, was on responses that utilize our skills and training, yet arise from a foundation of stopping and listening.

As Prescott taught the sequence of STOP, LISTEN, RESPOND, he led the group on an exploration of what we hold dear, how the inevitable changes in life require us to let go of those things, and how to find the strength and courage to let go.

“The warmth and depth that are the essence of contemplative caregiving are a skillful application of Buddhist awareness and compassion,” said Northwest Dharma Association Executive Director George Draffan. “Jon’s leadership, and Betsuin’s hosting the day, are models of non-sectarian generosity for the wider community.”

Irene Shaba Goto, a minister’s assistant at Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple, offered to workshop participants an example of bringing contemplative care into daily life.

George Draffan hiking with his partner, Julene Schlack.

George Draffan hiking with his partner, Julene Schlack.

“In Pure Land Buddhism, ‘Namo Amida Butsu’ means, ‘I take refuge in Amida Buddha,’” she said. “Amida Buddha is the name given by Shin Buddhists to the embodiment of infinite wisdom and boundless compassion.”

Goto continued, “Jonathan’s explanation of STOP helped me realize that my intoning Namo Amida Butsu is the STOP that gives me the space and time to, as Jonathan suggests, ‘Open my heart, commit to peace, investigate death, understand the Bodhisattva vow, and trust in what arises,’ — and to be grateful to Amida for giving me that space and his name.”

NWDA is planning more skill-building community events, including a longer weekend retreat for contemplative caregivers sometime in 2017. If you’re interested, contact Jon Prescott at wisecaregiving.org, or George Draffan george@northwestdharma.org

About the Author: Jonathan Prescott and George Draffan
Jonathan Prescott is a clinical chaplain and pastoral counselor, and a long-time ordained student of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s worked in hospice, hospital and cancer-care settings, and in Buddhist, Quaker and non-profit realms, and lives on a small farm in the San Juan Islands of Washington state. George Draffan is a Buddhist and Taoist practitioner and teacher based in Seattle, and the executive director of Northwest Dharma Association.