Several years ago, as part of my Death Doula training, I attended a "Quality of Life Care Retreat" in Texas, where I was introduced to Ann Allegre and Kirsten Deleo, and the teachings of Authentic Presence.
Authentic Presence has been a profound part of my End-of-Life/Death Doula practice.
After the retreat, I knew I wanted to learn more about this organization and the courses that they offered, so I took the following courses and received Certification of Completion in the following:
Cultivating Mindfulness and Awareness in End of Life Care.
Cultivating Compassionate Presence.
Please read about my conversation with Ann Allegre, from Authentic Presence below.
Tell us about Authentic Presence:
Authentic Presence training programs have been developed over more than 30 years to teach a contemplative approach to end-of-life care. Participants deepen their capacity for compassion, presence and mindfulness in ways that enhance their ability to meet the deeper needs of those they are caring for, as well as to care for themselves more skillfully and compassionately. The program offers online courses, residential retreats and workshops to teach contemplative-based tools and resources to professionals and volunteers in healthcare as well as family caregivers. The training is presented in an experiential way, and the skills can easily be applied when caring for the dying.
What was the inspiration for the organization?
The program was inspired by the teachings on compassion, mindfulness and presence taught in Tibetan Buddhism, particularly the approach found in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. The training is offered through a secular approach that is appropriate for people of all faith traditions or none.
What emotional, physical and spiritual benefits does Authentic Presence offer?
The skills and tools taught in this training help caregivers to reconnect as with sources of joy, purpose, spirituality and wholeness in their work and lives. They provide a strong foundation for resiliency and self-compassion. This training allows caregivers to stay well while meeting the deeper emotional and spiritual needs of those they are caring for. Professionals, volunteers in healthcare and family caregivers who have taken the training say that what they have learned is often transformative and has given them renewed joy and meaning in their roles.
What would you like others to know about the organization?
The organization has trained over 30,000 healthcare professionals and volunteers over the past 30 years. It is a non-profit organization, run largely by dedicated volunteers who have backgrounds in hospice and palliative care as well as their own contemplative practice. Students from many countries attend the courses, and the online format allows like-minded people from around the world to connect and feel supported in this work.
In your experiences, what keeps people from using your network of tools?
The biggest barrier is that people who are interested in a contemplative approach to end-of-life care haven’t heard about what we offer. Once they have taken our courses, most people continue to apply what they have learned in their daily lives.
What hinders others from talking about death, dying and grief?
As a culture, we fear aging, death and loss. We see conversations about these topics as being morbid or depressing. We have come to think that medical miracles can ‘save’ us any time we are threatened by death. In reality, avoiding these conversations about death can lead to more intensive medical interventions, more suffering and a prolongation of dying. In reality, those people who prepare for their death and tell their loved ones what will be important to them often have more peaceful deaths with less-complicated grieving for the survivors.
Is there any other pertinent information, regarding Authentic Presence, that you’d like to add?
Kirsten DeLeo, who is currently the main developer of our curriculum and training, has written the book Present Through the End: A Caring Companion’s Guide for Accompanying the Dying (Shambhala Publications, 2019).