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University of Creation Spirituality
Doctor of Ministry Degree/Certificate Program

June, 2003 Intensive
Week 1: June 9-13

Seminar: Sanctuaries for the Living and Dying - # 60066

Instructor: N. Michael Murphy M.D.

Faculty Bio: N. Michael Murphy M.D. began his career as a family practitioner in the UK after medical training in Ireland. He is a clinical professor in both the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Family Practice at Albany Medical College in Albany, New York. He has authored The Wisdom of Dying: Practices of Living is the founder of a pioneering hospice in Albany, and runs workshops and lectures in the United State, Belgium, Holland and Ireland. 

Course Description: The course will explore the spiritual lessons about living that only death can offer. The approach to death that you will explore is both astounding and compelling in its simplicity. You will be invited to interweave personal stories of those you have known who have met death and those who have accompanied them, with stories from ancient myth and legend, and insights gained from Michael’s decades of experience in guiding others on their journeys toward death. 

            Based on his book The Wisdom of Dying: Practices for Living, the seminar will reveal how you can:

  • Focus on your conscious dying to open yourself to more conscious living
  • Listen to your inner feelings and to those of the people you love.
  • Change patterns of relationships to enhance your connection with yourself and others
  • Use the powerful models of storytelling, myth and ritual
  • Finish what needs to be finished – let go of what needs to be let go.

This is a visionary approach to dying. It is about power and it is full of sacredness. This is a time of learning how to be in the period around death and how it can be a time of unique family healing and intimacy.  

            Storytelling is an important tool in such work, freeing those involved in the final processes of life from false protective attitudes and helping them make relationships richer. This remarkably personal and realistic approach offers much to the dying and the living alike.

Learning Objectives:

MONDAY:   Listening and Witnessing

 Using the Talking Stick in the group for several rounds, the students will experience the role of:

 Storyteller: The one who holds the stick and speaks or remains silent: aka The Ego or The Persona

Witness:  The listener who listens without judgment and simply hold the story: aka The Feminine or The Soul

Guide: The one who nudges the storyteller to speak and is his companion: aka The Masculine or The Spirit.  In this exercise, the Talking Stick is the Guide

These roles exemplify the three aspects of the human, being.

Reading: Murphy and Real

TUESDAY:   The Inner Sanctuary

The recognition and creation of Inner Sanctuary by means of the Storyteller telling painful or discomforting vignettes from childhood and adolescence, and then speaking as Witness to that child/adolescent who told the story. The experience vividly portrays how we lack love and compassion for ourselves and so are not “safe” with ourselves.

Reading: Murphy

WEDNESDAY:    Re-experiencing Grief

A loss of a significant person that has already occurred or will occur in the future is spoken of, and then the student addresses that person as if these were the last few minutes in which this is a possibility. Finishing unfinished business, letting go, forgiveness---all are involved in this experience.

Reading: Murphy

THURSDAY:   The Family as Sanctuary

The student “meets” his family by telling a little of its story, and then speaking to each member in turn as if this were the last opportunity he would have. From this exercise there will be discussion of the presence or absence of safety and sanctuary within the family.

Reading: Gilman, Murphy

FRIDAYLove and Forgiveness

Love is the energy of the Soul, and Forgiveness allows this energy to power our lives. Visualization on love and forgiveness will be followed by sharing of the individual experiences and general discussion.

Reading: Octavio Paz

Required Reading:

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (1860-1935). Herland. Dover Publications,1998.

Murphy, N. Michael. The Wisdom of Dying: Practices for Living. Shaftesbury and         Boston: Element Books, 1999.

Real, Terrence. I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression. New York: Fireside, 1998.

Paz, Octavio. The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism. Harvest Books, 1996.

Suggested Reading:

Finneran, Richard J., ed. For Anne Gregory: in The Poems of W. B. Yeats (P.                 Macmillan. New York 1983

Orpheus, Euridice, Hermes: In The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke: Ed: Mitchell, Stephen. New York, Vintage International 1989

Neruda, Pablo. Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda. California: University of California       Press, 1990.

Paz, Octavio. Selected Poems of Octavio Paz New Directions, 1984.

Hillman, James. The Soul’s Code. New York: Random House, 1966.

Sanders, Scott Russell. Hunting for Hope: a Father’s Journeys. Beacon Press: Boston,   1999.

Pre-Class Writing Assignment:         5 – 8 Pages

A pre-course five page paper is to be written about the following five subjects:

  • Listening and Witnessing
  • The Creation of an Inner Sanctuary
  • Re-experiencing Grief
  • The Family as Sanctuary
  • Love and Forgiveness

During the course, one of these subjects is taken each day for experiential learning. 

Post-Class Writing Paper: Will be discussed in class. 5 – 15 Pages


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