Contemplating Death, Celebrating Life

20 November 2017 - 26 November 2017
Herb Elsky


The reality of death can not only be an inspiration to appreciate our precious time alive but also to motivate us to deepen our practice and find a truer more complete understanding of our existence that gives real meaning to our lives.

This is of vital interest. All of us sooner or later must relate to death, our own and that of family and friends.
How do we prepare? It is possible. We can relate to our deepest fears and transform them into a positive path of awakening. We can learn how to be the most helpful for others as death approaches.

Becoming familiar with the dying process, contemplating it, and talking openly about it helps us to transform our preconceptions into a deep realization of compassion and human interconnectivity.

The Program consists of talks based on Buddhist and Shambhala teachings as well as teachings by other masters and care givers. We will practice Meditation, including “The Birthday Sadhana”  by Mipham Rinpoche. There will be Guided contemplations, Discussions, Writing, and other Creative exercises.

If we can live even one moment completely and fully, right now, one complete moment of presence, openness and trust, we will have lived completely. Life is not about how long we live, or merely about what we do — it’s about how fully we live, how deeply we are touched by our world. The realization of death is a real blessing. It brings joy, freedom, genuine appreciation and the ability to fully live our lives, right here and now. Knowing my time is limited, I’m grateful just to appreciate the life I’ve lived, the teachers I’ve studied with and the love I’ve been given and received. If I would recommend anything, it would be: "take death to heart".
Denise Thorton, three months before she died of cancer



Arrival Day Introductory talk: “The Supreme Meditation"

“Of all the footprints that of the elephant is supreme. Similarly, of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme.” — Attributed to the Buddha
The importance of contemplating death
“Hello is goodbye”

Day 1 Acknowledging the reality of death approaching
Impermanence, Transitions and Possibilities
“I invite you to start practicing with impermanence. Take the reality of death to heart. Let it pierce you. If you can open and surrender to your own mortality and vulnerability, you will discover a fundamental, unconditional source of strength and confidence.” —Denise Thorton

Relating to the Fear of death
Accepting ourselves
Maitri, Loving kindness
Introduction to the Bardos

Day 2 Finishing farewells, Harvesting the experience of our life, Authentic Dialogue, Finding Meaning
Importance of “finishing business”
Writing goodbyes, Saying goodbye, honoring friends and teachers, Writing letters of appreciation, letters of forgiveness to some and asking for it from others; summing up, giving blessings, gratitude, leaving without regret. The magic of kindness, Letting go of material possessions.
The environment for dying, last wishes (5 Wishes, Directives, practicalities…)

Day 3 Transition
The dying process, death and letting go. Relating to fear
“Between the love I received from my parents and the love and blessings I received from my teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, I learned to trust in myself and to have confidence in my basic goodness. This has served me well in dealing with cancer, the long treatment journey and the nearness of death. Why not trust in our basic goodness and learn to like and appreciate ourselves…what better friend could we have? When it’s our time to leave this world, this trust and confidence will be a great ally.”  —Denise Thorton

Day 4 Caring for others
Respecting each person’s individual dying process
Respecting the environment. Presence says more than words
Hospice and palliative care
Dying at home
Caregiving teams

Day 5 After death: Rituals and practicalities
The stages of Grieving
Care of the body
Bringing Family  and community together

Creating your re-birth, Re-born as a Bodhisattva,
The future you
Living it now

We must be diligent today—to wait until tomorrow…
…is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly!
How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person
who knows how to dwell in mindfulness night and day

‘One who knows the better way to live.’

~ Bhaddekaratta Sutra


This program is taught in English. Translation into French or other languages are available at no extra costs. Please give us notice of your request as early as possible, so that we can provide translation service.

Arrival day (Monday November 20): Orientation talk at 8 pm. You're invited to come from 4 pm in order to register and settle in your room. Dinner is served at 6.45 pm.

End of program (Saturday November 25): Closing circle and Banquet in the evening.

Departure day (Sunday November 26): You may leave anytime (no program). You're welcome to stay for lunch.


herbHerbert Elsky is a senior student of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche and Mipham Rinpoche.
 He met Trungpa Rinpoche in Los Angeles in 1971 and he was one of the founding members of the Los Angeles "Dharmadhatu", the original name for Shambhala Centres. He was the Director of Shambhala Training in Los Angeles and later the Head of Practice at Karme Choling. He worked closely with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, when Rinpoche was developing and presenting the teachings about “Dharma Art”.

In 1995 he moved to France with his wife Catherine, to establish Dechen Choling as a major practice centre. He was the Head of Practice at Dechen Choling from 1995-1997. Herb teaches all levels of Shambhala Training and Shambhala Art throughout Europe.
He is an artist, a sculptor, who exhibited his sculptures of transparent resin regularly in art galleries whilst living in Los Angeles. Since moving to France he has created the “La Baluba" theatre as his work has evolved towards sound and performance work.

Price of your stay

Standard515 euro
Discounted386 euro
Early Bird464 euro

Standard price: global tarif including the program fee, full board comprising standard accommodation (dormitory) and organic meals. Room tax non included: (0,20 € per night and per person).

Discounted price: 25% reduction on the standard price for people with monthly net income below 1200 €. Room tax non included: (0,20 € per night and per person).

Early Bird: 10% reduction on the standard price for registration paid in full two months prior to the start of the program, i.e. before 20 September 2017. You cannot combine this with the discounted option. Room tax non included: (0,20 € per night and per person).

Other services

  • You may select a single or double room during online registration (if available, we’ll confirm by mail after registration).
  • Shuttle transport or taxi (all year round) and child care options (July/August) are available.
  • The insurance covering you during your stay (third party liability) is included in the yearly required membership fee for the Association Shambhala Europe (15 €).

We would like finances not to be a barrier to your participation. If needed, Dechen Chöling can propose several financial assistance options (monthly payment, scholarship…).
Do not hesitate to contact us: