Koshin Paley Ellison | You Are Not Who You Think You Are

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Koshin Paley Ellison | You Are Not Who You Think You Are

Koshin Paley Ellison

Posted on January 11, 2023

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“If we want to be free, at some point we have to plant our staff in the ground and say, ‘I am here.’  — Koshin Paley Ellison

This week’s guest is Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison, founder and guiding teacher of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care. Ellison is an author, Jungian psychotherapist and ACPE Certified Chaplain Educator. Koshin has served as the co-director for Contemplative Care Services in the Department of Integrative Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center and is currently on the faculty of the University of Arizona Medical School’s Center for Integrative Medicine. His most recent book is Untangled: Walking the Eightfold Path to Clarity, Courage and Compassion

While Koshin has extensive education, he explains that it’s ultimately all been in search of deeper meaning. As a young man he discovered the poetry of Marie Howe and was moved to seek her out as a teacher. He subsequently studied under her, earning an MFA. Then, after serving as a hospital chaplain, he went on to get a degree in social work in order to learn how to help others better. This led him to studying psychoanalysis. But clearly what has most deeply informed Koshin’s life is his practice of Zen meditation, which he’s formally studied since 1987. 

“Zen,” Koshin explains, simply means sitting meditation. It’s one of the various practices of meditation, and all are valid routes to self-reflection and exploration. It was this practice that enabled him to sit with and be present with the dying as a hospital chaplain. He started in this work when his grandmother was dying, who observed that he and his “Zen people” were the only people who could be fully present with her, without distraction, fear, or busy-ness. He credits her as the real founder of the Zen Center for Contemplative Care. In an effort to bring these principles to the medical community, Koshin helps doctors and other clinicians bring a contemplative practice to their work and their lives, enabling them to be more present for their patients, as well as themselves. 

Ultimately, what’s important, Koshin says, is that we not get too attached to our identity. We take on different identities throughout our days and lives depending on the situation we’re in. Letting go of attachment to one’s identity is key. He also believes that suffering is rooted in the gap between what we believe to be right and good and how we act daily, and he strives to help people to close that gap in order to live more authentic, meaningful lives.

In this episode of Leading with Genuine Care, you’ll also learn:

  • How a traumatic memory from Koshin’s childhood came back to him and how he responded 
  • His first lesson as an 11-year-old karate student 
  • His own moments of insight with being attached to his identity  
  • Why Buddhism is still relevant today
  • How anxiety is an addiction 
  • How he finds gratitude and appreciation in everyday life 

Connect With Koshin Paley Ellison






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