If you are bouncing off the walls today, grasping to get it all done. Relax. You have the superpower of spaciousness within. Verily (and truly) I say unto you...think atomic.
Atoms are busy: looping, circling, pushing back and generally keeping up appearances...pretty much like us at the holidays. These building blocks of the Universe move around so fast that they make the world seem solid–literally.
The black and white facts are quite different. Solstice today offers an (... enlightening) reflection which might prove pretty useful on the longest night of the year.
"Some days, you might feel like a pretty substantial person. Maybe you have a lot of friends, or an important job, or a really big car. But it might humble you to know that all of those things – your friends, your office, your really big car, you yourself, and even everything in this incredible, vast Universe–are almost entirely, 99.9999999 percent empty space." - Science Alert
So too, all those presents you just bought on your credit card: they are space.
Hark, peace is at hand!
We are not even talking on the (very) weird, quantum mechanic's level, this is just atomic. Did you know that when you hug someone, or take a child's hand and feel their touch...you are not actually touching them? There is a space between us–always. You feel my atomic field pushing back against yours, but we are not actually connecting.
But, I digress.
The interesting thing here is that, as we are mostly space, we do NOT live in a busy world. Not really. Busy is an illusion. Holiday stress is an illusion. Take a moment here. Breathe in the reality of that. We are spaciousness. Feel more relaxed?
People who are stressed from loss, or grief or an unwelcome change, feel in control when they are busy. It's a common human strategy to avoid feeling what needs to be felt. Staying busy to avoid pain, that is a pipe dream. Grief needs be felt to move through it. It is (paradoxically...) the quickest way (albeit on a slow and a dark road) back to the regenerating light of a life-well-lived.
As a chaplain in hospice, I know many names for the Divine: God, Jehovah, Allah, Great Spirit, or (one of my favorite Cherokee names... ) "The Maker of the Trees". If any of my patients or a bereaved are questioning a choice to be made where one option feels constricting, and the other is more spacious with breathing room... (Well, I know which one I'd choose for myself) and if they ask me, I will share (but they have to ask...).
Your Reality is Spaciousness...breathe it in
Take a moment today to sit in the REALITY of atomic spaciousness . Allow it to penetrate the illusion of busy. It's an act of faith, really. But, it will also make getting that last Christmas or Hanukkah present all the more joyous.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1
Remembering is powerful act.
Join us for the 11th annual service of remembrance honoring those who are no longer with us but are still very much alive within us...
As a Hispanic-American friend put it, "For this evening, we make them live again..."
Remembering is powerful act.
As my 108 year old friend said several years ago, a few months before she died...
"You are not dead, when people remember you.." Albertina was feisty and loving right up until her end.
I remember her...and many, many more...
Join us and we will remember together.
Bring a short story to share
Bring a photo for the altar.
Bring your whole self.
Bring a friend.
7PM Thursday 31 October, 2019
Unity San Francisco - (Come see our new location...Between Octavia and the Zen Center)
240 Page Street
San Francisco, CA
Link to MORE INFO: Making Space Sacred site description
Link to MORE INFO: Unity San Francisco site description...
A few of you asked me to clarify what I said in my last post.
Re-making health care to be about health, as hospice makes death about hope, is an earthquake to the medical model of fixing ....
How can death be about hope?
I slipped that in because it is a truth about good hospice and palliative care. It is also the roots of reconciling with loss of any kind.
• It is NOT about putting on a happy face sticker (...over an empty gas tank dash indicator).
• It is NOT about accenting the positive...like the musical
• It is about grounding in the truth of where we are, and asking the question:
What is it you hope for?
Where we go from here... depends upon where we are at.
Most hospice teams tend to disrespect and disregard the benefits of denial. In my training for 'companioning' those in loss, the professor says:
Denial is useful and self-protective... to a degree.
- Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Center for Loss and Life Transitions
It takes time to gather ourselves, to approach the unknown...and death is the great unknown. How do we live with uncertainty?
We need practice at it. What is, really, just another day of cleaning out your closets...or vacuuming the dust bunnies. But if you have NEVER cleaned the closets, it is going to be a bigger job than if you did had done it regularly. Dust bunnies can be overwhelming when you when you have avoided and accumulated them for a lifetime.
Metaphysical dust bunnies
I am attempting lightheartedness here, but it is also true. If you are a hoarder of dust bunnies, your task at the end of our days here will be tougher.
Why do we spend our days pretending that we will not get old, never get to our end on Earth, or leave this existence? I see a direct relationship between denial at the end of life (EOL) and messy closet hygiene. Like anything, we need practice for these big milestones. Many people do their best NOT to show up for death - anyone's death - even their own. They don't visit sick family members; they try not to visit even their own mother at the end because they 'don't want to remember her THAT way'.
I am saying...this life is practice for our own good end.
I have seen many family members collude in this EOL denial by multiplying it by THEIR OWN denial. Or holding out 'for a miracle' until that dying breath...so there is not time to reconcile, to say goodbye, to forgive the dust bunnies of feud and disconnection which are blocking the door.
It is the door to a 'good death'. (This is not an oxymoron.)
In hospice, we say a good death is a peaceful death where the pain is controlled. The measure of pain is TOTAL pain. This includes emotional pain and 'spiritual' pain. We are now back to the original question of this post:
How might hospice make death about hope?
The answer here is:
• Hope meets between the possible and the probable.
• Hope is common ground
• Hope takes many forms...
The A.M.E.N. Protocol*
Many folks look for a miracle. They pray that they be spared the bitter pill of loss. It can look a lot like denial. It may be and it may not be. Statistically, prayer beats most miracle drugs for beneficial outcomes. As a chaplain it is important to stay engaged in this difficult, INCREMENTAL and iterative conversation. In fact, there is a palliative protocol for it. It is called the A.M.E.N. Protocol.
• Affirm the patient's belief. (I hope with you...)
• Meet the patient or family where they are. (I join you in hoping and praying...)
• Educate from the role as a medical provider (...and here are some medical issues..)
• No matter what: assure the patient and family you are committed to them...no matter what happens...(We will be with you every step of the way...") which tends to be more doable in hospice than palliative...
It asks the question: "For what purpose is this miracle?"
"The physician may respectfully inquire. He or she might learn,...that a man's first grandchild will be born in a few months. The hope may be to simply cradle that baby for a few sacred hours before succumbing to his disease. The physician, on inquiring, may learn that a mother hopes for remission to see the last of her children graduate from high school or college. Hope takes many forms. 'Even dying people have work to do or work to finish: relationships to enjoy or mend, goodbyes to say, lessons to teach their families.' The only sure way to know what hope means for the individual is to inquire, respectfully and reverently."
Even if the patient (and or family) are insisting on a miracle. The miracle may be just another day to wait to see their daughter flying in from the East coast. It is what hope looks like at the end.
Please find the PDF for further reference. This is a brilliant and useful study.
* Cooper, Ferguson, Bodurtha, and Smith. The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, John Hopkins, Baltimore, MD. Download PDF here:
My employment has changed. I have always been entrepreneurial (thanks Mother...). I am working for several hospices at this point, in bereavement and spiritual care. Change is in many ways... thin ice.
"When skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed". - Emerson
Change is thin ice (and it happens to chaplains too.)
Happily for me, change is less world-shattering than it used to be. Personally, that is progress. What used to feel like a self-annihilating earthquake, I now see as a river. My shift is not just from solid to liquid; it is from me to something much bigger and higher. I see myself as the river and the Earth is shore.
It is the shore and my view of it which changes.
The useful (...and maybe even the actionable)
This blog is about what it is like as a hospice chaplain (AKA spiritual care coordinator). How is it to stand by and watch with others as their world implodes and change happens. I don't offer my metaphysical views to patients or their families. They are desperate. They are full of earthquakes and the cracking of worlds.
I only offer what might be accessible for them and useful. That changes moment to moment as I look them in the eye or listen to them over the phone. It could be a familiar bible quote, or a poem or a rose from my garden, or a trinket of hope but mostly I offer my attention, and intention for a bit of peace in the storm of loss.
I offer what I am.
The Force (...may it be with you).
Sometimes words come into play but it is mostly this mysterious force called "Presence". As a CLINICAL chaplain, I live in and beside the "Medical Model" of healthcare. I try and use language that anyone will understand - especially the other disciplines that work beside me. We all have our different point of views, this is what makes us an INTER-DISCIPLINARY TEAM or an IDT. To see with many eyes is about seeing the whole patient and offering whole person care. It is our goal, we don't always get there.
When the medical model of fixing has (or in the case of palliative) is in the process of running its course, all sorts of endings show up. Palliative is infiltrating the hospitals and medicine itself with the idea that whole care is "evidence-based". There is a lot of hocus-pocus in big pharma / medical bio biz. IMHO, it is not about health...but your body is.
Predator: predating the Medical Model.
It is hilarious, really, that the new research about the benefits and efficacy of "alternative" therapies such as meditation and yoga (especially in trauma...and) in health are being studied and documented. These new alternatives pre-date the medical model by thousands of years. Who does not want to be seen as a whole person? It is the gift of the ages - to be seen as valid, good, and a loving and lovable work-in-process. This new, ancient and timeless view of healing is threatening the medical model in the holiest of its own shrines: the hospital. Palliative is beginning to threaten the medical model as a predator threatens prey. Hospice and its powerful offspring, Palliative medicine, is a focus on a good end and whole-person care.
Re-making health care to be about health, as hospice makes death about hope, is an earthquake to the medical model of fixing with the giving of another pill or operation.
Change will continue to happen and it will unearth us because ...well it is quantum reality. Change reminds us of what does not change.
As humans, we tend to forget. Time reminds us who and what we are. But in change, there are those people who stand by. We are not alone...or we do not have to be alone. We are accompanied by those we love, those who love us, and Love itself. (AKA: Presence)
Take a walk in nature... Go watch a river.
Ask it what it knows to be true. Ask it about change. I believe it will surprise you with the answer...if you listen with the whole of you.
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