Thursday, July 30, 2009

Reiki and Thanks to Robin

The Blog today is dedicated to Robin Hannon, my friend and Reiki Master who provided my Reiki attunements. Robin also assisted in initially setting up this site, and created the drawing at the top of the site. In emailing Robin, i had a vision of Reiki in Hospice that involved a Tree, losing its leaves, but in its loss of foliage, an intense light was shining through the tree. It symbolized what in Reiki we call "transition," the physical semblance of this life, the leaves fall off, but the light and love of the universal life force, draws the consciousness, and the Tree is connected and continues into another Season. After completing my RM (Reiki Master) training with Robin, i started the Seasons Reiki Share, and Robin assisted me, and taught with me, until i was ready to work on my own. Most RM's, after completing Level 3, and having a Master attunement, are not ready to teach "on their own" right away - and Reiki is not simply a method of healing others, but a way to change and grow oneself on an ongoing basis. For all these things, i thank Robin and ask readers of this note to send her Reiki Love and Light. Robin wrote a brief piece, explaining Reiki in a simple way, her article and web address follow. Thank you Robin.

Explaining Reiki
Reiki is a simple technique to relieve stress and pain and promote wellness. It promotes the flow of energy in the human body which in turns allows the body to function in a more holistic manner. To demystify this concept let’s look at a carburetor in a car and then relate it to energy work and Reiki.
T­he goal of a carburetor is to mix just the right amount of gasoline with air so that the engine runs properly. If there is not enough fuel mixed with the air, the engine "runs lean" and either will not run or potentially damages the engine. If there is too much fuel mixed with the air, the engine "runs rich" and either will not run (it floods), runs very smoky, runs poorly (bogs down, stalls easily), or at the very least wastes fuel. The carburetor is in charge of getting the mixture just right. By the same token when energy flow in the human body is not moving, stuck, or in some way hampered, the entire body will run poorly. Symptoms of this vary, but some of the more common symptoms may include decreased energy levels, lack of mental clarity, emotional distress, and physical pain and or illness. The goal of a Reiki Master Practitioner is to ensure the proper “mix” or flow of energy which will then promote wellness and allow the body to heal itself.
One might ask how a Reiki Practitioner influences the flow of energy. When a carburetor is plugged up the technician will remove or clean the ducts then replace it in the car. An energy worker obviously cannot remove physical parts and then replace them. What an energy worker does is to lay their hands on a client. A Reiki Practitioner can feel the ebb and flow of energy through their hands the same way that a technician can diagnose the ebb and flow of air through a carburetor. Once the Practitioner feels the flow or lack thereof of this energy, they are able to move it with certain techniques taught to them among which is intent, breath control, and as well mental images to focus on. Through this technique they then balance the energetic system.
Benefits of Reiki may include:

Increased Energy Levels
Increased Mental Clarity
Personal Ability to Grow
A Sense of Calm or Balance
Emotional Healing & Stability
Clearing & Balancing of Chakras
Can Provide Relief from Chronic Pain
Boosts & Strengthens the Immune System
Compliments & Supports
Conservative Medical Treatment
Helps to Deal with Suppressed or
Blocked Emotions & Feelings
Reduces Stress, Tension, Anxiety, & General Emotional Distress

Robin Littlefeather Hannon

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thoughts on 3 stories

This posting is dedicated to three people and one Hospice Team. The Hospice Team is the hard working people of Seasons Hospice, who bring compassion to the world every day.

I have the honor and joy of reading through all the Team emails, and every day there are stories of overcoming hardships - and as we seek to give compassion to others, sometimes, we cannot go on without being restored by God - i think - everyone who works in Hospice knows that. Reiki refers to the energy we receive as the Universal Life Force, but for me, i just think of it as a gift from God.

The first web site is that of Lance Armstrong.

Lance after 3 1/2 years out of competitive cycling, returned to the Tour de France and finished 3rd, competing against the best cyclists in the world. His example in the years Tour de France was a journey of courage - but for those who do not know, on October 2, 1996, Lance was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer and liver and brain metastases, and his chances of survival were considered small. Lance dedicated his ride in this years Tour to his Foundation, "Livestrong" - and for those not aware of Lance's story in his battle against Cancer, or his battle to help others, this link is to his Foundation's Manifesto. Lance also has Hospice links on his site, as, not all battles against cancer are as successful as his own.

The second web site is that of Nick Vujicic
This unbelievable web site which affirms "I Love Life" was sent to me by a cousin, and i simply found the story of courage hard to believe. It is an inspiring message.

The third web site is that of Randy Pausch who died July 25, 2008
Randy was the teacher who recorded "Yhe Last Lecture," and there is a link to that lecture on this web site.

I do not think it is accurate to say that Lance "lost" the Tour de France, or that Randy "lost" his battle to Cancer. Or that Nick Lost" his struggle to sit up.

Each of these struggles are stories of human victory, and they are examples to us all. Thankful to God, connected to each other, we have the opportunity to allow kindness to pass through us.

The truth is that, in Hospice, we see stories of suffering like Lance's and Randy's and Nick's every day. The challenge is to "Love Life," "Livestrong," and help each other.

To those who share the journey of bringing compassion into the world, i give thanks. My admiration to those who help light the way for us all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Reiki and Dogs

Many books on Reiki talk about Level 1 students practicing Reiki on their animal friends, and no doubt, Dogs love the attention and love the energy. But can a Dog give Reiki to a human?

Here is what a co -worker wrote to me, "I believe that dogs have souls too, and their presence throughout my life has brought great healing to me."

Well -- we may need to separate here between Reiki Ryoho, or Reiki as a "method," and the energy that Reiki touches. There are many traditions, and methods, and they all touch upon the same "energy" or "life force" that is common to all human beings, and very likely to all life.

Certain things seem to touch our souls, and examples are music, unconditional love from animals, and other people just being in connection with us.

One of the saddest things we do on a hospice unit is compassionate extubation. This occurs when a patient has been placed on a ventilator, with the hope of reversing a condition, and it becomes all too clear that nothing short of a miracle will cause reversal, and that continuing the machine not in the patient's interest.

Recently, we had a mother beyond saving, on a ventilator, and a family decision had been made to remove the machine and the breathing tube. Her two children were present, they were young and they were sobbing. As so often happens, after stopping the machine, transition did not occur right away. The children had been playing with our units "therapy dog," Sashi, and Sashi came with them and sat with them as everyone waited. For 45 minutes Sashi sat still as the family stroked her fur, she did not move except to lick their hands. Her owner, our social worker, describe to me that "Sashi bore witness to and absorbed their grief in such an organic, tactile, primal way that few humans could do."

This week, a sad event occurred and Sashi was temporarily banished from our unit. One staff member wrote to me in anguish, "I feel heart broken - like an appendage has been amputated from my body and soul. She is an integral part of our team and loves everyone." Another staff member emailed me, "she is the most well-behaved, well-mannered, well-trained dog that we have come to enjoy and care for. She not only helps bring a smile to the faces of patients and their families, but to the staff as well."

Fortunately, Seasons Hospice has one of the most caring, compassionate, forward looking owners in the world. Marcia was one of the pioneers in bringing music therapy to Hospice, supported a Reiki Policy and Reiki program, and upon explanation of how important this "soul" was to the patients and the Team, over-ruled concerns that had been raised about animals on units, and reinstated Sashi.

Unconditional love can bring great joy. When we look at the 5 basic principles of Usui Reiki Ryoho, a) do not worry just for today b) do not be angry just for today c) be grateful just for today d) work hard just for today and e) give kindness to others - Sashi had manifested all of these.

I suppose - she had not learned the basic hand positions, or breathing or grounding techniques, but she brings to each moment unconditional love, and creates a "space" in which worry and anger cannot occur.

Somewhere, there are Hospices where Music therapy is not considered essential, where Reiki Masters must "take off their badges," and where animals are not allowed.

I am thankful that i am working for Marcia, and for Seasons Hospice - where all these "modalities" are part of our everyday life.

And just for this moment, i want to give thanks that we have our Therapy Dog Sashi, i will leave it to others to determine whether there is "scientific evidence" to prove that "pet therapy helps," or what "Level" in Reiki a Dog can (or cannot) attain - just for today - i am grateful that our unit has Sashi.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Reiki and Sacred Space

In trying to explain Reiki, i often ask people to allow me to demonstrate it rather than talk about it - one needs to experience Reiki before one understands it.

Reiki energy occurs as we set an intention to separate ourselves, (just for a moment), from our mundane existence. Through a method, using breathing and grounding and focus and intention, we create a space for ourselves, and perhaps other people, that we make meaningful by our purification of our own thoughts (just for the moment). The space is not defined by physical boundaries, but is defined by the energy that surrounds our body, as guided by our intention.

As we focus on the life force that connects all human beings, and as we set aside a small space in a fleeting time, we make sacred for ourselves and our companions that experience.

We start by controlling that which is most important to control, and easiest to control, our own breathing. We ask that energy flow through us, from our creator, to the place upon which we stand. We are grounded, we are calm, and we are at peace.

In such a sacred space, worry cannot occur, it is banished. Anger has no place. We are grateful for what we have. We work to understand and to heal. We want to gift others with kindness.

And in that moment of connectness, as we stand between creator earth in peace and calm, in acceptance and anticipation, we are grounded but free of attachment, and our spirit flies.

In this sacred space there is the possibility of healing.

Imagine if you will for a moment, you are in a bed, and those around you are crying, they expect you to die soon. They will not talk about, "for fear of upsetting you." Do they not know that you are aware of what is happening within your own body? For your own good someone is jabbing at you with a needle. And your face is covered with a mask giving you oxygen. And you want to scream and cry.

Someone comes and says to you, may i take off this mask. And without the mask you can still breathe. The new person asks if they can hold your hand. "Of course you say" (and you think "sit awhile what's the rush") - they ask you to breathe with them, and focus on your own inner sense of calm. "Do i have an inner sense of calm?" "Yes it is there."

"I want you all to know i love you." ("there - i had wanted to say that - they weren't going to let me")

They are praying for me. "Go away with that needle!" "I'm not stupid, i know that isn't going to help." "Prayer is good." "Folks say you can't know about God, but, i know God is waiting for me, i can simply feel it." "Everyone around me is praying, i can feel there energy."

"Thank you God."

When someone has come on to our unit, screaming in pain, and expected to die, and we set aside a Sacred Space, and connect with them and their families, and they become free of pain, it is a very moving moment.

Today, one of those patients, went home for a time with her family. As a doctor, i do not have a scientific basis to explain this. Perhaps you could say we simply prayed with her. We do not know how much time she will have at home, but we are grateful.

Reiki starts at the moment we know science cannot help us. We cannot cure but we still can care. We do not abandon those for whom we have no "Prescription." And we do not prescribe something that we know will not work, just for "hope." Hope can stem from the sacred. Whatever religion the patient is - that's fine - my voice will serve for you, just for today.

I can control my breathing and make myself calm and ask you to join me. Together we can create a space with an intention to be sacred. If i cannot cure you, but, you can be free of fear, you can be free of anger, and free of pain, then i am grateful to have served.

I have to go. It is time to take back up the stethoscope, and put back on the "white coat." Perhaps, next door, someone can be helped through science.

One never knows till one enters the door.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reiki and Cancer

Let me say from the outset, that physicians need to work to treat cancer with "evidence based means" whenever possible. But what do we do when chemotherapy and radiation therapy have failed, and surgery is not an option?

It is no longer acceptable to say to patients, "there is nothing anyone can do" or "get your affairs in order." Faith and prayer seem almost "hard wired" into humanity, and the physician who has humility can still care for patients.

I met with two patients today who had been certified as "terminally ill" from cancer and were on my hospice unit.

"Rebecca" was quite young, and passed a landmark birthday today. Her family had not come in to see her, and she was quite alone. Her oncologist had told her that chemotherapy would only make her sicker. As we controlled her pain, using low dose Morphine, Reiki, and the spiritual support of our volunteers and Chaplian, she was feeling stronger, and willing to eat a little more. A volunteer had spent a lot of time with her yesterday, and my Nurse and i went to see her. We sang her Happy Birthday, and we focused on this special moment. She Blessed us and thanked us for being with her. And we thanked her for being with us.

I do not know any "evidence based test" that i could do to "prove" that i had helped this patient, but, the smile on her face and the fact that she was free of pain meant a lot to us.

"Paul" came onto our unit yesterday. He had been undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer with massive liver metastases that were growing on CT scan in the face of the chemo. He was literally moaning in pain, even though he had been on some opioids (but not too much perhaps so that he would not become "addicted"). With his permission we did Reiki with him, and we increased his pain medication to the level where he was still alert, but comfortable. He said, "this isn't how i expected to feel today. I'm not vomitting and i'm not nauseous. I'm not in pain. Am i supposed to go back for more chemo now?"

We had a long talk. I explained that the chemotherapy had not been working, and that the science of chemotherapy is that it is a "poison" and the goal is to hammer the cancer and wipe it out, without damaging the person irretreivably. But in his case, the chemotherapy was not hammering the cancer at all, and by taking it, he was reducing his capacity to eat, which reduced his bodies natural ability to "fight" the cancer.

He asked me, "doc how long do i have." And with as much humility as i could muster, i told him the story of Art Buchwald, who had been told by superb doctors on stopping dialysis that he had "one week to live," and that a year later he wrote a book about his one year experience in hospice. "We don't know how long anyone will live," i told him, "only the Lord knows that."

We talked some about the "Last lecture" - the recent class given by a teacher dying of cancer of the pancreas, and asked, "do you want to live each day that you are given, as if it were a gift, or spend each day thinking about the end?"

Some doctors avoid conversations like this because, they feel it will "upset the patient." My experience is that patients respond to talking about the reality that they are living. If we cannot cure them, at the least, we can relieve their pain, and let them know that other human beings care about them.

Again, i cannot "prove" scientifically, that this makes the patient live longer. Everything in my experience as a physician says its the right thing to do - and merging Reiki with pain medication may not "cure" the patient, but if it relieves pain and allows for a human connection, it is a good thing to do.

There is an "alternative oath" to the Hippocratic oath, which i believe represents the core of "holistic medicine." It is attributed to the Jewish Philosopher/Physician Moses Maimonides (1135-1204).

"The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. May the love May the love for my art actuate me at all time; may neither avarice nor miserliness, nor thirst for glory or for a great reputation engage my mind; for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children.

May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.

Grant me the strength, time and opportunity always to correct what I have acquired, always to extend its domain; for knowledge is immense and the spirit of man can extend indefinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements.

Today he can discover his errors of yesterday and tomorrow he can obtain a new light on what he thinks himself sure of today. Oh, God, Thou has appointed me to watch over the life and death of Thy creatures; here am I ready for my vocation and now I turn unto my calling. "

Reiki and the Stethoscope

I can remember very clearly the first time that i listened with a stethoscope. It was a great mystery to me. What was i listening to? And i suspect that as i have gotten older, my "hearing" has not improved, but my skills with using the stethoscope have improved with experience.

I appreciate more of the sounds, and in listening to the sounds, they mean more to me. I perceive more about the patient. It is not simply a process of "hearing," but a process of "filtering" and "perceiving" and "recognizing."

Musicians hear nuances of sound, and pitch, rhythym and resonance. And what does one say to someone who is listening with a stethoscope for the first time, and understands nothing about what they are hearing, or to someone hearing a string quartet, who cannot appreciate the intervals or the chords?

If we "listen" very carefully, we can perceive aspects of the universal life force that emanates from people. Sometimes, that is called their "aura." Or their "energy." As we become familiar with this "energy," we can appreciate qualities of the "energy."

To care for a "whole person," physicians are struggling with "integrating" the type of medicine that is "scientific" or "evidence based" or "traditional," with the type of Health Care that is "complimentary" or "alternative" or "intuitive."

And while many of us are trying to be "holistic," and work with both "scientific" and "intuitive" medicine this is "not so easy."

One of the reasons is that "scientific" medicine by it's nature uses left brain skills, and "intuitive" medicine" by its nature uses right brain skills. One creates "duality" as a way of "measuring" or "describing," and another seeks "unification," to treat the "whole person." One wears a "white coat," and creates "boundaries" between "patient" and "professional," and the other seeks "connection" through the common "life force" we share that connects all living beings.

It seems to me that in our best of worlds, we will use "evidence based medicine" wherever we can, since it is a skill we can "validate" and "measure." But we will keep in mind that sometimes, "scientific medicine" fails our patients, and we need the humility was physicians to "care" when we cannot "cure."

For both skills, listening with a stethoscope, and perceiving with our intuition, we need to listen, we need patience, we need to be open and we need time to learn.

This is especially so near the end of mortal life, when, "science" is often mute to the things that matter the most.

Reiki and the stethscope can both be valuable tools for the physician, and both are worth the time to learn.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July Seasons Reiki News

Congratulations to:

Tandra Durden
Louise J. Deville
Dorothy Kenney

For completing Usui Reiki Ryoho Level 2

And our next class will be at the NWHC - in patient unit Tuesday August 4, 2009 from 5:30 pm to 8 pm

The class is free to Seasons Staff and Seasons Volunteers - beginners are welcome!!

Thank you to Amy and Michele for inviting the class to the GIP unit, and thank you to my Reiki teachers, Robin Hannon and Amy Rowland for their continued encouragement in this work.

What is "Open Access"

Traditional Hospices have had a well earned reputation for not being willing to encourage sustaining life when they can. The mantra has been, "we do not lengthen or shorten" life. But the issues have been complex since often, infections have been not treated as "not a hospice philosophy" to extend life.

At the same time - specialists have often prescribed continuation of treatments with horrific side effects and horrific costs, when the methods are not working. After all, chemotherapy is effectively "poison" with a goal of hitting the cancer harder than the host, so when it is not effectively hitting the cancer, how does continuing chemotherapy "give someone hope."

The twin pillars of "new age hospice" are to use those methods that allow someone to live longer (as long as they want to and in the patient's terms longer is better), but, when "high tech" becomes medically ineffective to use spiritual techniques so that we continue to care and support the patient and family when we cannot cure.

We do not need to utilize "medically ineffective" and harmful methods to "Offer Hope," since we offer hope by accepting the Spiritual Creator that connects us all - and - by testifying (depending on your comfort level without reference to any specific religion, or - if you are comfortable, "in the voice" of the religion of the patient, since, for me, i am serving God in the moment through the voice of the patient who i am treating. The simple statement, "we know as doctors we can't do anything to cure your illness, but if the Lord wants to heal you, you can get better, we will pray with you" ..... has great power.

Not everyone is comfortable with this approach, but here are two points: a) in a cancer patient who has broken through chemo, and is worsening in the face of chemo, the patient will live longer if we use prayer for "Hope" than if we continue "chemo for Hope." (there is an evidence based study on this from March 2007 that is a 3 year lookback of 5% of the Medicare population base).


I have been asked in referencing God, "what about the atheist" - and i need to testify that in 30 years of doing end of life care, it has NEVER been the atheist who is struggling with the ethical dilemma on whether to use "heroic measures" at this point. When i take a spiritual history (and we always need to take a spiritual history), the atheist identifies himself to me BEFORE i start a "God" discussion, and asks "please keep me comfortable."

"Open Access" tends to be discussed as a Hospice's willingness to provide expensive care, not usually provided by "Traditional Hospice." But i prefer to understand it in more patient centered terms, in that, the specialists often are unable or unwilling to have the discussions that will educate the patients to the situation that is their reality, and that by compromising for a time, we have an opportunity to help the patient, first by offering education, and also, by offering the spiritual support that they need.

The difficulty with acceptance is part of the heart of what we do in Hospice, sometimes, we have to be ourselves in acceptance that we are not in control or making the choices (are we ever?)

My prayer for all those who work in this difficult and very human mission.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Being grateful (just for today)

I was on our hospice unit doing Reiki with my student, Dottie, and "Elizabeth" came onto the unit. Carol asked me to see her, "see is completely alert, dying of cancer with lung mets, in a lot of pain, and terribly fearful."

We joined her family and pastor, sat and talked. "Elizabeth" had an oxygen mask on and said," get this off me, get this off me." She was moaning in pain, and i removed her mask as carefully as i could. Dottie went to ask Carol to bring a nasal cannula, and "Elizabeth" started gasping for breath. She could barely talk with us, the cannula came, and her breathing eased.

The pastor agreed to support our trying Reiki, he'd heard of it, and he added "I'm only an assistant pastor." I asked him to pray for "Elizabeth" and asked Dottie to focus her Reiki energy though the pastor's voice. I went to the foot end of the bed, and added my "intention" to support the pastor's prayer.

The family gathered around and we joined hands. The pastor's voice was soft but firm, and he prayed for "Elizabeth." "You are a child of the Lord, and he loves you. We're going to pray like we never before, Lord help your child."

There was a sense of a very bright light filling the room. As "Elizabeth" calmed, we could feel her pain leave her. And then her voice started to sing softly, "thank you Lord, thank you Lord, thank you Jesus, thank you Lord, i am yours Lord, i am yours Lord, thank you Lord."

She fell asleep, she was still with us, breathing softly, like a child in a state of comfort.

It was a great blessing to be in that room in that moment. In this moment, seeing this soul taken from a state of pain to a state of gratefulness, transcending the cancer, and thanking her creator. In this place, there was no room for pain, or anxiety, fear or turmoil. Human beings can find a state of grace.

Thank you Lord for permitting me to do this work. Thank you Lord for allowing me to share in this human moment. Thank you Lord for letting me have a Team of wonderful people to work with.

There are so many things to worry about, so many things to be angry about, but, just for today, just for this moment, allow me too to be grateful. And let people share in each other's compassion.