Sunday, February 12, 2012


One thing that has been important in the Hospice movement since the very beginning, is stories. We see moments of caring, heroism, courage and love ..... and in sharing the stories we make them continue to grow. People that we knew, in a way departed, but in a way living on in our memories of their courage and faith, and having their spirit spread by ripples of word of mouth - resonating from soul to soul.

One of my nurses attended a funeral last week - it is not uncommon in hospice, nurses can become a part of precious moments, and sometimes being present is not a simple action of supporting a family in bereavement, but a part of our own closure..... we learn we can at the same time maintain professional boundaries but also let ourselves care, i refer to it as having boundaries but breaking down barriers..... (or sometimes "taking off the white coat.")

She brought me a copy of words from the memorial service, and here was a paragraph, quoting a song "If I could have another dance" by Everett Badmarsh......

"do not mourn the flower as the fruit grows on the tree,
Do not mourn the crested wave returning to the sea,
Do not mourn the starlight at the first glow of the dawn,
Though I might leave, I'm never gone."

The wonderful Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that "death the moment when we can feel much regret." At the same time, death can be a time of "happiness and peace." "As soon as we begin to practice the mindfulness trainings, .....we have happiness right in this life, and we do not have to wait for the moment of death.....then we shall know the happiness.....and shall have nothing to regret."

I had some months back the honor to care for a physician colleague in the last weeks of his life. He came to us expecting to be gone in a day, or two at the most, and lived more than 8 weeks. It was .....while not far away or in an exotic place or in a time of war or turmoil - an incredible "profile in courage." No - we do not need to go "over the mountains or across the seas" to see humanity, and caring and courage in the face of suffering .....what he said many times was that, "in hospice we treated him like family." And so many patients express this to us - they know we cannot cure them, but they want to feel that we care. And i have heard it over and over, "I'm not dead yet, i know you can't cure me but i want people to treat me like I'm still here."

Moments that we have can be golden moments, being present, just present, for a life review can be an act of significant caring.

I was speaking with a person recently who has lost a loved one, had actually been present, and told me that it was "the first time" that she had been present at the moment of death ..... and we in hospice are here day after day, in a place that becomes familiar for us ....,never ever mundane, always a sacred place of awe, always an honor to be present, but even when we cannot cure we can assist as a guide - each journey is new, each different, but we have traveled on this river before.

And so - for those of us not able to be Masters or Teachers, but wanting to make a difference, this is what we can do ....

if we cannot embody wisdom and compassion we can hope to accept from a greater power, just a little bit and to use it just for the moment, just for today....

if we cannot hope to end the suffering of all beings, let us strive to reduce the suffering of just one being, if we cannot remove it completely to just reduce that suffering just for the moment, just for today

if we cannot find perfect wisdom, let us hope to be wise enough to work together in a common cause for our patients

if we cannot have perfect faith then let us strive to act to serve the spirit we hope is present, even though we do not have perfect knowledge

if we cannot learn enough to be a teacher than let us continue the journey as students

And share the stories

Monday, February 6, 2012

A wonderful thing!

As a new year starts, i am seeing suggestions that a wonderful thing is happening, which is that healers coming from different perspectives are beginning to look at what each other is doing - and learning from each other.

We aren't past a lot of the old history, and sometimes we are still lost in arguing about language or distinctions, or which one way is the right way ..... but that issue not withstanding minds and hearts seem to be opening --- and that likely is a good thing for all of us.

The past few months I've been learning from Tom Rigler, it is a wonderful opportunity - to say it most simply Tom is a good person, and tries to faithfully transmit what he has learned. In any case the past month we've been working on Munay Ki .....a series of Rites originating in Peru .... that led me to watching some You Tube sessions led by Dr Alberto Villoldo .....who left medical school to study in Peru ....and as one of his interviewers said "the rest is history."

Dr Villoldo said the following about American Medicine .... now some call what i do "Traditional Medicine" from the perspective that within American culture mainstream is traditional, and some call what we do "Conventional Medicine" - since many reserve the term "Traditional Medicine" for older wisdom and feel that what is mainstream is simply conventional .....lest anyone think "language" is not important there is now a serious dispute within Conventional Medicine about what to call phD level professionals within hospitals, that is since Nurse Practitioners now are designated doctorates in nursing - an NP working in a hospital is a doctor, but not an MD (or DO or equivalent degree from a foreign school) ..... but in any case .....

Here is what i heard Dr Villoldo say .... that Emergency Medicine is wonderful in the United States and that "if you get bit by a snake, don't go to a Shaman - go to an Emergency Room." And he added .... "but then go to see the Shaman to see why the Snake bit you."

What is important here is that a representative of what some call Traditional Medicine (and some would not allow the use of the term since he is a phD and not an MD) - VALUES what conventional medicine does well.

And at the same time we are seeing "Conventional Medicine" including Complementary techniques ...because increasingly there is a recognition that on an evidence basis these techniques often are helpful and rarely (far less often than some conventional techniques) harmful. In Hospice especially - and in Long Term Care in general .... even non-hospice .... the recognition that human connection can assist in calming people, and help with their rehabilitation, and reduce their rate of decline ..... that we can Care when we are unable to Cure ....this notion is becoming widespread.

It is because i am - really - Conventional - (though Thanks (!) to some of my Reiki friends who say, "oh no - we accept you as non-conventional" .....) within Conventional settings i am increasingly able to have these discussions with my colleagues .... and the discussions are respectful, there exists curiosity - when we made a presentation at an AMDA meeting - a national meeting of physicians in the Long Term Care Continuum we were nervous - we really worried -- but we had no need to !!! Many people stood up and said, "we need more of this type of discussion."

So in November i was able to share a presentation with a colleague acupuncturist at the State Chapter meeting of AMDA in Maryland, and in March i will do a brief Reiki demonstration at Long Term Care Medicine 2012 in San Antonio - but day by day - week by week - as we have meetings about hospice care (my national hospice, Seasons Hospice has engaged Joyce Simard, author of "The End of Life Namaste Care Program" as a consultant, and daily nurses and medical residents are asking me about how we are integrating complementary techniques into hospice care.

For now - i believe that my "Conventional Colleagues" are opening their minds, and my fellows in discovery of energy based methods are being patient with my lack of experience in ancient wisdoms. In Hospice, at the bedside, it remains my job to do the best i can to care when i cannot cure, to assist people in a transitional time .....

If people are reaching out - sharing - respecting others for what they do well .....that's a wonderful thing. This is a wonderful "ripple" to be a part of .....Thank you to all who share the journey!