I took a job a few months ago working for hospice doing massage therapy. I’m in the business of human touch because I know that hands heal. I have seen people melt and come to tears when they experience the effect of compassionate touch. For me, it’s spiritual work. Tensions dissolve and hope is restored under the hands of someone offering non-judgmental loving kindness. All kinds of communication happen with touch:
You’re not alone. You’ve worked hard. It’s alright to feel good. You deserve good things. You’re safe. It’s ok to relax.
Massage doesn’t just communicate these things to the recipient, it proves them: the evidence happens in real time in the body mind and spirit.
In the last few weeks, things have changed rapidly as assisted living centers, memory care units, senior homes and skilled nursing units have all gone on various levels of lock-down in the interest of protecting residents from catching a virus.
The question I’ve been asking myself is: What happens when people who are already challenged are kept in isolation? Dining rooms closed, activities canceled, family and friends unable to visit. Massage and music eliminated, spiritual care and mental health support limited to phone calls for those who can hear and are still able to talk on the phone, which for hospice, is not many. Nurse and aide visits restricted to essential care only- once or twice a week for aides, less than that for nurses.
I don’t argue with isolation as a strategy to slow the spread of an easily transmittable virus. I don’t know that I’m arguing against anything at this point. I just know that these patients under the care of hospice will decline and approach death more rapidly without human contact, whether they catch a virus or not. I know that their quality of life will plummet and the allover comfort of loving hands, kind eyes, and aides who used to visit 4 or 5 times a week whispering “You look beautiful today” into their ears….That comfort will be gone.
Human presence heals. Touch soothes. And the benefit these patients receive through the incredible work of nurses and aides, and music and massage and mental health workers and spiritual guides who come to sing hymns with them…. cannot be underestimated.
The truth is that they’re on hospice because they’re declining and approaching death. The role of the hospice worker is to support and nourish, enhance and enrich the quality of life for these people. Truthfully, we can’t do this if we’re not in the room with them.
Philosophically, the larger question is: if saving lives is the primary goal and quality of life becomes secondary, we might seem to be taking the correct ethical approach, but what’s the cost?
I don’t have the answers, but the last few weeks have certainly raised alot of questions.
Two nights ago I had a dream about a bald eagle hatching. Most animal dreams are significant and I try to pay attention when they happen. This one, in particular, jumped out at me as containing a relevant message, particularly because eagles are such a powerful animal and have represented major spiritual concepts to many cultures throughout history. Powerful medicine.
I’m lucky enough to know a man who does shamanic work here in Madison (and around the world, as well.) When I told him I was planning to do a little research to find out what this dream’s meaning was, he said he believed it was that a deep dream of mine was “hatching” or about to be realized. Sweet!
Then I got to thinking…What are my dreams these days? I am so intimately absorbed in the day to day life with my kids and husband, do I even have dreams that go beyond getting a full night’s sleep, going to Target by myself, and getting in a good workout a couple times a week? That feels so lame, somehow, but is really indicative of this time of my life. Family life, man, I’m deep in it.
But to honor the parts of me that might be holding steady to some of my other dreams I may have lost sight of, I sometimes revisit questions to bring those dreams back into my awareness. To find my location and spiritual coordinates on my life map. I encourage you to answer some of them for yourself. It’s often surprising what you don’t know about yourself. Here are a few….
What makes you laugh?
What scares you?
Where do you most want to travel to alone?
Where do you most want to travel to with your family?
What is your favorite color?
What are three things you would like to spend more time doing?
What are three things you would like to stop doing?
What are three life goals you have already achieved?
What are three life goals you look forward to achieving?
What is a goal you have that you don’t think you can achieve? What if you could?
What do you love about your home?
What do you not like about your home?
What do you love about your town?
What do you not like about your town?
What makes you feel happy?
What makes you feel lonely?
What is your favorite song?
What is some new activity you’d like to try?
Where do you see yourself in five years? Does it make you smile?
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
Who is a good friend to you?
Whose friendship are you letting go of?
What do you feel guilty about?
How can you celebrate who you are today?
My mom was recently interviewed for a blog. She has been an educator for many years and I keep insisting that she write a book so that her wealth of knowledge and wisdom can be shared in written form with future generations! Some of her most important work has been teaching graduate students who are seeking teaching certifications. Among other things, she teaches them that being centered and present as a person in the classroom- to be a listening presence- is more important then any content they will teach.
She credits one of her inspirations as Mary Rose O’Reilly who has some fascinating work available. One her quotes is below:
“The ‘secrets’ of good teaching are the same as the secrets of good living:
seeing one’s self without blinking, offering hospitality to the alien other,
having compassion for suffering, speaking truth to power, being present and being real…
I would like to ask what spaces we can create in the classroom
that will allow students freedom to nourish an inner life..”
-Mary Rose O’Reilly
Taking a moment to really honor the wonderful teachers who have softened the tone of our inner dialogue, cleared our walking path, and helped clarify our future goals…that is a moment worth taking.
Here is a post about one of my greatest teachers….Enjoy!
For the months of December and January, I’m offering free distance healing to the first twelve people who express an interest. I am especially encouraging new moms to take advantage. This is fantastic for anyone feeling burnt out, kids that seem off-balance or ungrounded, pets, or anyone who wants to restore their energy and reconnect to their own stability.
If you’re new to the idea of distance healing, it begins with the concept that energy is energy and can be treated, balanced, and rejuvenated whether the practitioner is standing in the room with a client or working with the energy from across town or even across the world. It can be profound, deeply stabilizing, and very relaxing.
I am in a wonderful place in my life right now, though my path leading to this place has been rocky. I’ve had some amazing teachers, healers, friends, poets, challengers, guides, and friends helping me along the way. I aim to provide this service, in part, to honor all that has been shared, taught, and given to me.
If you have questions about my qualifications or experience, check out my Services page.