healing haven

September 19, 2009

My Medicine Bag

Filed under: appreciation,healing,Hestia,hospice,Temple of Solace — by thalia @ 7:26 am
Tags:

All those years I wandered over our 25 acres in the Ozarks, I carried a medicine bag with me.  It was more practical than esoteric.  The outside material was made of bleached and faded out old denim, in a pattern of light and dark blues.  It was about 10 inches square, with a flap of the same material secured by Velcro to keep out bugs and leaves that might otherwise fall into in. There was also a long strap made from the same material so it could be slung over one shoulder, thus allowing my arms free range to move bushes aside, or to pick some delectable wild green. 

Within was a material divider: on one side were various sizes of plastic bags to use for placing various foraging items I would come across.  On the other side were a small knife to cut off leaves or flowers suitable for eating and a small field identifier book for those items I found that I still did not know. 

 sorrel-cropped

 I would spend hours foraging through the woods and the meadow looking for tasty possibilities for supper salad: various greens, perhaps a mushroom or some wild persimmons, or violets growing by the stream for putting into cookies or scones.  In the fall there were also plentiful persimmons, only to be collected after the first frost so they wouldn’t sour your mouth and before the turtles and other critters got to them, wild passion fruit and wild grapes.  In the spring were new sprouts of poke, cardoon, dock, chickweed and dandelion greens, as well as mulberries and wild strawberries.  And in the summer prickly pear cactus were to be found and the more mature greens like sorrel and even dandelion flowers and rosehips.  Winter might find nuts or acorns for the deer but also great for making muffins or cakes after rinsing off all the tannin and then drying them out to make into flour.

Those were my practical years, when we were attempting to live off the land as much as possible and be self-sufficient.  Hard years, but with many wonderful encounters with the natural wildness of the land and its inhabitants.

Now, my medicine bag would contain different items, many of which would be hidden from the physical eye.  I use this medicine bag when I am with people who are sick or dying, sad or depressed.  It is partially the aura or soul cape that has developed around me.  Just the other day the hospice chaplain came in and asked if he could “set a spell” – he needed “some serenity.”  I know from people’s reactions and comments there is something carried around that others find healing.

Another item in my medicine bag is a listening ear (which conjures up an interesting picture.)  Most people do not have people in their lives to listen to them.  If we all did, we would not need any psychiatrists.   Listening is a gift I received from my mother that I can pass on to those who need someone to do nothing more than to let them know they are important enough to be listened to, who takes the time to listen.  With everyone in a rush, no one wants to take the time to listen.  And with everyone so into voicing their opinions as if it is “The Truth” – no one wants to listen, all want to talk.  So a listening ear is a very important item.

Hands that comfort are another part of the healer’s medicine bag.  Touch is so important for everyone, but permission does need to be asked for first.  You can’t assume everyone will benefit from a hug since so many people have been abused in their lifetimes.  Yet we all need touch, particularly when we are sick or dying.  So many people back away at those times that a person can feel very isolated, maybe even shunned.  A touch, a hug, a hand relaying concern, hands massaging another’s under the guise of putting lotion on dry hands and feet, a pat on the back, rubbing someone’s neck and shoulders – all are ways of using touch to communicate connection.

Also, vitally important is a compassionate heart: a heart that has known sadness and abuse, joy and love, frustrations and disappointments as well as fulfillment and success.  A heart that appreciates the differences in people and yet connects to the similarities.  A heart that finds patterns in life that transcend the individual manifestations of chaos.  A heart open to give as well as receive, for one must renew oneself if one is to keep on giving.  We can only give what we have: if we have money we can give money to others, if we have compassion we can give compassion, if we have time we can give time to others, if we have peace within we can give peace.

This medicine bag holds many other items that are available when needed.  But one of the most important is intuition, of coming from the heart.  We never know what may be pulled from us by someone’s need, but we should be open to the moment and trust in the process, and what might be contained in our subtle-medicine bag.

 sunset-cropped

 

 

Advertisements

October 18, 2008

A Day of Remembering: Making Descansos

Years ago, a hospice volunteer mentioned each patient and caregiver she spent time with was like a pearl in a necklace—over time, the necklace grew and grew.  I decided to use that idea as a theme for the Annual All Day Volunteer Retreat I facilitated for my hospice volunteers this year.  I had also come across Heather’s Soul Food Site “Descansos” which familiarized me with the term.  I then thought about how this theme could apply to hospice and to our Retreat.  Combining the two ideas, I planned a “Day of Remembering,” with the creation of a pearl necklace becoming the descansos made by each attendee.

 

Starting with a visualization to activate each participant’s memory about their loved ones, whether personal or hospice patients, we all thought of eight people we wanted to remember, and a few words about each that reminded them about what they received as a legacy from the person.  The legacy might manifest as an idea, a trait, or an actual item; such as, a recipe, a love of cooking, or a well-used rolling pin. 

 

I previously drew eight circles of varying sizes, on a piece of paper, with each circle touching the next, forming a completed chain.  This would become our necklace.  The largest circle in the necklace was generally reserved for a personal loved one, with the others filling in for hospice patients. 

 

The grief of hospice workers, and other nurses, doctors, and aides, etc., is considered disenfranchised grief—not acknowledged as real grief since the health care worker only knew the patient for a relatively short time compared to if the person was a beloved parent, spouse, child, grandparent.  However, one can become quite close to someone and still need to deal with their loss when it occurs.  When the losses are ongoing, as with health care workers, and one is then on to the next patient, those losses aren’t acknowledged and dealt with, and so accumulate, leading to eventual burnout.   So I try to allow the volunteers an avenue to know it is all right to grieve for patients, to provide an avenue in which to grieve and express that grief in a different way each year.  We’ve done “Legacy Writing,” “Ethical Wills,” “Rekindling,” “Inner Child” and many others in the six years of having Volunteer Retreats.

 

We each wrote the name of the remembered person in one of the circles.  Then we perused magazines to find pictures or words describing the person and their legacy to us, or used colored pencils or crayons to draw pictures or words.  There is something so therapeutic in using scissors and colored pencils, in smelling glue and crayons that takes us back to childhood.  The volunteers know by now every creation made at our Retreats is considered a work of art, and so have resolved any lingering critical voices in their heads from childhood.  Even the men get involved with creating and sharing.

 

Snip, snip, snip go all the scissors.  Sniff, inhale deeply beloved smells of childhood.  Oh! Look at this! Wow! intersperse the proceedings as people move about seeking the perfect picture or accessory like ribbons or beads, small flowers or feathers, yarn or thread, crayon or colored markers.  Anyone see a lilac bush in bloom?  How about a man fishing?  Here’s a woman baking.  Who was looking for that?  Looking for oneself as well as looking to help others.  Sharing as part of the process of creating, usually considered a solitary activity.  And sometimes it got quiet as each was busy getting it “just right.” 

 

Finally finished, or as finished as it can be in the allotted hours.  I asked each to bring in a fairly recent picture of themselves.  Now those pictures were glued into the middle of the picture, and we each truly had a pearl necklace going around our necks: a descansos of our legacy from losses of loved ones.

 

Then the verbal sharing started.  Each, in describing their necklace, gave a eulogy for the pearl-people (in their necklace), telling of the legacies they received from each, telling stories and activities, sharing the love they felt with others in a setting where they were really listened to.  And what stories!  Fortunately, I brought many boxes of kleenex, which were needed during the three hours of sharing.  Powerful legacies from patients one was with only a short time but where a real connection was built, showing we might never realize the influence we can have on others.  Three hours later, we all felt as if each of us had honored our loved ones in a eulogy sometimes more pertinent to the person than that done by the “professionals”—ministers and funeral directors.  Our hearts filled with inspiration and the goodness of so many people, including the volunteers telling their stories.  Truly “A Day of Remembering”, by making a pearl necklace, a descansos of our loved ones.

 

This was so therapeutic I went on and made a pearl necklace honoring my personal loved ones and using their pictures as part of each pearl, as well as individual collage cards honoring my memories of each person and their legacy.

 

July 18, 2008

Tholos Forgiveness

 

The sounds of bubbling water enhanced her awareness.  She felt serene in all aspects of herself.  This is a good space in which to live, where one is totally at peace.  And what a wonderful place in which to die—in a hammock in water—not drowning, but just floating in water in the ocean or a lake or, even a pool such as this.  She lay still, attempting to remember her dream, or was it an experience?  So wonderful, but what was wonderful?  Oh, yes.  I was told to prepare to leave at any moment.  Made total sense at the time, but what did it really mean?  That I’ll die so I need to be unattached to the world and centered, or a crisis is coming and so I’ll need to be prepared to leave the house?  The water sounds so happy…bubbling and frolicking in the pool.  Does the water carry the fumes of the oracle to me?

 

I remember reading in the American Book of Dying: Lesson in Healing Spiritual Pain where the authors Gross and Klauser talked of a medieval l’Hotel-Dieu–God’s Hotel–in Burgundy, France.  In the 15th century A.D., this hospice served the social outcasts and was built over a river with a glass floor underneath the beds of the patients.  This way they could hear the soothing sounds of the moving water, as I am now.   I can tell this must be a special place, because I’m not aching from lying on the mossy ground.  This hospice had clean linens, also, almost unheard of in that time, even for the wealthy. 

 

Now I remember, another dream or experience, where someone in high authority asked if I wanted to go back and redo or eliminate some difficult times in my past. My parents were there, too, even though both are deceased for many years.  No, I said to all of them.  I wouldn’t change anything, as difficult as some things were at the time.  For then I wouldn’t be who I am today.  I wouldn’t have grown into the life I have, but still be stuck in the mundane, never having to be forced to have the opportunity to forgive both myself and another I deeply trusted, never having understood the great gift it is to be placed in a situation where one had to learn to forgive a deep wound.

 

The deeper the bond of trust with the person,

 the deeper the hurt and wounding,

the harder it is  to forgive,

 the more precious the gift of forgiveness

for oneself and for the other.

 

 May all  people who have been so hurt

 come to this gift of forgiveness

in the time that is right for them.

 

 

 

 (see also http://cityofladies.wordpress.com/2008/07/18/tholos-forgiveness/#comments)

 

June 22, 2008

Voices from the Past (8)

 

Feeling cleansed of both physical and emotional “stuff” from Dame Washalot’s Bath House, she followed the walking tour map to the Catacombs.  Most of her knowledge about catacombs was derived from movies of the 1950’s like The Robe, Quo Vadis, and Ben Hur which all portrayed early Christians hiding out and having services there.  Later, she was surprised to learn catacombs were actually pre-Christian and even pre-Roman, and were used for burials and as hiding places from persecution.  The Sumerians, Egyptians and Greeks all utilized catacombs.

  

More recently she read Internet articles about supposed inner-Earth races living underground in catacombs, caverns and tunnels.  And a Hope Indian legend speaks of a very ancient complex beneath the surface occupied by a lizard-race 5000 years ago. 

 

It didn’t help her to recall these interesting but potentially frightening ideas as she moved further into the catacombs.  Even holding the torch she had been given at the entrance near the statue of Jesus at Gethsemane didn’t help—it just cast odd shadows.    At first the walls were smooth so it wasn’t bad, but now there were cubby-holes and recesses with statues or sculptures within, to which the flickering light added a macabre element.  As she approached each item, she thought they were moving.  As she peered closer, she could then discern they were just statues of angels and people. 

 

I guess there are people buried here or maybe just their ashes are buried here.  Reminds me of that Reader’s Digest article speaking of how the carbon can be extracted from the cremated remains of a loved one, and with heat and pressure, can be made into a real diamond.   What an odd line from the CEO of that company: ‘It isn’t in memory of a loved one, it is the loved one.’ 

 

Oh, what’s that?  Looks like it’s moving.  She crept closer.  It’s a gargoyle, and here’s another.  Why would they be in here?  Maybe to protect the remains, as they usually are supposed to be ugly to scare anyone unwanted away.

 

Something flew at her out of the dark; she ducked as another something flew past.  Bats! Ugh! They must be roosting further within since I haven’t seen any guano so far.   

 

 

Now it was totally dark, except for the sputtering torch.  She approached a marble bench in front of a sarcophagus within a recessed part of the wall.  Tired, she placed the torch into a holder and sat down.  I can’t walk all day the way I used to.  Probably not too many years before my ashes will be placed somewhere.  Would like for them to be scattered in various places but what if they were in a place like this?  Maybe I’m passing or looking at my own burial from another time—the circle of time.

 

She felt very much at peace here, surrounded by the remains of many people, deep within the earth—no noises of cars, power tools, construction, cell phones going off annoyingly or people having to talk all the time.  Silence—stillness…  She closed her eyes and meditated, sinking further into her center.  First the pinprick of light in the darkness, then the starburst.  She drifted out of her body, moved through the packed earth, into the air, above the city.  She could see-sense for miles.

 

peaceful… but not the time to continue…time to return

 

With that thought she moved back into her body, but aware her physical body was now surrounded by other bodies.  Keeping her eyes closed, she reached out her awareness to assess who was there.  Feels fine.  Good energy.

 

She opened her eyes.  A child was standing in front of her, looking at her.  A woman on one side, an elderly man on the other.  She nodded in respect to each translucent person—each smiled in return.  She knew words were unnecessary.

 

Hello.  Who are you?  How can I help?

 

The woman’s thoughts were clear: Please, help us.  We stay here now, close to what had been our bodies.   But we need to have our stories told.

 

The elderly man nodded as the little girl stroked her hand.  He then thought: There are others, too, needing to find the meaning in the lives they lived.  By telling their stories you will discover the underlying pattern and meaning, and reveal it to each of us.  We can sense you’ve done it for others, could you do it for us?

 

I would be honored to tell your stories.  I’m sure each one would be as interesting and meaningful as each person is unique, no matter how boring they think their life is.  I’m Thalia.  Glad to meet you…

(see also http://cityofladies.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/voices-from-the-past/#comments)

 

March 16, 2008

The Weeping of a Disappointed Womb

Filed under: appreciation,healing,memoir,poem,Temple of Solace — by thalia @ 2:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

 About 6 years ago I underwent a hysterectomy because of endometrial cancer.  At home for almost a 7-week recovery, I had a chance to reevaluate my life and my job, and to more consciously create a healing haven for myself.  At that time I thought I was dealing with the loss of my uterus and with the brush with cancer, but a year later it really hit me.  This poem was the result:

                     The Weeping of a Disappointed Womb

Twice–

hiatus in the weeping

of a disappointed womb

Twice–

this womb embraced

wonderous babes  

My womb was pleased

and so was I

we both reveled

in the ease

of pregnancy

the joy of birth             

Long ago

a nurse said “the weeping

of a disappointed womb”

was a uterine function;

it stuck over the years

as I pondered

its accuracy and intent.                       

This womb, my womb,

provided good service

Symbolized the part of me,

hidden from incursions

of others

in use and abuse;

protected

within my body

protected

unconsciously by me,

until I could learn

to speak for myself. 

As I apply

this wisdom

the uterus is taken from me

– endometrial cancer

hysterectomy needed

just enough time

for quick words, thoughts

gratitude, love, appreciation

for all its gentle weeping

all its being there with me 

My womb is gone – and now I weep!                                             

 (published in Releasing Times)

Blog at WordPress.com.