In my work as a Health Care Chaplain and a Spiritual Midwife, my role is to spiritually companion others on their life journey. I work with people who are seeking a closer relationship to the God of their understanding at all different stages of the life journey, including those who are suffering and those who are dying. One of the personal challenges of the work is responding to what is. Sometimes, I am right where I am needed, just when i am needed. Other times, I am not working the day someone I have companioned dies. As a result, i spend a bit of personal energy on appreciating what enough is and living into two truths: people are able to die without me – everything they require is within them and; people want my loving presence at times when I am unable to provide it. The result of this for me is that I pause often in the course of a day to ponder if what I am about to offer to another is enough.
It is certainly true that the sense of not being enough for the situations one encounters in health care chaplaincy and spiritual direction work is not mine alone. Indeed, when I step into this particular vulnerability and share it with others, they resonate profoundly with my struggle. Just today, my day off, some patients have died. And here I am wondering if I offered enough, should have offered more…. And so it begins…this journey into the inner work of letting go of expectations and opening to what is with humility. Learning to trust that whether or not I see it, things are as they are meant to be as part of a larger story than me and this particular other. I offer prayers and I practice letting God work. And I pray, as I do prior to every visit, that I might get myself ‘out of the way’ and leave space for Spirit ~ May this be enough.
For me, for now, this is the barometer of what enough feels like.
I find myself encountering lots of ongoing change and it invites a stronger flexibility in living with what is. Whether it is the change in the healthcare field in this time of COVID, or the personal changes involved in living into these shifts. In order to cope with what is, I am learning that somedays have to be days of mourning and allowing the feelings of loss or the longings for what isn’t.
At the heart of this is my total awareness of how little control I have and the spiritual practice of accepting what I cannot change and surrendering to a higher power or Godde to feel my way forward.
So I pause, and reach inward for that loving presence and merciful embrace that holds me and sustains me encouraging me to say yes to life and open to the new, knowing Godde is in the new!
Silent God by Edwina Gateley
This is my prayer—That, though I may not see,I be aware Of the Silent God Who stands by me. That, though I may not feel, I be aware Of the Mighty Love Which doggedly follows me. That, though I may not respond, I be aware That God—my Silent, mighty Loving God, Waits each day. Quietly, hopefully, persistently. Waits each day and through each night For me. For me—alone.
And so I follow my heart’s path deeper into this journey and I pause to grieve my losses and open to opportunities as I rely increasingly on the Godde of my understanding for support.
Awareness to me is an endless spiral, ever widening and expanding in an eternal way, drawing me forward. I am in awe of all I am unaware of in me, in others, in the world. This fills my heart with wonder and invites curiosity. And so, I look at each of you and my patients and acknowledge all that I am unaware of about you and ponder all that you are unaware of about me. This is humbling and stirs in me an abiding interest in the deeper values of belonging and be-friending others to collaborate more meaningfully as human be-ings in an ever changing world. It motivates me to liberate myself and others by relinquishing unjust power as it comes to me at the expense of others, in favor of a beloved community and a unitive world perspective.
When I live in the joy of right relationship with Love as my divine source, it works in me, through me, and with me letting my heart and my passion overrule my ego and analytical mind. It accepts and allows all my imperfection. I come as I am. This frees me to connect with others, inspires creativity, agility in life’s challenging moments, a fluid sense of my being, and courage in my very vulnerability. Give me the grace to accept your love and to love others as you love me. May we all love each other into the wholeness of being with the very breath of kindness.
In silence learn to give of yourself, forgive others, live with gratitude. Then you need not seek inner peace: Peace will find you! ~ Nan Merrill
This is the path of peace for me. Through daily contemplation I slowly notice myself changing, being at peace. Things that previously ran like monkeys or rats round my mind are more easily discarded. Forgiveness and gratitude expand. I am able to be in the midst of upset or chaos with an other and not feel compelled to fix it. Above all, I release my well ingrained habit of beating myself up for my imperfection. I am learning ( slowly ) to come as I am, allow space for others too as well, and be fully human. And there is deep peace in this kind of presence.
When I live in the joy of right relationship with Love as my divine source, it works in me, through me, and with me letting my heart and my passion overrule my ego and analytical mind. It accepts and allows all my imperfection. I come as I am. This frees me to connect with others, inspires creativity, agility in life’s challenging moments, a fluid sense of my being, and courage in my very vulnerability. Truth, unity through kinship and belonging, goodness, justice, beauty and above all love are my deepest yearnings. These yearnings motivate my actions – my compassion and empathy for others and ultimately, provide my life’s deepest meaning. Give me the grace to accept your love and to love others as you love me. May we all love each other into the wholeness of being with the very breath of kindness.
~ With life as short as a half-taken breath, don’t plant anything but love ~
Beauty feels always like a thin place to me where things within and without touch and shimmer with depth and symmetry and meaning. This week, beauty arrived in my work as a chaplain giving witness to the tender, patient, love-filled ministrations of a husband gently caring for his wife ill with dementia. I arrived at their home just as he was in the midst of changing her because she had soiled herself. Listening to her weep in her frustration and powerlessness, telling him she wanted to die in her humiliation ~ hearing him quietly offer her words of love and reassurance, gently holding her through this ordinary occurrence in her decline. And knowing that this is not the first, nor the last time. This is just a moment where they are both seen with the eyes of my heart. Eyes that see her as he does ~as his precious beloved – beauty incarnate in the daily life of her ongoing diminishment. Eyes that see him as she does ~ her precious beloved whom she fully trusts to love her and hold through her struggles, fears and desolation. There is beauty in giving witness to this wholly/holy human moment, rich with love’s sacred meaning. And so, I find a way to gently share with them the beauty that I see with the eyes of my heart as I companion them on their journey. And, I see the tender way they look anew upon each other with great and growing love. And, I watch as they hear with the eyes of their hearts what I give witness to with my humble words. And somehow, we reflect and mirror G*d’s loving presence in this exchange . A presence that enters the world in relationship with all of creation shimmering with beauty and sacredness. Let those with eyes see! Let those with ears hear!
Balance for me is all about right relationship with myself. When I live in the knowing that I am not in control of the good or bad things that visit me, my loved ones and others, I experience an inner freedom that allows me to navigate my outward experiences. A freedom to live knowing that suffering and happiness / light and dark are parts of being alive and will arrive in my life to school my mind and heart. And knowing that these experiences come and go and are not permanent states. I am grounded in something more rooted and woven that tethers me to a living source. A source that invites me to be free~ to find refuge in my senses, to return to myself, to this eternal source within, allowing it to claim and calm me in the serenity of stillness. I am free to be imperfectly me ~ free to see the light and beauty in others ~ free to risk well, or poorly ~ free to enter the world soul first ~ free to live and love this day wholly – holy alive.
Hebrew and Aramaic scholars tell us, that in those languages the same word means ‘spirit’, ‘breath’, and ‘wind’. And, G*d’s name YHWH -pronounced Yahweh – is believed to be too holy to be spoken. And, YHWH, is comprised of aspirated consonants that, spoken, are the sound of breathing …the same sounds we make when breathing in and out. And therefore, the first and last thing each of us will say in this context is the name of G*d – G*d as the act and sound of breathing…. a beautiful thought to me ….what a generous G*d …. with a name that we can’t help but speak every moment we’re alive. Each of us, all of us, now, always, here, everywhere, awake, or asleep, whispering the name of G*d through our breath. What an ineffable and amazing piece of Grace ~ G*d with us in the ordinary and sacred experience of breathing to live.
I encounter this ordinary Grace in my work daily… even in the awkwardness of ppe (personal protection equipment) and distancing protocols …. just this week, as I guided the son and daughter of a dying man to touch him, anoint him and bless him as I offered prayers. Grace permeated our moment on the sacred threshold of life and death.
We stood on the threshold of differing realities … a thin place… and a sacred exchange for certain. G*d’s grace poured forth in an amazing and powerful way. Love in our offering to this man …. his two children claiming him as G*d’s beloved … birthed transforming love in return…. a sacred sharing of Grace received.
For me, Grace is this personal and intimate experience of unconditional, unearned, and limitless love and mercy. It meets me in the sacred ordinary moments of life and never leaves me there, opening my mind and heart to the ‘divine world of infinite abundance’.