Wednesday, September 26, 2012
What It Means to Be a Chaplain
In the last year it has become very evident to me what it means to be a chaplain, especially in the hospital setting.
I had to rush a dear friend by ambulance because the blood thinning medication he was taking had thinned his blood to such an extent that he was bleeding out through his skin.
When I found him at home, he was nearly unconscious and had fallen in his bathroom He couldn't focus and struggled to fight what was happening to him.
At that very moment it seemed like the world slowed down. I was extremely calm and knew exactly what to do. While keeping him quiet, I called 911 and spoke to them making sure they knew his vitals and exactly where he was located. I gathered together all his medicines and clothes, and his cell phone then called his out-of-town family. Everything was effortless. I was guided moment by moment by God. I knew exactly what to do and when to do it. I knew exactly what to say and how to say it.
Once the paramedics arrived I answered their questions while they worked on my friend. There was no anxiety, and no panic. I knew he was divinely protected. I followed the ambulance to the hospital got him admitted to surgery then went about the task of informing his pastor and his friends.
I visited him almost every day in intensive care. Critically ill people surrounded him in the ward. I would enter the ward with a kind of reverence I never knew. Honoring each person and where they were in their life journey. Honoring the families in their suffering and worry. Knowing that I had the ability to be there for them and be strong and supportive.
Of course, I was worried about my friend, but not once did I feel like crying. I surprised myself that I stayed very present. I KNEW there was a Divine process occurring. Something completely out of anyone's control.
In the ICU I was comfortable and knew I belonged there. My conversations with my friend's doctors and nurses were comforting for my friend. I could be there for him in a loving, supportive way and also be there for him when he needed me as a liaison to the medical staff - expressing his needs and desires when he could not.
When he needed prayer, I was there. When he needed a drink of water, I was there. When he needed a joke or a story or someone to read his email, I was there. For three weeks I held a type of vigil for my friend. And made sure each time I stepped in to the hospital that I had a smile, a kind word and a positive outlook for anyone whom I encountered.
I stayed available sometimes in an obvious way and sometimes in a very neutral way. It all ebbed and flowed depending on the day, the situation, the people around and my friend's health status.
If I could express it as a freeing feeling to be available to ANYONE there for his or her spiritual unfoldment, that may be the most accurate description I can impart to anyone.
Being in a chaplaincy position is to release the ego and be a conduit for the ailing and their families to access their Divine connection and be at peace in their Divine journey. To know when to step forward and when to step back and to anticipate the needs of the patient and the family at the right time, in the right way. To remain in the background as a touchstone when necessary, all the while being there the moment you are called upon to serve.
On an even more personal note, my father has been in and out of UCLA Medical Center for two brain surgery procedures. Of course, this has been extremely stressful for him and for my mother and my sister. It became very obvious to me what my role needed to be in this scenario. I needed to be at peace at all times. I needed for nothing to be too much to ask and for me to be the voice of reason when family members could not. I ascertained when I needed to speak up either to the medical staff or my family and when I needed to be still.
First and foremost, I needed to be available to my father without a single thought for myself. That came easily and effortlessly. It was a revelation. I transcended myself and put myself in a position of complete service.
The Medical Center has a beautiful interdenominational chapel and I would go down at least once and day and pray and meditate. At one point my father asked me where I was going and I told him that I was going to the chapel. "Are you going to pray for me?" He asked. "If you want me to, I will." "Yes, I need all the help I can get."
So even in that way, not being in his room or in his presence, he called upon me to help him. And THAT is one of the most profound things about chaplaincy. Whether you are in a patient's presence or not, they feel your support. They know you are a loving, caring component in their recovery, convalescence, or transition.
Knowing when to be present and when to make your presence known even if it is simply at a distance is the delicate but very vital calling for a chaplain.
The relief I see in patient's eyes when someone is there supporting them, is a gift and a blessings.
When you stand in the knowledge that you are being of ultimate service to people by supporting their spiritual needs is sometimes all that is needed.
It has shown me that I have a strength I never really knew I had. And that God is with me at all times showing me the way. Filling me with peace and that peace I can pass on whenever it is needed.
Dr. Judith G. Wolf
It has taken me a bunch of years to finish this course. Finally however it has been completed. Every time I started a lesson I wondered at the process, not so much of becoming aware, but more importantly of staying aware. It seems that it is much too easy to practice awareness while taking a course, but once the course is over it becomes even easier to slip back into an unaware state. Reading the Bible or praying helps but in the busy days of our lives slipping into old habits just seems to happen. As a Reverend it is my responsibility to guard against the slippage.
It is curious to me that I waited three years to complete the course. I began because after all those years I felt drawn to it. Figuring out why, what I was meant to take from the course, has been an experience. First of all I have been reminded over and over that we are spiritual beings, living this life to learn things that we have chosen for ourselves (soul lessons). It is incredibly reinforcing to believe this. It brings a feeling of peace and calmness. It helps to deal with the everyday aggravations of life. It enables truer connection with our Source. This in and of itself would make taking this course worthwhile, but there is much more to glean from it.
Some of us have qualities or abilities that we hide because we feel that others would not understand. Strong intuition would be one of these. Speaking easily to our spirit guides would be another. How about speaking with people who have died? Not easily accepted by many of those around us. But this course talks about these abilities and even tries to teach some of them. How reassuring is that?
By far to me the most wonderful lesson relates to light. "The Light that each of us has…comes to us from the Source….The amount of light that each of us can shine is directly dependent upon our ability to be positive, loving individuals. The more positive and loving that we can be, the more of that Light that we will channel through us, and the brighter our own Light will be."
How beautiful is that. If nothing else were to be internalized from this course (and there is of course, much more to learn) this thought, this idea would be enough. I highly encourage everyone to indulge themselves and grow by taking Dr. of Spiritual Awareness.
Dr. of Spiritual Awareness
The lessons included in this course are interesting and thought provoking. The idea of using psychic ability to heal is always intriguing, and to do so from a distance is always available and comforting as thought and intention are never limited by time and space. To be reminded of this, especially in these precarious times, is extremely settling to this troubled heart. The main culprit that causes my dis-ease is, of course, the evening news. How anyone can watch the turmoil in the middle east, the unrest within the borders of our own precious country, and the increased tension between races and religions and not be disquieted is beyond me. I hear friends and acquaintances more and more frequently tell me they simply have stopped watching, stopped listening and have found peace in their ignorance. My question to them is how they can ever be prepared for any disaster that may come, and how will they react when it "sneaks" up on them? When you get into your car, you fasten your seat belt, check your mirrors and look up and down the street and behind you before and as you back out of the drive. You have done all you possibly can to avoid disaster. If it still happens, perhaps the damage would be less severe than if you'd made no preparation at all. It may be just as personally devastating, but the damage may be more easily and quickly repaired if you've prepared properly.
The same goes for the country. In this volatile political season, when absolute nastiness seems to be drawn from even the meekest among us, it is good to watch, ponder and prepare for the worst possible contingency, just in case it happens. If it doesn't, then you end up a very organized human being! If it does, you just may survive with a slightly more comfortable lifestyle. What does preparing mean? Different things to different people, I imagine. Some will prepare for food shortages, others will collect weapons and ammunition, still others will do both, plus gathering survival gear, water purification systems, and a host of other means of survival in the worst possible scenario. Then, if their nightmares do come true, they will at least feel they have a fighting chance of living through it until things get better.
In all of this preparation though, are they giving thought to their spiritual survival at all? When the world seems to spin faster toward total loss of control, that is the most vital time to be still and get quiet inside, to listen to that "still, small voice within," and to wait for direction to come from that divinity that lives inside us all. It is necessary to go to a quiet place, away from the chaos, separate from the collections and amassed stuff, into a space of calm, of beauty, of peace - inner peace - and listen, really listen to our spiritual hearts.
The television is blaring the latest news of the most recent incendiary statement by the politician of the moment, and talk show hosts on the radio tell of impending doom, and the topic of conversation overheard at restaurants and retail stores is angry, disbelieving or just plain mean. It is in the air, especially during a really divisive political campaign, and the atmosphere is charged with negativity and chaos and fear. It's difficult to find that quiet place, that peaceful moment, so we push on, ignoring the nagging feeling that we've forgotten something important. We have. We forgot to pray. We forgot to meditate. We forgot to listen.
It is this forgetfulness, more than anything else, that will bring about our ruin. It has been said that we are not human beings on a spiritual journey, but we are spiritual beings on a human journey. I've seen that thought attributed to everyone from Albert Einstein to Stephen Cope to Chief Joseph, so I'm not sure who actually said it, but they were right. Spiritual beings on a human journey make their way as best they can by human endeavor, which, for some inexplicable reason, seems to overpower their spiritual sense until it is drowned by the howls of human despair or elation. Those howling voices rise and fall each time the need arises for peace and quiet to distract us from the path we should walk, the way we should go, the lessons we should learn.
Time must be taken to sit. Moments must be given to that deep, calming breath before angry words are spoken. Mouths must be shut and opinions held, to dissipate with the emotion that accompanies them. We are spiritual beings, period. We've forgotten.
So how to remember? Discipline, that most horrible of ideas that is resented and resisted with great success every single day around the globe. If your spiritual path tells you to pray, then you must take time every day to pray. If your spiritual path tells you to meditate, then you must take time to meditate every day. If your spiritual path tells you to talk a walk in nature and listen to her music, then you must take time to walk in nature every day. No exceptions, no excuses, no delays, no forgetting. Even if you only sit or walk for five minutes, they are the most crucial minutes of your entire day. It is in those minutes, those precious minutes, that you find your true nature, your true self, as an idea of God, a thought of divine mind, a spark of the divinity of pure consciousness. How could we forget such an important thing?
Martin Luther said, "I would never have time to do everything I must in a day if I did not pray for three hours each morning." Three hours! The time we spend resting in peaceful contemplation clears the decks and aligns our minutes and hours to follow. They take on a kind of flow, as the Taoists say, and when we are quiet inside, we can listen and know the best way to stay in that flow to move through our day with the least resistance and the most joy.
Listening inside involves the intuition mentioned in this class in order to touch that spark within us. It is not something that can be seen on an xray or CAT scan; not something that be observed with the physical senses. It is a deeper part of us that resides in our spiritual hearts, the size and extent of its influence being determined by our devotion to our spiritual practice. It never leaves us, though, but it can, through neglect, be malnourished and sickly.
We must nourish it! We must feed it! We must cherish and protect that most precious part of ourselves - our Selves - and recognize that we are, indeed, spiritual beings. From there, our preparations to care for and guard our human selves will be imbued with that care and loving kindness that comes from a gentle, sweet caretaker. You will be taking the very best care of You, and this is the best preparation there can be. Use the intuition, psychic and psychometric abilities, and the other ideas the lessons of this class include, but foremost, prepare - you!