Archive for the hospice Category

Hibernia. . .

Posted in hospice, Inspirational, Journeying, psychopomp, Shamanism, Spirituality, visions on March 1, 2011 by Standing West

Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart.”

-Bruce Springsteen

So where do I begin? 

Many times along this path I’ve encountered situations that would have frightened – or at the very least, unnerved – the “average” person and come through them without so much as a second thought.  That’s not to say I haven’t taken them seriously – quite the contrary, in fact, I take this work very seriously.  Thankfully, though my practice has taught me to take myself much less so.

Over the course of the last year or so I’d reached an understanding of where my path would lead.  Watching my mother succumb to end stage renal failure in 2008 – and the care she’d received in Hospice during her final days in this world – led me to realize that I would end up working with the terminally ill. 

About a year or so after that the opportunity to volunteer with a Hospice service near where I live presented itself.  Since then, I’ve been visiting patients and have come to love the work. 

Several months ago I decided to pursue a degree in Spiritual Counseling.  The idea behind this was that after getting my Masters Degree I would apply for a position as a Spiritual Counselor with a Hospice.  Finances kept me from enrolling in classes immediately. Now that things are a little bit better, I planned on enrolling within the month.

Then I journeyed the other night and sought some advice from a Teacher.  I went with no specific question in mind, but seeking vision for the course my life would take.  He presented me with a bonfire and told me to leap in and find the answers for myself. 

I jumped in, and the flames danced around me, obscuring everything.  Finally, as they receded, I saw myself standing in the center of a circle of dying men seated cross-legged on the floor.  As I played my Horse drum, their spirits rose and converged in a circle of light near the ceiling.  Before they passed into the light, their spirits thanked me for aiding them.  As the vision faded, I found myself sitting before my Teacher.

This is your way,” he said.

“What about the Spiritual Counseling degree,” I asked.

“That is not your way,” he answered. 

He told me that I needed to pour everything into my Shamanic work and that the rest would take care of itself.  My day job, he said, was just that – a way to pay the bills in the meantime. I thanked him for his help and returned from the journey.

As I opened my eyes, I knew to the very core of my being, that I had reached put-up-or-shut-up time.  I knew that if I were to continue this path, it had to be all or nothing. 

And for the first time since I’d begun walking it, I was scared shitless

I closed my eyes, took a long, deep breath, and turned myself completely over to Spirit.  Because I was scared, I knew in that moment that all I could do was step forward; and that all those times of praying in lodges to have everything removed that could possibly divert me from walking this road had finally come home to roost.

In the days that have followed, I’ve recognized within myself a growing sense of liberation.  The prayer requests continue to come in.  I’ve been asked to sing and lead a prayer at a Pro Peace ceremony in April.  And last night I spent almost two hours talking with a patient about her situation and preparing for the preliminary journey work I’ll be doing this evening.

“God is in His Heaven,” the old saying goes, “and all is right with the world.”  For the first time ever in my 47 years, I believe I have a handle on how that feels…

Solstice. . .

Posted in hospice, Inspirational, prayer, Shamanism, Spirituality, sweat lodge on January 3, 2011 by Standing West

We huddle together in the orange glow of the Grandfather stones – fifteen of us, tired and sweating our prayers in the belly of Mother Earth.  Spirit has brought us together yet again to pray for our people in the sacred space of the inipi. 

The final round is a difficult one.   Our life water nourishes the earth as the steam carries our invocations skyward.  It rolls across the dome of the lodge, crawls along the walls and drapes itself heavily across our backs.

And still we pray.

As the talking stick reaches the halfway mark, my strength begins to flag.  But the dipper is in my hand this time, and so I must find the resources to continue. 

“Help me, Great Spirit.  Give me the strength to serve my people.”

The words come slowly at first, barely a whisper.  Soon they become a mantra, moving through me with every breath I take.  A peaceful resolve floods through me. I sit up straight.  The dipper gourd goes to the bucket; feeds the steam; carries our requests into the Center and out to the Universe where they resonate forever among the stars, returning to bless us all.

Days later, I am at the bedside of an elderly woman nearing the final paces of her Earthwalk.  Her head slumps.  Her breathing is shallow.  Her eyes open and close in fitful sleep.  She asks me for a sip of water.  “I drink a lot,” she says.  

Afterwards, I return to my chair, and we sit quietly for a moment until her prayer begins.

“Father God, help me.  Mother Mary, help me. “

Her words fill the dimly lit room, brushing  the corners with an urgent grace.  She repeats this several times until at last, she adds, “thank you; it’s a great life.”

She closes her eyes and falls into a gentle sleep.

She, too, has found the strength for her ordeal. . .

Gray Wolf’s Lodge. . .

Posted in hospice, Inspirational, Shamanism, Spirituality on December 6, 2010 by Standing West

“They also learned, and perhaps this was the most important thing, how to look at things through the eyes of the Higher Powers.”

–Fools Crow, Lakota

Spirit reaches out to me every day. Sometimes the lessons I receive are nearly impossible to comprehend on a physical level. Occasionally they’re life-changing, leaving my perceptions of this world shaken to their very core. Often, however, those lessons come as a far more subtle confirmation of a presence which, while more powerful than anything of which I am capable of imagining, is as loving and as much a part of me as my own breath.

I visit Allen during my regular Hospice volunteer service. In contrast to my other patients who are talkative, alert, and responsive, Allen is heavily medicated, and nearly comatose. Aside from the occasional moan or twitch of a hand or foot, he remains in almost complete stillness.

Often, I visit with him in the hall or in his room. Today, however, our time is spent in a sparsely populated dining room amidst Christmas decorations and carols playing softly in the background.

Allen’s Elder story states that he’s not a very social man, so instead of disturbing him with unwelcome pleasantries, I say a quick hello and sit beside him, praying quietly. I pray to Grandfather for a swift and peaceful passage for this man whose physical body has all but run its course. I ask Great Spirit for whatever is in Allen’s highest interest. I ask the Ancestors to wait for him along his path and to greet him with open arms.

A commercial comes on the radio advertising a local winter wonderland – a place of joy where indoor snow blankets the ground several times a day.

“It’s just a short journey,” the announcer tells us, “through the woods and over the mountains to the Gray Wolf’s Lodge.”

Allen sleeps comfortably in his chair. Spirit has told us all we need to know. . .

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