Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Part 1, An Atheist Spirituality, A Chaplain's Interpretation.

     I have had the opportunity to reflect on the roles of various disciplines that make the hospice team. A Hospice team includes Nurses ( registered and LPN), Certified Nurses Assistant, Health Aides, Volunteer Coordinator, Social Worker, Physician, and Chaplain. Specifically,  I want to demonstrate how these disciplines are unique and yet compliment and under gird the overall care of patients and their loved ones. Simply stated the hospice philosophy seeks to provide the widesest scope of care for each patient.
     To achieve this aim it is helpful for the team to experience each patient Holistically; As an Integrated being made up of a physical body, a mind(sometimes sub-divided to include an emotional center or heart center) and a spirit. Every member of the Hospice team is uniquely equipped and trained to address the whole person of each patient. If this is true each member must be able to communicate and guide the whole team through rudimentary points of their individual disciplines as the team interprets a patients needs or concerns.
     My reflections move now to my own discipline. In particular how I might begin to equip members of the larger team to meet spiritual concerns or needs as they may manifest themselves....

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Smudging and Blessing with Hospice patients

Smudging and blessing ceremonies and rituals have played a central role in humanity's desire to communicate with the Divine. The desire to enter into the presence of the Holy has led Creations children to lessen the distance or remove the veils that blind them from real communion with the One. Many cultures and people mirror this desire and aim in their holy rituals and prayers particularly- Smudging and Blessing.
Through the practice of Smudging, incense serves as a conduit for all our senses to engage in prayer to the One.
In the practice of blessing smoke and/or oil is given as an offering to the Divine to express our desire or need or thanksgiving that words cannot express. In Smudging, smoke is a cleansing agent that removes negative thoughts and energy that may hinder ones communication with the Holy.
In my work as a hospice chaplain the desire for cleansing, communion with the Holy, and blessing is often expressed in patients and their family members. I have had the opportunity to participate in and lead
Smudging and blessing ceremonies with patients who were familiar with these unique containers of Divine communion. In all these instances they have served to affirm for me the Unity of the Divine Beloved and my opportunity to serve as a living conduit and vehicle for the Truth.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Review of Soul Making. by Alan Jones

Soul Making The Desert Way of Spirituality

Israfel Mark Pafford January 2010
What were the key ideas in the book?

Alan Jones comments on the concept of "atheism" at several points in his survey of the desert "way of spirituality". Beginning in his introduction on pages 8 and 9 Jones states, "I am searching for a combination of Cupitts Hyperborean faith and Rahners way of believing...and Simone Weil reminds us that 'there are two atheisms of which one is a purification of the notion of God." Jones continues, stating that he most identifies with the application of atheism as a purification of the notion of God.
Alan Jones begins by laying out "two alien ways of believing" which he has encoutered in his life before his journey to Egypt. At the heart of these two ways there is only vindictiveness and the insistent or necessary (for proclaiming ones authentic faith) repetition of repeated formula. Jones then explores alternatives to these unsatisfactory ways of believing in the first section of his book. Jones names psychoanalysis and "the way of the desert" as solutions to these unsatisfactory ways of believing. Jones explores further the parallels and partnerships between these two as they stand in opposition to the vindictiveness, perfectionism and ambition so often demonstrated in those "two alien ways of believing" On page 42 Jones states, "The goal of psychoanalysis, like that of spiritual formation, is to aid in the integration of the emotional with the intellectual life..a marriage of mind and heart which in turn leads to fullness of soul" I see Jones quote on page 52 as the central idea of this particular writing. Jones says, "As a believer I place all that psychoanalysis has to teach me in the context of the desert tradition

What ideas, concepts were of particular interest to you? Where was your energy the highest? What excited you?
Alan Jones' conversation and reflections on the image of death in chapter 3 was of particular interest to me. Beginning with his statement on page 61 he comments on the "prelude" to death saying, "Silence and a feeling of deadness seem to go together. To be utterly silent can feel like death.And silence is important..." Why does this particular quote stand out for me? I was reminded of my time serving as a congregational minister in my second appointment. My crisis of faith - a period of silence and deadness- was the catalyst for my discovery of a Divine Beloved and my journey back to faith.

IV. How will I use this information in my own personal spiritual life, and in spiritual direction/guidance with others?
I feel inspired to return often to the portion of Alan Jones book which discusses the role of death and tears in Soul-making. As a hospice chaplain I walk through a desert solitude with my patients and sometimes their families too. In a recent conversation with a family considering hospice care for their loved one I recall two comments made by the patients spouse at different times in the conversation "I can't get past feeling like I am giving up." and " I can't help but feel like I'm killing her if we don't opt for feeding tubes." This particular family consists of a husband and wife with a young adult child. This spouse has cared for his wife (who was diagnosed with Huntingtons disease) for six years. Up until the last four months this spouse worked full-time and raised their child through middle school and high school. In recent months he was laid off from work. And he says he feels like he is giving up by seeking help from Hopice. As I talked with this family it struck me that they had been balancing at the top of a thirty foot pole for the past six years(page 75) As their chaplain my task was to convince them in order to get out of this dilemma the best thing to do would be to step off in the abyss. Otherwise it was only going to get rougher and more lonely up there on that thirty foot pole.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The worst and weakest advice I have ever heard

I must make a confession Beth forced me to watch Fox news this past sunday morning! No not really she had been watching and got up to leave not bothering to change the channel. Anyway I am walking through the den and notice on the TV several political talking heads sitting at a table reviewing events both popluar and political from the past week. The camera pans over to one talking head in particular- Brit Hume. Brit is commenting on the particular topic for this segment, Tiger Woods. Specifically what can Tiger do to make ammends, Say I am sorry- Repair his image - What Ever. Brit then gives the worst and weakest advice I have ever heard,
Well ah I am not certain what religious affiliation Tiger is I have heard he might be Buddhist. If that is the case then he should convert to Christianity There are no provisions in the Buddhist faith for forgiveness and so thats what he should do - convert to Christianity and ask Gods forgiveness.
 What kind of rubbish is that! Dear misinformed Westocentric former journalist talking head Mr Hume- You need a refresher course in eastern religions 101 -Forgiveness and the practice of forgiveness are one of the central practices of Buddhism. Anyway I should have known better than to be watching TV on Sunday morning  for goodness sake.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Celebration and Remembrance

I have spent this day in reflection for the families who have lost their loved ones in recent days. Part of my homily during this most recent memorial spoke about the breath and its sustaining properties in our life. breathing in and out feeling our breathe carry throughout our body. I had in mind the breathe work that many of my Sufi practices utilize in meditation. I encouraged family and congregation to be mindful of their breathe as the creative and vital expression of the Divine Beloved in our everyday life. I will have this family in my thoughts and rflections in the coming days. I fear bereavement will be difficult for this blended family as it involves two different households. I am thankful for my work as a Healing Conductor and my mentors in Sufi studies and practices. I am depending on my studies as a student of Sufism to continue to guide my work with these dear ones.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome in 2010

I have not written for too long a long a time so here goes- It is January 3rd early evening and Beth and the kids are enjoying the last few hours of holiday break before jumping back into their routine tommorrow. Our break has been good with time spent with extended family extra time together playing games, watching movies and going on dates with Beth. This past week has been particulary difficult, on top of getting the news of my sisters divorce from her husband of 17yrs. three of my former parishioners died this past week one was a matriarch to her family, the other a middle-aged father and the final death was the accidental death of a nineteen yearold son to very dear friends of ours. I have been directly involved in the memorial services to two of these and one more service coming up on Tuesday. My goodness the holidays can be so stressful.
I am thankful that my family is together this year and That I am able to continue doing chaplain work so close to home instead of moving to Nebraska.

Namasta and  salaam alakum every one!