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Wise Caregiving Posts

Are We Effective?

I was a brand new hospital chaplain, freshly ordained, trained, and full of ideas about how things ought to be: Patients would welcome my presence; staff would embrace my calm manner; administrators would gush about how much I meant to the hospital; my workload would be manageable and fulfilling.   Well, sometimes these things happened, but mostly work felt like one long catastrophe: Patients refused my visits; staff had no idea why I was there; administrators saw me as a costly luxury; and I frequently felt overworked, exhausted, and fed up with administrative tasks.   Reality did not match my…

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Listen – Then Respond

The buzz on my belt brought an adrenalin rush.  The ER was paging and that meant trouble because they don’t call the chaplain when an 11-year-old boy breaks his arm or an elderly woman falls.  They call when death is in the house. I arrived to find Stephen, a middle-aged man, lying on a gurney surrounded by the experienced and efficient ER staff.  A CPR tag-team circulated blood through his lifeless body while others placed tubes and IVs and called out regular progress reports.  After some time, the lead physician said, ‘I’m calling it.  Time of death:  2:14 pm.’  And that…

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In The Media

Thanks to the Northwest Dharma Association for publishing this article about our recent Contemplative Caregiving Retreat.  We’re planning a longer follow-up retreat for 2017. A Day of Exploring Contemplative Caregiving  

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Grief’s Great Weight

Grief follows its’ own mind. It sneaks into the house through locked doors, has its way with the furniture, breaks the fine china, and departs on a whim. But it doesn’t retreat far: Just as we’ve finished sweeping the debris, grief returns to overwhelm whatever wall of incense and icons and soft beeswax candles we’re hiding behind and makes us doubt the holy answers. It lingers to wrack our bodies more painfully than an Inquisitor. And even after our breath has relaxed in celebration of its extended absence, we wake once again to feel grief’s great weight next to us…

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Giving and Receiving

It would seem that the flow of care always moves from caregiver to patient. We have skills, they have needs, and assistance flows from us to them. We hover over them at the bedside like water coolers while they lay in the bed and drink from the tap. Seen this way, caregiving is an exhaustible commodity because there’s only so much in the tap and when our patients have drunk their fill, we retreat depleted. But must it be seen this way? Are there deeper truths that contemplative practice can reveal? Meditation practice pulls back the curtain on the boundaries…

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Gratitude

Jonathan Prescott offered this talk on gratitude to the Guemes Island Community Church on 10/9/2016.

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Compassionate Care

This gentle video by Megan Mylan follows Masami Hayata as he cares for both his son and his aging mother.  I was inspired by his tenderness and patience and find myself wondering how we might all learn to offer such loving, attentive care.

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The Interbeing of Ordination and Chaplaincy

I began working as a healthcare chaplain in 2005, the same year I was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh into the Order of Interbeing (OI.)  For those unfamiliar with the role, healthcare chaplains help patients cope with their changing lives using the patient’s own language of meaning, whether that language is religious, scientific, philosophical or based upon their life experiences.  This requires the chaplain to listen with compassion and respond appropriately, without proselytizing the chaplain’s own beliefs.  My chaplaincy and OI practices have grown and supported each other over the years and I’d like to share some insights…

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A New Language

I recently saw a Trident submarine sailing through Puget Sound, surrounded by a fleet of support ships on it’s way to the open Pacific.  The Captain of my ferry announced the sub’s presence off our port bow and many of the passengers looked up from their books, puzzles, and conversations to line the windows and marvel at this black nuclear-powered machine sliding silently by.  I brought out my smart phone and looked up the facts.  This submarine was equipped with 24 Trident Missiles, each carrying 8-12 independently targetable nuclear warheads able to strike targets more than 7000 miles away.  The…

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Giving Up

We’re taught from a young age to dream big, go after what we want, plan our work, work our plan.  This culture-wide forward-thinking mindset has blossomed into achievements as diverse as iPhones, space flight, ultra-marathons and gene splicing.  But it’s also helped create anxiety, depression, unrest and a feeling for many that, since our achievements aren’t as grand as our dreams, we’re living a meaningless life. The moment of reckoning between the fantasy of our dreams and the reality of our lives often surfaces during critical illness.  The door of future possibilities slams shut when the doctor says, ‘Cancer’; or…

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