Day 161 “Fundamental Questions”

“Uncanny.”  The nurse glances at my arrival over her shoulder, her tiny charge cradled in one arm, the other administering treatment.  “I can tell you have entered the unit even before I see you – the baby’s vitals stabilize every time.”

A young, dark-haired woman smiles up at me.  She is the baby’s mother.

“How is she today?”  I ask.

Chloe is only two months old, and has never seen the outside of this pediatric unit.  Her naked, white body, wriggles, the many tubes and attachments dancing with each movement.  Born with a rare genetic disorder, she will not live much longer.  I have come at the family’s request to perform therapeutic touch.

“I don’t understand it,”  the nurse continues.  “Quite frankly, I think it’s all hocus pocus, but the monitors don’t lie.”  She gently places the baby back into the incubator.  “I’ll be finished here shortly, and then you can do your thing.”

“I’m going to go get a coffee,”  the mother says, excusing herself.

Alone with the baby, I pull up a chair and start the process, gently running my fingers over her tiny field.  I marvel at this miracle of life and wonder what it all means.  What is the point of this birth, so troubled from the outset, destined to die?  There is not much for me to do here – the baby is so fragile that my effort must be a whisper, imperceptible; yet, I see that what the nurse says is true – Chloe’s breathing has relaxed, she is responding.

I offer her a finger and her tiny hand grasps it.  Her gaze meets mine.  My heart swells with the connection.  Life, all life, is so precious.

Another nurse stops by.  She is older than the first, and has undoubtedly seen her share of suffering.  “It is good that you come,”  she offers.  “It means a lot to the family.  I hope you don’t take to heart what some of the staff say.”

“I don’t.”

“If you ask me, they are the ones who should be questioned,”  she continues.  “Do you know that two of the nurses have refused to take the baby’s case because of what you are doing?”

I hadn’t known.  I looked down at the little innocent still clutching my finger.  “How could anyone refuse to care for her?”

“Exactly!  They say that it is contrary to their religious beliefs.”

I am not practicing religion, I think to myself, but the argument is not worth stating.  I have come up against this wall before.  “I am sorry if my presence has caused this family added strife.”

“Not your fault,”  the older woman patted my shoulder.  “Keep on doing what you’re doing.”

“You and I are causing controversy,”  I whisper to my little friend.  Her body wriggles and she emits a cooing noise.  “I agree,”  I chuckle.  “Not a lot of controversy here….just two people sharing a little love.”

I leave the unit as unobtrusively as I arrived.  My heart is feeling conflicted emotions:  warmth and gratitude for the opportunity to share in this little life, and outrage at the close-mindedness of some people.

What is this all about?  I wonder.

There are some questions that life will never answer.  Chloe’s life is one of those.

She will not live to see her third month, but the impact of her existence will remain ever etched in my heart.

 

 

 

 

An Enlightened Life

“What would you like to learn about?”

“Tell us about your life,”  one woman called out.

“Well, yes, that,”  the tiny woman responded, “but there’s nothing to learn there.  What do you want to learn?”

After several protests, our teacher promised that she would fill us in on her ninety plus years at the end of the weekend.

I had anticipated this workshop for months, without really knowing what to expect.  Dora Kunz, co-founder of Therapeutic Touch, had published several books about her work, but I found them difficult to read, and hadn’t gained much from them.  Unlike her partner, Delores Krieger, Dora did not have a nursing background and so remained somewhat of an enigma to those of us who pursued understanding of this simple, but powerful technique.  I had taken several workshops with Delores, each of them long and gruelling, packed with information and experiences, Delores being a tireless lecturer.  Krieger’s workshops were always accompanied by an outline of curriculum expectations, and formally conducted.  Participants would have to ask for breaks, as Krieger’s passion for the subject matter precluded any need for a break in her presentation. It was immediately apparent that Dora Kunz’s approach was in stark contrast to that of her colleague.

My initial reaction to Kunz’s opening question was disappointment.  I had signed up for a workshop on meditation, did she not know that?   Was this woman too old and senile to be able to put a program together?

“Well we signed up for a workshop on meditation.”  Someone else must have been thinking the same as me.

“Yes, but what about meditation would you like to learn?”  I had to admit, the lady was charming.  She must have been all of 4’10”, with waves of white hair caressing her gentle face.  A warm smile, and twinkling eyes embraced her audience, and an obvious sense of humour set us at ease.  “At my age, I don’t plan for these things, you know.  I find it’s better to just go with the flow.”

So that’s what we did.  For three mesmerizing days, we listening hungrily to the words of this tiny guru, whose vast bank of experience and pragmatic approach to teaching guided us to the deeper understanding we sought.  For me, her greatest lesson was yet to come.

At the end of the weekend, as promised, Dora told us about her life.

“I was only five years old,”  she began, “when my parents, recognizing there was something different about me, built me a meditation room.”  As a young child, Dora had an awareness of energy and other realities that most parents would brush off as an active imagination.  Dora’s parents decided to nurture these gifts in their only child.  When Dora was eleven, she was invited to study with a man at an institute continents away, where the spoken language was different from her own.  Her parents told her to meditate on it, which she did, and decided to accept his offer.  “I looked like an eight-year-old boy,” Dora laughed, “when I arrived at this institution full of adults.”  Dora stayed and studied with this man for several years and then moved to another foreign country to further her studies.  Her work eventually led her to the United States, where I would have the privilege of meeting her.

When asked how she knew which offers to accept, Dora responded:  “No was not an option for me.  I trusted that this work was my calling, and so I always looked for a way to say yes when opportunity knocked.”  It was not always easy, she went on to explain.  At one point in her life, she was asked to speak about her spiritual beliefs to a group of convicts.  She was just a young woman, and felt incredibly vulnerable and intimidated by the gathering of murderers and hard-core criminals she encountered, but she said that was all soon forgotten when the men found something comforting in her words.

Dora continued her work, and I would encounter her again at another workshop, still teaching, just two weeks before she passed away.  She was 95.

Dora Kunz remains for me an icon of someone who has led a complete life.  She lived her life inspired by a passion for learning and helping others.   She was dedicated to a life of service.

(Image from nancybragin.com)

Children As Mirrors

When I think of my grandchildren – one now six months, and one on the way – my heart swells and tears fill my eyes; I love them so much.  I hope that I have extolled upon my daughters that children are a blessing to be cherished.

One thing I can tell them is that children will be their greatest teachers.  Honest, straightforward, and ever curious, children will tell it like it is, question inequities, and challenge everything.  Like little parrots, children repeat what they hear, and mimic gestures and behaviours.  They will also reflect the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My moment of revelation about how intrinsically linked mothers and children are came when performing therapeutic touch on the mother of a boy with severe autism.  His constant spinning and screaming was a source of anxiety for the young mother seeking my help.  She had hoped I could calm him, however; he was not receptive to staying still, so I offered her a treatment instead.  Amazingly, as soon as the mother began to relax, so too did her son.

All the way home, I thought of my own children, and questioned how many times their anxiety or distress was merely a reflection of my own emotional imbalance.  Over time, I had to admit there was a definite link.  If I would return home tired and distraught, that would be the time my children were acting up.  If I was feeling happy and positive, the children would reflect that back.

In therapeutic touch we have an analogy that the therapist is like a tuning fork:  when s/he is centered and grounded then the client can follow suit.  The same goes for children.

Another way of looking at this, is that children are mirrors for their parents.  When my oldest, Marie, is being impulsive, she is reflecting my own tendencies.  When Ester is feeling anxious, or John is burdened by being overly introspective, they are exhibiting the very traits I myself struggle with.  The challenge for me, as parent, is to a) take ownership of my shortcomings, and b) work to heal them so that my children can do the same.

Children are teachers because they offer us the opportunity and the incentive to become better people.

Grandchildren teach us how to fall in love all over again.

I’m so glad I enrolled in the school of parenting!

Navigating Intuitively

In 1997, the annual Therapeutic Touch conference was held in Vancouver, and to my great delight, my then husband encouraged me to attend.  The conference was to be held over a weekend, but as I had a friend living on Vancouver Island, I decided to extend my stay. Two others wanted to join, and while I said they were welcome, I wanted it to be on my terms – outside of the conference, I wanted no set agendas, or schedules.  I wanted to be fully open to the experience, and whatever presented itself; to let my intuition alone be the guide.

One of my teachers and mentors was also living in Vancouver at the time, and as it turned out would be on the island during our stay.  Em agreed to meet up with us.  We needed a place to stay.  J, who lived on the island, scouted out a cottage we could rent for cheap.  It was November, so very off season.  She found a three bedroom that looked like it would accommodate us.  We were excited.

We flew into Vancouver and rented a car.  By late evening, we were in Victoria.  We decided to stop for the night.  S and I were up early the next morning, ready to explore.

“What does it mean to follow your intuition?” she asked as we set out on the deserted streets in search of an open coffee shop.

“Some teachings believe that Spirit speaks to us through omens and signs, but most of us miss this guidance in our day to day living, as we are too focused on schedules and obligations.  I just want to see what happens when we open to guidance.”  A large black bird squawked from its perch across the street.  We both looked.  “Like that bird, for example.  What would happen if we followed it?”  On cue, the bird flew a short distance, then stopped.  We followed.

S and I were going into business together.  She already had an established business, and I had a vision.  I wanted to create an environment in which people could find help in times of need, but I didn’t want it to be clinical, or formal.  We were thinking a book store, with added services. We shared ideas as we continued to follow the bird, who seemed to be enjoying the game.  He would fly only within sight, and wait for us before journeying further.  Eventually he stopped just outside a store front.  The store was called “The Pomegranate”.

“I like it,”  I exclaimed.  I had just read something about pomegranates, and how some scholars believed the original apple in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate.  I shared this with S.

She told me in the Jewish religion, the pomegranate was a symbol of the many ways man can serve man.  She said the pomegranate has multiple seeds (over 100) and that each seed was representative of a different act of service.  Our discussion became lively and animated.  We walked on, our harbinger forgotten.

When we returned to the hotel, L was ready to move on.  We loaded up the rental vehicle, and headed north.  L would drive, S would occupy the passenger seat, and I would be the backseat driver, listening for ‘signs’.  With its combination of mountains, trees, rock, and water, it is difficult not to feel inspired on the island.

I tried to pay attention not only with my eyes, but also with my other senses.  We hadn’t travelled far before I felt a shift in my physical perception.   I asked L to pull over.  My companions looked at me expectantly.  Not sure what I was experiencing, I explained that I felt something different, a sensation of depletion, as if the energy was being zapped out of me.  We got out and looked around.  Not much to see. I pointed in the direction where I thought the sensation was coming from.  There was some big machinery there; it looked like it might be the beginning of construction.  We asked a passerby, who responded that the forest was being clear cut here.  What a shame, we thought.

We drove on until I suddenly felt my heart begin to flutter, as if it had taken flight.  “Pull over,” I announced.  “I feel like soaring.”  We got out and looked up.  Three eagles were circling high above.  We watched in speechless reverence.

Our next stop was close to the inner channel.  I suddenly felt playful, bubbly.  “It’s in the water!”  Sure enough, it was.  A lone dolphin was jumping in the waves.

“This is fun,” L said.  “But I’m getting hungry.  Where does your intuition say we should eat?”

“Wendy’s,” I blurted.  A chorus of groans erupted.  We had driven past a number of quaint towns and cute little restaurants, and fast food was the last thing on our minds.

“Surely, not.” L protested.  I shrugged.

Wendy’s came into sight.  Reluctantly, we pulled in.  I made a beeline for the washroom, while L and S got in line to order.  Inside the bathroom, I had the sensation of the earth moving.  Something was here, but I had no idea what.  “This is the right place.” I told the ladies when I caught up with them.  They rolled their eyes.  We pushed through the crowded restaurant to find a seat, and were nicely tucking into the food when I heard an unmistakeable laugh.  Em was here!

Across the room, seated with her back to us, was a middle-aged woman with a long grey-black braid down her back – Em.  We embraced and laughed at the serendipity of meeting in this restaurant, when all of us avoided fast food. Em was visiting friends and would be meeting up with us on Miracle beach later in the week.  She travelled by motorcycle, and preferred no schedules.  We would see her whenever.

We set off again, now convinced.  If we make room in our lives, and open up our awareness, Spirit can speak.  It was the beginning of an incredible week.  Our setting was aptly named: Miracle Beach.  The miracles for that week had just begun.

(Image:  www.hellobc.com)