Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hospice Chaplain Thoughts and the Underlying Yearnings

Almost every day, I go to Broward General Hospital.  I am a member of a gym there, on the 8th floor.  I see a lot of hospital life on my way to the gym.  I've often wondered what it would be like to be a hospice chaplain.

Most of my friends think I'm crazy.  They ask why I would want to be part of the saddest time of people's lives.

I always say that I want to be present for people as they go through significant life transitions.  I want to pray with them.  I want to help keep the focus on the important things.

Earlier this week, as my mind wandered through these familiar tracks, I thought that hospice chaplain or not, I'd like to be more fully present for the people in my life. 

That led me to think, do I really want to be a hospice chaplain?  Or is that yearning just a surface symptom of a deeper longing?

I feel like I have a full, rich life.  Some weeks, I even feel it's balanced:  I give equal time to my writing, my friends, my spouse, and my work.  Some weeks, I feel quite out of balance.

But even the weeks when I'm feeling balanced, I'm feeling rushed and hurried.  I'm thinking ahead to the next thing I have to do.  I'm making lists in my head.  I'm realizing I forgot something and trying to think about what it was and whether or not it's important.

In short, even when I'm balanced, I'm not fully present.  Can I say I'm balanced, if I'm not present?

How can I be more present?

An obvious answer would be that I need to get rid of some of my activities.  But which ones?  Some don't bring me joy--like Church Council--but I realize they're important and few people are willing to do it.  I have to work, so a substantial chunk of time vanishes that way.  And my friends and I already have trouble finding time to get together, so I don't want to decide not to meet with them. 

Some people might say I exercise too much--at least once a day I'm at the gym, on most days; some days I go back for an additional class.  But I know what happens when I don't exercise.  I know how important exercise is.

So, if I can't/won't ditch activities, how can I be more present?

I need to work harder at not letting my monkey mind wander away.  I need to be more conscious of when I'm thinking about something else as I'm in the middle of another activity.  I need to bring my mind back.

I need to be gentle with myself in this process.  I need to train my brain.

I'm tired just thinking about it.  And soon, the holiday season begins in earnest, and there will be more distractions.

Could I find spiritual activities to keep my mind focused?  Could this be the year that we actually use our Advent wreath all the way to Christmas?  Could I carry those activities--or something similar--into the new year?

I suspect this project, the being-fully-present project, will be a life-long discipline, or perhaps more accurately, a life-long disciplining process.

1 comment:

rbarenblat said...

One of the things I love most about hospice work and/or funerals is that these things center me and put me in touch with what really matters.

I agree with the intentions of trying to be more mindful in daily life -- I hear you and I'm trying to do it, too! But for what it's worth, I've found little else that is as focusing to my soul and to my mind as working with the dying or the bereaved...