Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Today I attended a workshop/conference on Spirituality and Healing with a very famous keynote speaker (who shall remain nameless in order to preserve the relative geographic anonymity of this site). Individual small-group workshops focused on mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, drumming, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and various other modalities and perspectives on healing.

That said, this conference fed my soul like no other has in some time. Aside from the keynote speaker (the main attraction for my attending in the first place), this experience renewed my sense that there are countless healthcare professionals out there who are willing to put time and energy into personal growth, as well as the spiritual needs of their patients. While the majority of the attendees were nurses, there was adequate representation by pastoral counselors and social workers, as well as a smattering of occupational and physical therapists, a recreation therapist for seniors, and a small cadre of open-minded and interesting physicians. The main speaker explored some very cogent ideas related to spirituality, care of the psyche of the patient and caregiver, as well as the more ancient underpinnings of the roots of some modern medical and psychiatric practices.

To wit, I learned that the etymological roots of the word psychotherapy lead us to understand that "psycho" means "psyche" which in the original Greek meant "soul", and "therapy" comes from the ancient Greek word "theros" meaning "nurse". Hence psychotherapy actually means literally "to nurse the soul".

I also learned that Heraclitus said that "you can never discover the limits of the soul, no matter how many roads you take, so deep is its mystery." This one is worthy of further exploration, perhaps in a future post. This led to a discussion centered around the notion that while "spirit" speaks of things of a higher nature, as in spirituality, the intellect, and connection to a higher source beyond the earth, "soul" traditionally refers more to things closer to earth---or actually in the depths. While spirit gives us our connection to the greater and larger, soul gives us our connection to the internal, the underworld, the underbelly of the self. They don't say "dark night of the soul" for nothing......

Other ideas which were floated:

How does it feel when we walk into a clinic or hospital? What are the textures and colors like? Is it inviting? Are the artistic depictions of humans normal and colorful and full of life, or are the exam rooms filled with pictures of diseased organs and flayed bodies showing everything that could be wrong with one's internal organs? Do we have flowers in the exam room or little plastic models of disembodied kidneys? Is the waiting room like a living room or a bus station? How do we make our healthcare facilities more healthy and inviting, more nurturing of the soul and spirit, more restful?

Finally, one of the best quotes of the day came from a participant who shared a story of a patient who approached the dying process with great humor, aplomb, and dignity. He had said one day, "I've never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul." That one really gave me pause and perhaps will be fodder for a future post as well. Gives new meaning to the phrase, "you can't take it with you."

All in all, a nurturing day of reinvigoration and release. Gratitude all around.

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