This is why we need spiritually sensitive hospitals

04/11/2018 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Healing, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Here is a list of hospitals my son has visited. He stayed in all but three of these, which means that I have also stayed in all but three of these: Queen Mary’s Roehampton, Kingston, Royal Brompton, Great Ormond Street, Chippenham, Royal United, Wolfson Children’s, Great Western, Cheltenham General, Gloucestershire Royal, Churchill. Two of these hospitals involved prolonged stays in intensive care units. Together, they have spanned two continents. And in total they have added up to something over six months.

His dad and I, and all our family, have been extremely grateful for the care that he received. I wonder, though, looking back at over half a year of plastic mattresses and iv fluids, whether our son, the countless patients we met along the way, and their families, might have benefitted from a more overtly spiritual perspective.

According to research recently published in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine (Ho et al, 2018): ‘There is a growing body of evidence that attending to the spiritual needs of patients and their families can improve outcomes including the quality of life, and several guidelines suggest spiritual care should be part of comprehensive health delivery. However, in practice, spiritual care is often overlooked in the management of critically ill patients.’

The Chambers English Dictionary defines the word ‘spiritual’ as:

‘Belonging, referring or relating to the spirit or soul rather than to the body or to physical things…’

And what does the dictionary mean by ‘spirit’?

‘The animating or vitalising essence or force that motivates, invigorates or energises someone or something…’

Look after the spirit

I humbly suggest that looking after the spirit that animates a person will help that person to recover. Going further, if that person is not going to recover, looking after their spirit will help them to die a good death – to be at peace at the end of life.

Spirituality, in my experience, is not a priority in hospitals. It has been largely absent from any of the wards and units my son has stayed in. There have, thankfully, been nurses and/or doctors in most (not all) of those places who have worked hard to promote emotional wellbeing. Going further, religion has been offered, but that’s not quite the same thing. As Chambers says, religion is: ‘A belief in, or the worship of, a god or gods’.

Behind the scenes, quietly, I have sensed that individual members of staff hold philosophies that prompt them unobtrusively to support a patient’s spirit – through a stillness and taking of time, through meditative techniques such as prayer or listening. But these are individual decisions, and rarely if ever shared with others.

At the other end of the scale, I have witnessed critically ill patients in a state of fearful delirium – a distressing way to transition from life.

That sense of unity

Spirituality could be described as a transcendent feeling that one is an indivisible part of the universe. It can be as simple as looking at a beautiful sunset and feeling a sense of purpose and connectedness. Or it might mean looking at another person and realising that they are simply another manifestation of the life force that animates you and everyone you love.

As a practising healer, registered with the NFSH Healing Trust, I have brought spirituality to my son in every ward that he has stayed in. But I have been unobtrusive. Occasionally I have alluded to healing methods, and my words have almost always been ignored, or invalidated with comments such as: “Well, it won’t do any harm”. When my son has fared better than medical staff expected, even surviving against the odds, there has never been any follow-up, no attempt to learn anything of the spiritual dimension that I perceive has been a factor in his recovery.

I have noticed on numerous ward rounds and outpatient appointments that medical staff rely on forms with boxes that they can tick. Fluids? Tick. Bowel movement? Tick. Antibiotics? Tick. So here is my simple request: please, dear medical staff, make sure ‘spiritual wellbeing’ is on your list of things to tick. Be sure to ask open, non-judgemental questions that will enable your patients and their families to open up about the things that will help their spiritual wellbeing.

Find out more

Spiritual Care in the Intensive Care Unit: a Narrative Review. Ho et al, Journal of Intensive Care Medicine, 2018, Vol 33(5), 279-287.

Some healers do currently work in hospitals. You can find healers through The Healing Trust, which is the largest membership association of accredited healers in the UK.

Connect with Suzanne Askham on Twitter.

Photo: rawpixel/Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

Quick psychic sweep

26/04/2013 at 3:45 pm | Posted in Healing, Intuition, Meditation, Wellbeing | 4 Comments
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Dear Intuitive

You asked me for a quick protective exercise that I often use and recommend. I have pleasure in enclosing it here.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Imagine yourself standing inside a big golden egg of light – this is your own energy field, or aura. The golden egg is the border of your energy field. At the top of the egg is an opening. You can open and close this at your will, and it connects you to the All That Is.

Imagine that the surface of the golden egg is strong and protective. If any parts of it seems a bit thin or frayed or tattered, let more golden white light from the All That Is  heal those places and firm them up.

Now imagine again that you are standing in the centre of your energy egg. You are holding a big, effective broom. The brush is so wide is comfortably reaches into every part of your energy field in one big sweeping motion. Start at the top, and sweep down one side. The brush sweeps a good half of the egg as it does so. Continue the sweeping movement below your feet and up the other side of the egg. The brush sweeps over that entire half of the egg as it does so.

Finish with the brush at the top. With a quick, firm, flicking movement, send any debris – anything that doesn’t belong in your energy field – out into the All That Is, which is fully capable of handling it. Repeat the entire sweeping movement once or twice if you choose, just to make sure that your energy field is totally clean and clear.

Then, imagine beautiful pure white light coming in from the All That Is. See or sense it filling your energy field completely. Enjoy the sensation.

Finally, close the opening at the top of the egg just slightly, knowing that you can open and close it at will.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The whole exercise can be done in under a minute. It’s particularly helpful for those times when you feel that someone has hitched a ride, psychically speaking, in your energy field. It happens. Remember this: your space is your space. Boundaries matter. You get to choose who enters your space, and if they do so, it’s on your terms.

With love and happiness

Suzanne x

The healing power of envy

22/02/2013 at 11:17 am | Posted in Healing, Inspiration, Uncategorized | 12 Comments
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BAFTAsEarlier this month I was lucky enough to tread the red carpet at the BAFTAs – the British version of the Oscars. I was there simply because my partner was invited. However much I like to think of myself as immune to star-spotting, I am not. It was huge fun to share a rain-soaked red carpet with George Clooney, Ben Affleck, Dame Helen Mirren and Marion Cottillard, among many others. It was fun when guests grabbed a spare BAFTA trophy and we posed for the camera. And sharing the photographs afterwards was all part of the pleasure.

A week later, I was sitting in my Wiltshire studio, facilitating a meditation group. We were focusing on the theme of forgiveness. After half an hour of silence, we swapped notes. A writer friend in the group, Claire, said something endearing. “I found it very hard to focus on forgiveness at the beginning of the meditation, because I just kept thinking how envious I was of Suzanne for going to the BAFTAs,” she confessed.

Everyone in the group laughed – it was a sweetly funny moment. But afterwards, it got me thinking.

The truth is, Claire and I are alike. Whenever I hear of someone’s good fortune, there is often some envy mixed up with delight. I am happy for them, of course. But there can also be a sense of being left out, like not receiving an invitation to a friend’s party.

Envy is said to be one of the Seven Deadly Sins; it’s an emotion we’re traditionally not supposed to feel. But we do feel it, so there must be some purpose to it. What purpose does envy serve?

After the meditation session, I decided to watch out for my next experience of envy, to see what I might learn. I didn’t have long to wait: it arrived with the morning post. Among the envelopes there was a programme for the upcoming Mind Body Spirit Festival in London. My eyes went straight to the workshops, and straight to the names of the facilitators. And then, I felt stirrings of envy.

The envy could only mean one thing: I would like to run a workshop at a large event like the Mind Body Spirit festival. But mixed up with the envy were stomach-churning feelings of inadequacy and fear. There was a mouse-like element to the fear that seemed to be saying in a firm yet squeaky voice: “It’s safer to stay at home.”

The wisdom of envy

I focused in on the envy again. And deep within its energy I found these words: “Remember who you are.” And then I realised that the spiritual purpose of envy is to help us to stay on our own unique path. That path does, for sure, take us out of our comfort zone. It may be a hard path, and the only way we can do it is one step at a time. I realised that envy was telling me to quit dreaming and start doing what was required – one step at a time.

It occurred to me that many of the speakers at the Mind Body Spirit Festival workshops have written books on their subject – some of my envy lay in that direction. I am indeed in the process of writing one, on the brand of intuitive meditation that I share with others – but progress is slow. And then I realised that I need to schedule regular, daily time to my project. It’s the only way I will complete it.

In a few weeks’ time I’m doing a talk on intuitive meditation in a local town. Someone has mentioned another great local group I might get in touch with. Each small step leads to the next. With the divine help of envy, I’m starting to follow my bliss.

Now it’s your turn. What do you, perhaps, feel envy about, and what might envy’s message be for you?

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Seven ways to strengthen your base chakra

13/06/2012 at 11:05 am | Posted in Happiness, Healing, Meditation, Nature, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | 10 Comments
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A healthy base chakra connects us with nature.

“An excellent course. Just what I was hoping for. A real gift. Many thanks,” emailed a student. “You said that you would think of a solution to getting my base chakra more engaged. Any luck please?”

Defining the base

The base chakra means different things to different people, so I’ll put forward a quick definition here. The chakra system is a useful way of explaining how we interact energetically with ourselves and the world. The idea is that there are energy concentrations – vortexes of spinning energy – at key points in the etheric energy field in which our bodies move and rest.

The base chakra is situated at the base of the spine, and it’s all about how connected we are to the physical world. The base chakra is about our physical survival. It’s about feeling safe, and solid, and definitely here, on this planet.

To achieve a healthy base chakra, it’s good to know how it feels to have a healthy base chakra. To do that, I like to consider Stone Age people. We – our ancestors – lived for tens of thousands of years – far, far longer than modern civilisation has lasted to date – in a sometimes fluctuating, but always very natural environment. There was hardly any sense in those days that we controlled the world. Instead, we saw ourselves very much as part of a huge, intelligent and creative system. We were physically healthy to a degree we can scarcely imagine today.

Here are seven ways to safely balance and engage the base chakra, so that you feel grounded and stronger.

1) Imagine.

To help you imagine the ideal state of primal health, and a superb connection to the physical world, I have put together a simple, free, guided meditation for you to listen to: the Stone Age Meditation. For your audio copy, just fill out the form below, and I will send it to you (I’ll also pop you on my emailing list for future updates).  

Listen to the the Stone Age Meditation several times over a few weeks, and note the difference to your own state of wellbeing.

2) Take pleasure in simple tasks. Make a point every day of spending time mindfully on a simple activity related to your survival. For example, preparing a meal, or maintaining your home.

3) Find a nature totem. Go somewhere natural, and find a stone or a small piece of wood that pleases you. Keep it with you. Whenever you touch it, be aware that you, like the small object you hold, are always connected with the wider natural world.

4) Grow food to eat. Bean sprouts or salad on a window sill are an easy start, and all you need is a few seeds, and some earth. Don’t spend a fortune on a gardening kit – think Stone Age, and use basic stuff that you can find in your locality.

5) Buy whole foods. Consciously seek out groceries that have not been overly processed. Befriend your local farm shop.

6) Walk. Make walking a part of your daily life. Where possible, step outside at the start of the day and walk barefoot over dewy grass. When driving, park half a mile short of your destination, and enjoy the journey on foot.

7) Spend time in nature. Being in green spaces is calming and grounding because it’s our home environment – it’s just that we forget it sometimes. Seek out fresh air. Remember this: you are part of nature, and nature is part of you. You are unique, and special. There has never been anyone quite like you on this planet, and there never will be again. You are part of a whole, interconnecting stream of planetary life – and you have your role to play. Be proud of that role.

Love and blessings to you.

The good nurturing guide

09/03/2012 at 6:48 pm | Posted in Happiness, Healing, Parenting, Wellbeing | 9 Comments
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The author and youngest child, in baby-wearing days.

‘Nurturing’ is a very ancient word, and we all know what it means… don’t we? It’s about being loving, caring, helping young ones to grow and develop. But remove centuries of common usage, and we get a much simpler concept. This is it.

‘Nurture’, ‘nutrient’, ‘nourish’ and ‘nurse’ all come from the same ancient Proto-Indo-European root: ‘nu’, or ‘snu’. That root means, quite simply, ‘to flow, to let flow, to suckle’. The Sanskrit word is very similar: ‘snauti’ means ‘she drips, gives milk’. The ancient Greek is ‘nao’, meaning: ‘I flow’.

So to nurture means, literally, the act of giving milk to an infant. That is it – nothing else.

Why does does this matter?

Because, when you give milk to an infant (and in its unfettered state this is the most marvellous, natural,  flowing feeling in the world), you give the milk, and that is it. True, you also look after the infant – the love and practical care you give them is hugely, extraordinarily important, and makes the difference between thriving and just surviving.  And it is right that we include that sense of loving care within our modern definition of nurturing.

But the actual act of giving milk – the ‘nu’ or nourishment – is one, literally, of letting go. The milk is an unconditional gift. You don’t expect the infant to do anything in particular with it. You know, and hope, that they will grow. But the way they do this is truly not in your control. Their own particular combination of genes and psyche will, along with, hopefully, a beneficial environment, create a unique and marvellous human being.

Nowadays, our notion of nurturing includes a sense of sculpting and shaping the young individual so that they grow up to be a properly socialised being. We feel a sense of responsibility to get this right. Parenting manuals and playground conversations collude to create the pressured sense that we have an awfully big role which we are highly likely, regularly, to get wrong. As the English poet Philip Larkin put it so memorably in This Be the Verse: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad/ They may not mean to, but they do/They fill you with the faults they had/And add some extra just for you.”

This past week I’ve been working on the theme of nurturing with students and clients. The pickle we humans collectively get ourselves into over this word has become very obvious to me. I have found two basic themes.

One is a sense of not being nurtured – emotionally, or perhaps nutritionally, as a child.

The other is a well-meaning and futile impulse to shape and sculpt others who are way past the infant stage.

If we take ‘nurturing’ back to its original meaning, of giving milk – or sustenance, if you will – to an infant, then these two themes of profound human disappointment take on a different colour.

When we understand that the sustenance we received – flawed though it may have been – was fundamentally an unconditional gift, then we realise that our own growth and flowering is ultimately up to ourselves, and the laws of nature. We may then choose to care for those aspects of ourselves that have been frozen in childhood patterns of trauma, want or need, and bring them to a more enlightened and happier adult reality.

When we understand that the people we know who are past the stage of infancy do not need to be nurtured by us, it lifts the most enormous burden from our shoulders. Instead of trying to fix or rescue others, we give them the respect of one grown-up for another. And frequently we find that they do flower as a result of that respect.

Nurturing is a simple act that happens in the present moment, and then is gone. Once we have given it, we no longer own it.

Isn’t that a relatively carefree feeling?

I know why the caged one dreams

26/01/2012 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Happiness, Healing, Intuition, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | 4 Comments
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How can dreams come true when you’re in a cage?

There’s a quirky interiors shop in Bath, England, called Blakes. It’s eclectic. Their window display stopped me in my tracks recently: two heads, in birdcages. “May all your dreams come true” was the message on their foreheads.

But how can dreams come true when you’re in a cage? Those two cages were bothering me. They seemed to represent so much more than a window display.

Then I realised: the cage is different things for different people. In a nutshell, it’s the things that stop us from achieving our dreams.

Unless we’re enlightened, we all have cage bars around us. Here are a few of the restrictions that cage us:

* Growing up in a violent or dysfunctional family.

* Believing we’re not good enough to achieve what we want.

*Feeling we have to play a role to be acceptable to others.

*Regularly doing things we don’t want to because we feel we ought to.

Identify the cage that holds you

Take a sheet of paper, and a few minutes of your time. Draw two lines down the page, so you have three columns.

Write the word ‘Dreams’ at the top of the left-hand column. Underline it. Underneath, write down your dreams and ambitions in a list. Write them all down, as many as you can think of. All those things that in your heart of hearts you’d really love to do. Everything you’d like to experience in your life. Don’t hold back. Just write them all down.

Now, at the top of the middle column, write the word ‘Cage’.  Underline it. Then write a list of everything that is stopping you from achieving your dreams. These negative phrases are the bars of the cage that hold you. Take a good look. The cage bars are as strong as you choose them to be. We can all blame our parents, our background, our friends, our enemies, the people in authority around us… whoever we choose. But the truth is, we are always the ones who hold the keys to liberate ourselves.

The key to your freedom

Finally, at the top of the right hand column, write the word ‘Key’. Underline it. Then write a list of everything you can do to break free from the cage of your limitations, so that you can achieve your dreams. Write it all down. You are crafting the key to your freedom.

And when you have crafted your key, use it. Use it every day, to achieve your dreams.

I’ll give you an example. David is an athlete. He wrote to me: “When people look at me they just look at the image. They never see past that, to the real me.”

David’s dream, in this instance is to be seen for who he truly is. His cage is the need he feels to behave in a certain way, to conform to the athletic image.

We find our freedom when we cultivate an open heart. 

For David, the key  is simply to express himself: to speak the way he feels. He has already started doing this. And as he continues to do so, he will discover that people can at long last see the real David.

So why does the caged one dream? To be clear, we are all caged ones, and we all dream. We dream because we can: because every human being on this planet is a creative being. We can’t help it; it’s what we do.  And somewhere, deep down, we know that we can turn the key, escape our cage, and achieve our heart’s desires.

We dream, because when we set our amazing, powerful heart-minds to the task, we most certainly can be free.

 

We all have female intuition, whatever our gender

09/01/2012 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Healing, Intuition, Meditation, Wellbeing | 7 Comments
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The female aspect has been covered up, just a little, for centuries. Its time for it to shine.

Somewhere in the world, this very second, a baby girl has just been born. Her father is looking at her, and he is thinking: “Oh, it’s a girl.” A wave of disappointment is flowing through his energy field, and engulfing hers. On some fundamental level the little baby girl is aware of his disappointment. She is already making an adjustment to her own energy field. It is obviously wrong to be a girl, better to be the other, like her father. She must temper her femaleness. She must cover it up, just a little bit. After all, she needs to please this father of hers. She is dependent on him, and her mother.

Versions of this story are happening all over the world, right now. They were happening when you were a baby too… and for centuries before your birth. Does this matter? Big gulp: yes – in so many ways. Intuition is a major part of the story. We need to look at the female aspect of the psyche to find out more.

The yin and yang of it

Fundamentally, the female aspect receives, while the male aspect transmits. The female aspect is passive, while the male aspect is active.  The opposites are famously contained in the Chinese yin yang symbol, where yin is female, and yang is male. To be perfectly clear: we each contain both male and female aspects, whatever our gender, or indeed our sexuality… though clearly the proportions vary in each gender, and even in each individual.

Intuition works in the following way. We formulate a question (male aspect); we receive the answer intuitively (female aspect); we transmit the answer (male aspect).  It’s perfectly possible to be intuitive without the male aspect – to be simply open to the psychic sea that washes all around us; but we can get tired, drained and emerge with no useful answers. We need to formulate a question in order to get an answer, and we may need to transmit the answer to others.

Can you see signs of the compassionate sage (female aspect) in this king?

So intuition requires both female and male aspects, but cannot possibly exist without the female element. That’s basically why the phrase ‘a woman’s intuition’ never goes away. It’s also why professional psychics often say they received their gift from their mother’s mother – through the female line. The truth is though, just as we all have a female aspect, so we all have the ability to intuit.

To return to that baby girl, who’s just been born, somewhere in the world: if she grows up not valuing her female aspect, she will dampen down her intuition… she will devalue it. If, on the other hand, she makes a decision, deep within her, to love and value the girl that she is, she will thrive and so will others in the future who will receive the benefits of her intuitive, female gift.

If we all acknowledged the female aspect in each of us, here are some of the things that would happen:

We would less time talking and more time listening.

We would spend less time doing, and more time being.

We would respond to the many messages of our bodies, and enjoy healthier, happier, and indeed slimmer lives.

We would give our own children a nurturing space in which to grow, with safe boundaries.

We would most likely enjoy a far greater degree of world peace, and the planet’s natural resources would be sympathetically managed; there would be more forests.

Affirmations to restore the balance

Here are two daily affirmations: one for women, and one for men. I suggest that you follow a daily habit of meditating (if you don’t already) – just sitting quietly for 30 minutes. While you do that, repeat the following words silently, in your mind:

If you are female:

(In-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) the girl that I am… (in-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) the woman that I am…

If you are male:

(In-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) my female aspect… (in-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) my male aspect…

Witness your body’s reaction as you do this: you may find your heart area feels warmer, and more relaxed. You may find the warmth spreading throughout your body. Simply witness what happens. By repeating this exercise daily for a while, you will receive ever more enriching insights and benefits.

You’ll find a quick guide to meditation here.

A note about the pictures: I found these ancient monarchs of Ireland while seeing in the New Year 2012 at Castle Ashford, Co. Mayo, a beautiful place with many layers of history. 

Postscript: In February 2012, the UK’s Daily Telegraph published an investigation which found that abortion of female babies in the UK is sadly commonplace: http://tgr.ph/xXd0ZO

Three-minute healing circle

10/12/2011 at 3:48 pm | Posted in Healing, Meditation, Uncategorized | 14 Comments
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Ideally, do this after a daily practice of meditation, when the mind is still and calm, and the body rested, yet alert.

Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your back straight, in a peaceful place where you won’t be disturbed. Take a few deep breaths, releasing any thoughts, knowing this time is for you, and for those who may wish for your help…

First  minute: create the healing circle.

As you breathe in, picture a white light in the centre of you, glowing and sparkling brightly, like a diamond. As you breathe out, picture the white light radiating outwards from your hands, creating a large white circular space in front of you: a healing space. As you continue to breathe out, send out an invitation to all who may wish for healing, to enter the circle. Each time you breathe in, see the diamond at the centre of you glowing and sparkling ever more brightly. Each time you breathe out, see the healing circle in front of you shining more and more brightly. Continue to send out a general invitation to all who may wish for healing.

Second minute: maintain the healing circle.

As you breathe in, and as you breathe out, continue to maintain the shining white healing circle in front of you. See people enter the circle, and stand in it, soaking up the healing white light. You may recognise people; you may see strangers; you may see a mixture of both. You may see nothing; just trust in the process and continue. The people do not see you. They simply approach the circle and stand inside it, soaking up the light. As you continue to breathe in and out, be aware that the whole of you, too, is glowing and sparkling with healing white light.

Third minute: close down the healing circle.

Send out a thank you to all who have entered the circle, and watch them begin to leave. As you continue to breathe in and out, gradually let the light settle down, fade, and return to normal levels. As it does so, the last people leave the circle, and then the circle itself vanishes.

Repeat as often as you like. A daily practice works well. Or try a weekly practice. If you do this regularly, you will see more and more people enter your circle.

The minutes, by the way, don’t have to be exact. They’re just a rough guide.

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