Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Bardo, gap, interval, hiatus - call it what one will, it's been a long one since I last wrote anything on this blog. During the interval I've asked myself many times if I should return to it, and found no convincing answer. Lots of questions about who it's for and what it's for and who's writing it. No clear answers, unless the interval itself supplies one, and the fact that I've resumed.

The image opposite is Bardo, 2001 with grateful acknowledgement to Jeff Irwin Photography 2008

I've written elsewhere about the tentative but (to me) unmistakable impetus that is gathering in the affairs of the Trust. I spoke with Stephen Hendry today and we corresponded by email about the spirit of renewal that is abroad, and which he has instigated with the support and encouragement of Willemien and Lisa Sheehy, two relatively new and relatively young Trust supporters, with my own support (and my own direct involvement), and without dissent from other Trustees.

Stephen and I are meeting on 27th February for a 'brain-storming' meeting, and we hope Lisa will be able to join us. When Stephen proposed this meeting I told him laughingly that I felt I needed a strong wind to blow through my mind. I intended this as a light-hearted comment, but even as I thought about it more, Stephen had himself picked up on the analogy and responded in an email, "Let's be guided by the wind. I like that. The wind allegedly saved the Japanese from invasion by the Koreans. The Great Wind, Dai-Kami. Great to be guided by the wind".

I found myself suddenly very moved by his words. Tears pricked at my eyes. Moved to respect for whatever wisdom, perhaps unwittingly, had been expressed in the words we had chosen, or had been open to; about the project we, but mainly the "Young Ones", are tentatively and hopefully embarking on. A project I am very, very unlikely to see fulfilled. Yet a project that fills me, unaccountably, with hope. We call it (for the sake of a title) Conscious Living, Conscious Dying or CLCD for short. It is, perhaps, a 're-branding' of the concept of Hospice in the Heart; yet it is pregnant with renewal and, I think, a kind of enlightenment. And of enlightenment it is wisely said that it is never what we conceive of, reach after, or expect. How could it be so?

This afternoon we received a message from a trainee GP in East Anglia, "glad to have found us!" - how marvellous. She sent an enthusiastic offer of tacit support and encouragement. Amongst other things she comments on the strictures imposed on medical people by the General Medical Council, the doctors' regulatory and disciplinary body, about spiritual matters. These must be kept strictly boundaried in dealings with patients, so that personal religious beliefs never intrude on or affect the professional relationship (I paraphrase).

I respond that I also think it's important that we act mindfully in our relations with those we serve, so any such rules should be interpreted as a guide to the wise and a law to the foolish. I'm rather sceptical about talk of the 'spiritual dimension' that is creeping in to the language of health-care.

Assumptions about the universal acceptibility of a 'spiritual dimension' to be addressed by care-staff (e.g. through on-admission assessment of "spiritual needs") are bound to end in tears, I think. There are lots on conscientious non-believers in the 'spiritual dimension' out there waiting to feel justifiably aggrieved, and file legitimate complaints. More aggro from NHS 'customers' we don't need! But I know I'm swimming or wading against a strong tide of contrary opinion here, especially amongst chaplains (I am one).

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