Over the last ten weeks Dr Patricia (Trish) Lück, a palliative care physician and facilitator of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programmes has been writing a weekly series on Mindfulness and how engaging with this particular process may benefit many areas of our lives as hospice and palliative care workers.
This is the journey of the African Dung Beetle, a beetle that finds unlikely nurturing and growth in elephant dung; that which has been discarded.
It is in the dung that the beetle lays its eggs and nurtures the young. For me this is a reminder of many things: of persevering in the face of the daily difficult; of continuing to dream and transform oneself no matter how challenging the present moments may be. It also for me somehow has come to symbolise the work I do, that all of us in this territory of life-limiting and life-threatening illness engage in, work that many may shy away from and do not want to discuss: the frontier territory of death, distress, difficult news, and dying.
The dung beetle reminds us perhaps how no matter how difficult every situation may seem; there is a possibility for some joy or new discovery that may grow out of it. It is my experience that becoming aware of what is present for me, for my patients, within my environment and being able to be present for this without judgement, premature assessment or needing to drive a particular outcome, with kindness, patience, and open curiosity, allows a turning toward a particular way of engaging with this moment that allows an environment of caring, listening and healing despite the possibility that this may be the most difficult and challenging moment yet to be engaged with.
Over the past ten weeks, this series has covered some of the themes that are traditionally explored in an eight-week MBSR programme, paying particular attention to the needs of the palliative care community.
- An introduction to mindfulness, the MBSR programme and the science supporting it
- Perception and appraisal
- Being present
- Responding to stress
- Choices and commitment
- Communication and working with difficulty
- Impermanence and resilience
- Self-care begins here.
If this series has piqued your interest in attending an eight week mindfulness based stress reduction program or similar mindfulness based intervention, you may well find one in your home town or country. Hopefully the ending of this series is only beginning of your own journey into greater presence, care and kindness for this one precious life we have.
Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is, you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride, thinking the bus will never stop. The passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you. How he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense any more. Only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread. Only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say: ‘it is I you have been looking for’, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.
The Center for Mindfulness 2014 Annual Conference
Massachusetts, USA, 2 to 6 April 2014
Dr Patricia Lück will be attending the annual scientific conference of The Center for Mindfulness, presenting a keynote talk on mindfulness and palliative medicine in South Africa.
All keynotes as well as the Kluge Research Symposium will be streamed live during the conference. Visit the conference website for further information.