Helping helpers

May 26, 2019 Jamie 0 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I did a shorter version of my day long workshop at a hospice. I’m fortunate to have a brother who is very supportive of my practice; he is also a counsellor and volunteers in a hospice near where he lives. As part of the counselling team’s monthly Continuing Professional Development (CPD), they invited me to do some Hakomi with them.

Having volunteered in a bereavement service, and also for a short while in a cancer support service, I feel like I have some sense of the type of work that goes on in a hospice. It feels for me a very demanding and varied type of work. I can remember during training one of the tutors talking to me about the level of intensity of grief work, and it seems like those questions of life and death that come up when we are faced with the sickness and death of those we love, or face it directly, strike at the core of who we are as human beings. It makes us face our mortality; we will not be here forever.

So when I was invited to the hospice, it felt a great honour to be part of supporting this special team of people who accompany and witness those facing these life and death questions. I wanted to bring something of the heart of Hakomi, that has brought so much nourishment, love and connection into my life.

We started as we often do in Hakomi with some mindfulness. In a way, these guided mindfulness exercises feel for me like I am guiding people back to themselves; helping them to slow down and notice what is happening for them. I will often start with what is happening outside in the external senses, working inward to notice what is happening inside.

Mindfulness is one of the principles of Hakomi, and is really about turning down the noise so we are better able to hear ourselves. I find it helpful for me to think of it as a pool of water inside me, often moving and rippling in response to what is happening, and mindfulness is allowing that pool to settle, so that I can drop something into those still waters and really notice what happens, or notice the ripples that are caused.

Once we’d taken some time to get mindful in this way, we went on to work in pairs on being with each other. The exercise is not about needing to say or do anything other than be with another person in loving presence; not looking for what is wrong and opening ourselves to be nourished by them. How often in every day life do we sit with someone to be with them, and how much attention do we pay to our habits around meeting in this way?

The last part of the morning was to work in pairs with touch. This feels like such a powerful thing, so to be able to offer this in a safe way where people can manage it in a way that feels okay for them, is an incredible gift. The invitation with this was to get mindful and notice where on the back you might want to have a hand and for the person you’re working with to put a hand on the back in just the right place, at just the right pressure, and really take some time to be with that and let it in, allowing the nourishment of touch in, basking in it.

After spending some time together at the end talking about how that was for people and giving space for feedback and questions, I was really moved that the Team gave me some flowers and a lovely note to thank me. Everyone had given some money to cover my travel expenses. It was great to get to talk to people in the Team and some of us had lunch together afterwards.

This work means so much to me. To be able to help those who help others, to be able to share something that has meant so much to me with others, is an absolute delight, and it’s hard to capture in words just how it feels; my heart is full!

If you’d like to talk about offering something like this where you work or volunteer, or if you have a group of people in mind you’d want to be part of this sort of experience with, please get in touch.

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