by Beverly Patchell, RN, MS, CNS Minority Nurse Writer
In his 1996 book The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, best-selling spiritual writer Thomas Moore wrote: “Without the ability to make temenos, we find ourselves in spaces that are purely functional and give us no more than an empty arena in which to work.” Moore uses the Greek word temenos (which literally means “an area considered to be sacred, which may contain one of more temples, often surrounded by a wall”) to refer to the concept of creating sacred space and sanctuary within our daily lives. In our work as nurses, do we know how to create a space for the spirit to breathe life into our activities of healing?
Much has been written about the need to increase minority populations’ awareness and use of modern medical technology and techniques to improve their health status. Wellness education and disease prevention programs abound. What these programs all share is the requirement that the patient monitor certain functions or activities. Whether it is blood sugar or blood pressure, weight or wound circumference, as health professionals we need these measurements. They provide the information that guides our care of the patient. In fact, every involved health provider needs those numbers and nurses are the ones who obtain them.
But with so much emphasis on the use of measurement tools, perhaps we have lost sight of what it is we are measuring. I believe we are measuring that which animates--the unique and complex blending of soul and personality that we call life. This spiritual view of life is the backbone of many non-Caucasian cultures—as embodied, for example, in the Native American concept of the medicine wheel or circle of life, which is divided into four sections representing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of life.
Health is about having choices. Disease is the entity that destroys life, and nurses have historically assisted patients in restoring choice and thus, life. As nurses who work with minority populations, it is critical that we truly form an alliance with the patient--a therapeutic alliance that creates a temenos against the defined enemy, disease.
Unfortunately, the destruction of culture has been used as a tool for assimilation and annihilation since recorded time. Often, because of current or historical mistrust, wein the health care profession are seen as the enemy in minority communities. Even if we belong to the same ethnic group, race, or tribe as the population we are serving, when we present ourselves as professionals we must reclaim our acceptance into the community. When we insist on changes that tear at the fabric of the culture, is it any wonder that we are looked upon with suspicion or distrust?
Making Spiritual Connections
How can nurses form this therapeutic alliance given these seemingly unavoidable conflicts? What is it that allows us to join with the patient, overcome disease and restore choice? It is spirit--a power greater than disease that we can call forth to create healing energy.
Spirit nurtures and strengthens the life flow, but a connection is required to form a conscious access to this energy. Connection demands a pathway, a clear pathway, free of clutter and toxins. I believe nurses must recognize the need for “energy medicine” that can release the clutter, cleanse the toxins and create the energetic pathway that allows a spiritual connection to be made. The brain and body do not function as entities separate from this animating spirit; without it they would die. Indigenous and ethnic cultures preserve this knowledge, even as contemporary medicine moves closer and closer to seeing man as machine, replaceable down to the DNA.
If this is starting to sound too metaphysical, remember that meta is Greek for “with.” I am speaking of that which is with the body, the animating force or spirit called life. If we as nurses are to be with the patient, we must acknowledge this spiritual life force and join with it to create the power of healing.
Energetic medicine provides the bridge and the space for therapeutic alliances to be created. The incredible variety of approaches to energetic medicine that exist today gives nurses ample room for exploration and comfort.
Perhaps the pioneering work of Delores Krieger, RN, PhD, who developed the technique of Therapeutic Touch as part of her post-doctoral research, will be the energetic medicine tool you are most comfortable integrating with your current nursing practice. Krieger is the author of several books on Therapeutic Touch, which is based on the assumptions that (1) the human being is an open energy system; (2) anatomically, a human being is bilaterally symmetrical; (3) illness is an imbalance in an individual’s energy field; and (4) human beings have natural abilities to transcend their conditions of living. Krieger’s research investigated four specific areas: relaxation, pain reduction, accelerated healing and alleviation of psychosomatic illness.
For other nurses, it may be the Japanese technique of Reiki (pronounced “Ray-Key”) that resonates a preference. Reiki is a method of natural healing based on the application of universal life force energy. An excellent Web site for learning more about this technique can be found at www.reiki.7gen.com.
The method of energetic connecting I have chosen is a blend of my Native American upbringing and specialized kinesiology training. It honors the patient as an individual and acknowledges the presence of spirit from the beginning.
Kinesiology is a method of obtaining information directly from the muscle response of the body. It incorporates techniques of touch, tapping, rapid eye movement, guided imagery, meditation, aroma therapy and much more, to access the subconscious and unconscious information that anchors unhealthy, destructive thoughts and behaviors. It allows me to transcend barriers of language and stamina, as the life force emanates through and from the body. Through this releasing and cleansing, the pathway is opened and the alliance created for the patient and his or her family to join together in the creation of health.
Unfortunately, the medical profession often ostracizes patients for utilizing resources outside of its control. Many of the patients I see as an energetic healer are either discarded by or disgusted with contemporary medicine. This is not the ideal situation. I believe there is a place and a necessity for every aspect of health care; no practitioner with the patient’s best interest at heart is unnecessary. The purpose of the medical and spiritual team working together is to weave a web of support for the patient at a time when he or she is unable to do that alone. It is the essence of community and healing.
Whether or not you agree that energetic medicine is viable, it is difficult to deny that for a person isolated by disease, afraid and alone, any effort by someone willing to connect with them in a meaningful way serves the spirit of culture, community and healing. And what of temenos? It is the establishment of a perimeter of enchantment, of a sacred space--a space that invites with the richness of its simplicity and the spirit of healing. Fellow nurses, I invite you to create temenos with your touch, your voice, your eyes and your self to bring the sacredness of the soul into nursing.