Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Visiting a middle-aged woman in emotional distress following her surgery, I hear her tell me she feels “desperately alone.” She says that after years in alcohol recovery, this sense of aloneness “triggered my relapse.” As we go deeper, her eyes squeeze shut then tears spill out. She chokes out,“God. I want to...feel God. But I can't."

We say the Serenity Prayer together. She shares more about God of her understanding and her desire to reconnect. She acknowledges that her primary need right now is "serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

She bursts into tears. I guide her in breathing in “God” (silently saying it to herself) and breathing out “Serenity.” This is a method called Attuned Breath Centering, which I developed. Her breath eases. I leave and say will visit her the next day.

The next morning, I visit and we say the Serenity Prayer together. Then, unexpectedly, she bursts into tears saying her sense of aloneness is excruciating, and the Attuned Breath Centering difficult to continue. Something sparks in me, remembering how the palliative team approaches pain management. I ask her, “This part of you that thinks she is desperately alone, rate how alone on a scale of 0-10?” She says, “8.” Then I ask her, “Now imagining this part of you that feels God’s presence, how strongly does she feel this on a scale of 0-10?” She replies, “7.” For a moment, I am uncertain what to do. Then, an image comes to me. I ask her to imagine a wire fence with lots of open space between the wires. On one side stands the alone part of her. On one side stands the part who feels God’s presence.

I say, “Now the one who feels presence offers her hand through the fence, palm facing up. She offers it to the one who thinks she is alone. Tell me what you notice. Please refer to each part of you as “she.” Then you can witness all of you.” She nods her head, “ok.” I encourage, “Tell me, what’s happening?” She breathes a few times and replies, “I” then corrects herself, “She accepts the hand. They are holding hands.” I invite her to breathe into this sensation of holding hands.

Then I say, "Now imagine that as these two are holding each other's hand, the one who feels God's presence, holding clippers in her other hand begins to cut through the fence. Take your time and tell me what is happening." She pauses then says, "they are still holding hands." "OK," I say, "now the hole is growing in this fence and now there is just open space between them, joining them. Let's breathe into this sensation of open space."

After a few minutes, I ask her to rate her aloneness. She smiles with wonderment, her body visibly relazed and her breath slow and deep. She says, “Zero.” Next I ask her, “would you like to name the part of you that feels God's presence?” She pauses for a few breaths and then smiling once more looks up and says softly, “Grace.”

I hold out my hand. She meets me halfway. Our hands rest together on the bar at the edge of her hospital bed. We breathe silently, the room brightens and I feel a tingling sensation in my body. As I release my hand, she says with tears in her eyes, "thank you. I never knew..." I smile and nod my head to acknowledge her words. I echo hers, saying softly, "Grace."

No comments:

Post a Comment