Most of us on a spiritual path look outside of ourselves for spiritual teachers who will show us the way to the enlightened life and give us guidance, encouragement and support. I am no different. I have had the distinct honor to have had many physical spiritual teachers, and have been humbled to sit in their presence and learn from them. All of them said that they were searching for me as I was searching for them, that it is no coincidence that I found myself sitting in front of them. And as you remember from my book, “there are no coincidences, only synchronicity”, which I consider the work of the Holy Spirit. I have been guided, led by the Spirit, to these special teachers by the desire of my heart (most of the time I have not been aware of this!) to learn how to be closer to God through the teaching and example of these amazing enlightened beings.
As I grow older and continue on my spiritual path (the path never ends!) I believe more and more that sure, we need physical teachers outside of ourselves to help us. But for me, right now, my life has become my greatest, inner teacher. As I think back on my life and the life-changing events that have happened, I have learned so much just by living and loving. Every day I am challenged to see each sacred moment as a teacher. Working in a hospital as a chaplain presents many such moments!
Last week I spent quite a bit of time with a mother who was dying and could not speak, but her family was having a very difficult time letting her go. She had a terminal condition for which the doctors had repeatedly told the family that she would not recover and that there was nothing more the doctors could do. Usually at this point, hospice is called and the patient is kept comfortable until they pass away in peace. The challenge was that the family could not agree on her care, and the mother never shared her wishes with them, nor did she have a power of attorney or healthcare proxy who could make decisions for her. When I left for the week, the family was at her side, still arguing about what should be done for their mother. I felt saddened and helpless.
The teaching moment here for me, and for all of us, is that we will all pass away some day. Indeed, it is the only certainty in life. However, as a chaplain, I need to honor each person’s struggle and path. I felt that I had comforted and supported the family to the very best of my ability, yet it was not enough to help this family come to acceptance that their mom was dying. Perhaps it wasn’t the right moment for acceptance, and perhaps their own teaching moment was yet a few days away. I needed to “let go and let God” take the final steps with them. They are in my prayers as I write.
Most of us are never ready for this moment, and we always reluctantly accept the inevitable. However there are steps we can take to make the process a bit easier.
1. Discuss your wishes with your family, and write a living will or advance directive.
2. Appoint a healthcare proxy, ONE PERSON who will make the decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself. It is VITALLY important, and can avoid legal issues at a most difficult time for you and your family.
Our most significant teachers are the events that unfold every day. At the end of the day, after my gratitude prayer, I go within and reflect on what was my life teaching me today: To trust? To love? To accept? To forgive? To be joyful? To be always grateful!
Find your greatest spiritual teachers in the sacred everyday events of your life. We never stop learning, growing, and moving closer to God. Many blessings to everyone this sacred day.