Thursday, 19 April 2012

Unplugging for a Few Days

Connectivity Suspended – Out of Touch - Enjoy!
As the owner/user of an iPhone, an iMac and a MacBookPro, plus a wireless connection in office and home, and in most public venues for all of them, (plus a roommate who is similarly connected) I am somewhat familiar with email, voice mail, live conversations and meetings through various means including Skype.  The latter is particularly useful for international calls.  Add to this mélange of apparati the social media network that includes one or more of the following social media -Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, My Space and Google + -  and you have activity that sucks up a lot of time, attention, energy and resources.  Yes, it’s how people communicate, connect and do business and fills our calendars and schedules with meetings, appointments, commitments and projects.
When we travel we sign up for “hot spot” with our phone service and that allows us to stay connected while on the road.  We used to depend on a satellite connection via a dish on the top of our mobile office.  They might have called it “cool spot” or  “mobile muse” and now there is something called Pinterest which is a Virtual Pinboard. “It lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find in your life. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.”   They post photos, projects and whatever they want to share on a board for others to see. Someone will surely mount a site that allows people to organize and share all the ugly things they find in their lives.  I prefer an application called “Gas Buddy” that allows me to find the least expensive fuel in whatever area I happen to be in at the moment.  I prefer real space to virtual any day of the week.
In light of all this connectivity, our most recent offering was an opportunity for a small group of people to unplug for several days and come together in an old-fashioned retreat setting and see what we might make of this kind of experience.   It will be interesting to get some feedback on the unplugged part of the Seminar and see how many were really able to stay simply unplugged for just three full days.  Perhaps the only way to accomplish that part is to go to a hermitage where there is no electricity, no wireless, no cell service (global sat excluded) no land lines and make it a true wilderness event.   I will put it on my to do list and write it out on a yellow note pad.  Stay tuned, or connected, to learn of what’s coming down the road!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Asking the Right Question

As an extension of my role as an adjunct professor teaching a course called “The Doctor Patient Relationship,” I was shadowing one of the third-year residents in family practice for 24 hours. We were summoned around midnight to the emergency room where a woman appeared with a lump on her forehead.  The young doctor took her vital signs, talked with her and expressed appropriate concern about what had happened.

The patient reported that she was on a step ladder, hanging a picture and the hammer
 had slipped from her hand and hit her on the left side of her forehead where there was indeed a red, swollen bump.  The doctor asked if she were in pain and whether she had any other symptoms and she responded by saying that the bump had hurt but she didn’t feel any other signs of discomfort or pain.  All the vital signs checked out OK and after the doctor examined the bump closely and talked to the patient a little more, we left the room to get some pain pills and write a prescription.

Doctor Leonard looked at me while we were outside and said, "I don’t know why she bothered to come here, it’s not serious and she could have just taken some aspirin or ibuprofen and saved herself the trip."  I responded by asking him if he wanted to know the real reason she had shown up and he said he thought it was because she was scared and that it might be more serious.  Not a bad guess, said I, but if you want to know more, when we go back in, ask her what she’s doing on a ladder at midnight on Friday, hanging a picture.

“So,” says Dr. Leonard to Nancy Frame, “what were you doing on a ladder at midnight hanging a picture?”   She looked at him, silent for a moment, and then with tears starting to flow and shaking a bit, said, “My husband just divorced me and this is the first weekend my 3 kids are with their Dad and I was all alone and feeling really bad.”    She went on a bit about how hard it’s been for the past several months and she wasn’t sure how she was going to get through all of the pain, hurt and loneliness.  Dr. Leonard let her express her sadness, her emotional pain, and then said he knew the name of a really good counselor if she wanted someone that she could talk to about how to cope with her struggle.  She said that would be really helpful and thus that first treatment session ended.

After Nancy left, Dr. Leonard turned to me and said, “How did you know?”  I said I didn’t know anything but sometimes, asking the right question will get you more information than if you assume you know that what you’re seeing and hearing is all there is to know.  Take time to ask another question before concluding with your first response.  See how that might change what you might have said earlier.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Appreciating Silence and Stillness

Taking some time to be still, sit quietly and listen to the deafening silence is such a nurturing experience to mind, body and spirit.  No rings, dings, beeps, not even the sound of traffic or voices or the wind.
All is quiet and at rest.  Even 15 minutes can make a positive difference in the rest of the day.  Imagine taking that gift and extending and expanding it to half an hour or a complete hour.  Empty the mind and focus only on one thought or feeling and stay with it.  The view from my office window provides a horizon of treetops and blue sky, a sun-drenched morning.  I see Spring, feel it in my bones and let the warmth sink in as I move closer to walking lightly on the good earth very soon.  The ground is still damp from a day of rain and snow and green growth is evident in bud and branch.  How shall I connect with all of this and breathe in new life and growth for myself?  Stay connected, stay grounded and know that the ground of our being is creation herself.  Plant and cultivate.  Feed and water these lives whether in plant or animal or one's self.  Hold all close with careful attention to what you can give to these moments for the return is well worth the investment in this time of silence.