At Dying Beds

At dying beds I’ve experienced a lot of silence – which felt at times good, at times disturbing. Dying people will be almost always be in coma in their last hours (and, mostly, days). What hinders us from speaking with the dying?

  • As family members, we may be in a shock state, frozen or confused.
  • We may be insecure if they hear and understand us.
  • We may be insecure what is relevant and helpful for them.
  • We may feel insecure what the staff thinks of us if we behave unconventional.
But surely, if we find out what hinders us from speaking and acting, this can free us and widen the range of our possibilities, to the benefit of both ourselves and the patient.

Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to notice and interpret any nonverbal reactions of coma patients. In other cases we need to sharpen our senses. With no other body reactions left, often there are still reactions on our words, or on caressing, in the patients’ changing his of breath style and rhythm (unless on a breathing machine).
If we do find tiny nonverbal reactions or changes of the way of breathing, the questions are:

  • Does the patient show this behavior repeatedly (every time) when we bring up a certain topic or do something particular (or when a certain person is arriving or leaving or being mentioned)?
  • Do we rather see the reaction as one of stress or relief?

I would like to summarize a few things that I have learned from the Encounters I had with dying people.
1. Treat dying people as living people.                                                                              2. At a dying bed, get aware of what hinders you from acting and speaking free. Free yourself to get flexible.
3. Observe which tiny reactions (movements, mimics, breath) the dying person shows repeatedly on certain key words, persons, behavior. Are they reacions of stress, relief or interest? Which are the triggers?
4. Dying patients may be in coma, but they’re usually not deaf. Choose your words well. No catastrophic medical descriptions or burial talk.
5. Create rapport. Introduce yourself and tell your aim shortly. Use body contact, use your voice and breath pacing.
6. See a coma patient as someone who is already in trance. Create rapport. Interventions can start right away, without induction
7. The subconscious responds strongly to imagery. Speak in a dream language. Use metaphors, avoid abstract words.
8. Breath pacing and leading can regulate pain or breath problems (and can regulate breath down till it almost stops).
9. Breath, blood pressure and heart rate can also be regulated by metaphors (f. e. of a flying eagle, a pulsating jellyfish or a manta ray).
10. Speak about emotional content rather than about facts.
11. Express in metaphors or more directly that it is possible and good to let go – of live, of psychological problems of body problems.
12. Use metaphoric terms to speak about the good future.
13. Introduce thoughts like “You can love them from the other side”, “things will change, relations go on”.
14. Use negative terms only with a good reason. Except for pacing strong pain, don’t mention “pain” but “body sensations”. Teach this to the relatives.
15. People will rather die when they’re ready to go. What may help: Rituals, a bye-bye from family members, messages of “letting go”.

El cine a través del escaparate

Llovía. No había clase. Como cada sábado por la mañana, ella estaba detrás del mostrador de cristal donde se exponían panecillos, pasteles y otros productos de panadería y de pastelería para la venta. A través del escaparate veía como el viento barría las hojas de los arboles revoloteándolas por la calle.
Delante de la tienda una mujer luchó con su paraguas. Encima, en el escaparate, había una inscripción con letras gruesas que decía: “Panadería Müller”, en escritura invertida, desde luego, para alguien que lo leyese desde adentro. Cuando ella estaba sola y no tenía que atender a clientes, le gustaba imaginarse que este escaparate fuera una pantalla de cine y que lo que veía detrás de él fuera solo una película.
En su fantasía entonces cambiaba la escena. Los coches se volvían en carruajes, las hojas en pájaros y, por ejemplo, esta mujer con el paraguas se convertía en su madre luchando contra un dragón furioso. Especialmente esta imagen le divertía mucho. Su madre, que lo entendía todo mal, que malinterpretaba sus palabras, que sabía convertir lo bueno en malo y lo malo en bueno, probablemente también hubiera podido superar un combate contra un dragón furioso o por lo menos hubiera conseguido un empate. Hasta el próximo combate.
La mujer con el paraguas había desaparecido hace tiempo. Ahora ella se imaginaba, pues, qué le gustaría escribir en el escaparate en lugar de la palabra aburrida: “Panadería Müller”. ¿Qué tal si fuera “eres importante para mí”, “de todas formas te quiero” o “me enojo contigo porque te quiero”? O quizás también: “Te enojo …”. Sonreía un poco pensando en esto. Se figuró el efecto que tuviera esta inscripción en la gran luna del escaparate. Toda la gente que pasara por la panadería podría leerla, también su madre. Ella se figuraba entonces la inscripción: “Eres importante para mí”. ¿Podría su madre finalmente entenderla entonces a ella? Se la imaginó parada delante del escaparate, frunciendo y meneando la cabeza. Entonces se le ocurrió la idea: “Tienes que colocar tus palabras en escritura invertida.”

(Por Stefan Hammel, traducción: Bettina Betz)

El lobo de mar y el lobo de madriguera

Antaño el lobo de mar recibió visita del lobo de madriguera. Ambos se conocían ya de la escuela de lobos. Después de terminar la escuela el lobo de mar había salido para recorrer medio mundo, había superado muchas aventuras y al final había regresado rico de tesoros y de vivencias.
El lobo de madriguera se había quedado en su propia cueva. Había encontrado a una loba de madriguera y habían tenido pequeños lobos de madriguera. Mientras tanto tenían muchos nietos y bisnietos de lobo y todos se habían hecho verdaderos, buenos lobos de madriguera.
“A veces deseo poder recomenzar mi vida”, dijo el lobo de madriguera al lobo de mar.
“A mí me pasa lo mismo”, contestó este.
“Haría de otra manera muchas cosas”, dijo el lobo de madriguera.
“Sí, yo también”, contestó el lobo de mar.
“Sería marino”, soñó el lobo de madriguera.
“Yo me casaría”, suspiró el lobo de mar.
“Superaría aventuras”, declaró el lobo de madriguera.
“Engendraría hijos de lobo”, constató el lobo de mar.
“Yo sería un lobo rico. Habría hecho experiencias malas y lindas de las que podría contar”, se apasionó el lobo de madriguera.
“Tendría nietos y bisnietos que me quisieran y que cuidaran de mi cuando me pusiera viejo y enfermo”, sostuvo el lobo de mar.
“Y ahora estaría sentado contigo en esta guarida de lobo de mar”, continuó el lobo de madriguera.
“… y yo contigo …”, le interrumpió el lobo de mar.
El lobo de madriguera confirmó: ”Y entonces me dirías ahora: ’A veces desearía que pudiera volver a vivir otra vez.’ Y yo contestaría: ‘Sí, a mi me pasa lo mismo’.”

(Por Stefan Hammel, traducción: Bettina Betz)

Margarita y Lucía

En la rendija de un muro vivían dos lagartijas, Margarita y Lucía. Lucía estaba todo el día echada en el muro tomando sol. Margarita pasaba la mayoría del tiempo buscando insectos para sí misma y para sus hijos. Cuando veía a Lucía echada en el muro, se enfadaba.
“¡Tú cómo gastas el tiempo! Si fueras lagartija decente, por fin te preocuparías del bienestar de tus hijos. ¿Qué es lo que haces todo el día allí arriba?” Lucía pestañó y dijo: “Recupero energía. De esta manera sí que hago algo para mis hijos.”
“Lo veo diferente”, gruñó Margarita. “Y un día te llevará el águila ratonera o el halcón.”
“Esperemos a ver qué pasa”, opinó Lucía y se desperezó en el sol. Margarita prefiría buscar presa en la sombra de los arbustos bajos. Pasaba mucho tiempo cazando hormigas. A menudo parecía cansada. Su vida estaba cada día más amenazada: Ya no tenía nada que contraponer a la rapidez de los gatos y a la de las comadrejas.
Los hijos de Lucía se volvieron fuertes y despabilados, todo como ella misma. Pronto empezaron cogiendo las arañas más gordas, los cárabos más rápidos y aun grandes libélulas. Pero lo que les gustaba lo más era echarse en el muro al lado de su madre y estirarse a la luz del sol.

Everything Else

In a land in our time there lived a man, who read a book and found lots of wonderful stories therein. There were true and invented stories, experienced and pensive, enjoyable and painful stories. There were stories which contained stories, and such which were actually not stories. For every story he read, there occurred to him nearly five which he had either experienced or thought up himself. So the thought came to him, that a lot in the world was a story which could be healing for himself and others; he only needed to absorb the healing stories well and to forget the terrible ones immediately. Then he would learn which story he had used when and for what. So he organised his own stories which he knew, and which had become a help to himself and others, or could become so. Sometimes he noted it down when a new story came to his ears and sometimes when a helpful story occurred to him, he memorised it.

Then he saw before him in a picture the storystories of this life arranged in long shelves, as in a large pharmacy. And behind the counter there sat a man who had learnt to listen to himself and others. He was a master of his subjectspecialty. His talent was that he understood how to tell the right thing at the right time to himself and to those who visited him.

The Byre

“Excuse me, please”, I asked, “can you tell me where Mrs Arnold lives?” “That’s easy. Go up to the top behind the byre. She lives in the last house. “Sorry?” “Oh, you’re not from here and you don’t know what a byer is, right?” “Exactly.” “A byre is the same as a bower.”

“… and some people simply don’t want to understand each other …”

Three weeks ago I was on the Festival of Nonviolent Communication in Bialobrzegy near Warsaw, Poland.
There I got to know Ike Lasater, a renowned teacher of Nonviolent Communication. Ike has been doing a lot of Reconciliation and Mediation work. Once he even worked with Romeo and Juliette and their families… look at this video and enjoy to see him work!

The Swop

They both heard it. A quiet coughing and then a snapping for air. The owner of the kiosk had just placed the illustrated magazine on the table while the woman searched her purse for change. She looked down. “Tommy, what’s the matter?” she called, startled. Her Yorkshire terrier lay, lifelessly, on the ground. “That can happen so fast”, murmured the shopkeeper. “Probably a heart attack”, he thought, “too well fed”. The dog was dead, no doubt about it. But what to do now?

The lifeless body could certainly not remain in the shop. But neither did the woman want to carry her dead dog through the village in front of everyone and get caught up in a conversation on every street corner. “Have you perhaps got a box?” she asked. The shopkeeper went into the back and returned. “This is all I’ve got.” He handed her a printed box which had contained a small portable television set a few days earlier. After the dog was packed away in it, the woman left the electronics shop. In front of the shop she met a young man who, loudly and with a distinct foreign accent, shouted: “They all racist, hate foreigners! No one will change!” Angrily he waved his fifty Euro note back and forth in front of the old woman’s face. “But that must be possible!” said the woman. “Come, I’ll change it for you in the electronics shop. Just hold the box for me please while you wait.” The young man nodded contentedly. When the woman returned with the money, he was gone. To her shock, there was also no sign of the box.

“I would like to hand in fifty euros here”, said the old woman later at the police station. “Where did you find it?” asked the police officers and listened to what had happened. “Keep the money”, they said. “It will be difficult to find the right owner.”

Easter Eggs

How does one find Easter eggs? And why do some people search but not find? In case you are searching and have not yet found, allow me, as well as I can, to give you some hints.

Possibility one: very small children will not find any Easter eggs because they do not know what Easter eggs are. Sent off without a guide, they will most likely return with mushrooms and tufts of grass.

Possibility two: slightly biggerolder children know what Easter eggs look like but do not yet understand how to actually “search”. There are different ways of searching. And in case one himself isyou are an Easter egg, one yourself, you must know: A good way to find is to allow oneself to be found.

Possibility three: somewhat biggerstill older children know what Easter eggs look like and how one looks for them, but they possibly search at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Have you ever searched for Easter eggs in places where there are no Easter eggs anywherenone? Then you know what I mean.

Possibility four: the Easter eggs are there, but they look a bit different than they did the previous year. Perhaps one knowsyou know them as being red and blue, and this time they are dyed in camouflage green. The inner image of the eggs does not correspond to the outer one. A frequent reason why people do not find what they are searching for is because it does not look like what they are accustomed to.

Possibility five: the Easter eggs are there and look as they did the previous year, but they are covered by something else. For example, clumps of grass, a piece of bark or an old drainpipe are lying on top of them. What is truly valuable oftentimes hides itself. OneYou must search for it.

When one considersyou consider all these possibilities and still doesdo not find any Easter eggs, there is only one thing that can help: pick up a paint brush and paint, and colour your own Easter eggs, red, yellow and blue, and hide them all over the place. Preferably so that a small, colourful part always peeps out from the green meadow!