By Rabbi Melech Lensky
When patients share about the physical pain they experience, I feel sad that they must live with this challenge, and disappointed that I cannot palliate it in some way. (Granted, chaplains are not “fixers,” but hopefully there stirs in our souls a wish to help others and improve their lot.)
Recently, I read an interesting article titled “Pain, Spirituality, and Meaning Making: What Can We Learn from the Literature?” Authors Carol J. Lysne and Amy B. Wachholtz concluded from a study that “Words and images that evoke the presence of love, support, and/or comfort appear to have a salutary effect on pain.”
This prompted me to ask how I might put this finding into practice in a spiritual fashion in ministry. The result is this intervention. Please read it, use it if you wish, and feel free to share your thoughts, suggestions and findings about it.
Step 1: Ask the patient to share generally about his or her spiritual values and sources of support.
Step 2: Ask the patient what words evoke love, support or comfort; or what symbols, images or objects provide love, support or comfort. As a follow-up, ask how these words or images support the patient.
Step 3: Ask the patient to close his or her eyes for 60 seconds and to focus on the word or symbol. The chaplain can guide the meditation by gently reminding the patient from time to time to keep his or her focus on the word or symbol.
Step 4: Ask the patient how the “meditation” affected him or her. Did it tamp down the level of pain? Did it make the pain easier to bear? What else did they feel?
Step 5: Ask the patient if he or she could perform this meditation by himself or herself from time to time to tamp down the pain or make it easier to bear.
Rabbi Melech Lensky, BCC, is a staff chaplain at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, WI. He can be contacted at [email protected].