Ginny has extensive experience working on the special circumstances surrounding death and dying.
Ginny came into hospice care unexpectedly â€“ which is often the case when a beloved family member becomes terminally ill. Her father, with lifelong hemophilia, came from Oregon to the Bay Area for special surgery. He became gradually weaker, and the trajectory of his last days became clear. His siblings and a host of new friends came to visit this twinkly person, who knew more songs than all his visitors combined. His grandchildren drummed, played the flute, sang and laughed with him, spellbound with his stories. In and out of coma, his passing was ultimately aided with a shamanic sound process.
A few years later, an aunt who'd been a second mother in Ginny's childhood became too ill to live alone hundreds of miles away from family. A hard choice was made to bring her to the Bay Area, away from her familiar Southern California community. She was independent, a pioneer as a professional woman who'd helped pave the way for the generations of working women who followed. Her gracious acceptance of need was an important gift â€“ shown in her capacity to find pleasure in tracking nature outside her window, in wistful mother-daughter remembrances with her niece Ginny, in afternoon root-beer floats and evening gin and tonics. Through this opportunity, Ginny came to understand the nuances of the heart, and of communication, the anguish of difficult decisions, the on-going processes of surrender of both patient and caretaker.
With others nearing the end of life who've chosen to die at home, Ginny provides the compassion and capacity to hear the stories that have a hard time being spoken. She widens the horizons for someone who will never leave home again. She hears the secrets and regrets that help a person make peace with his or her life, sometimes facilitating dialogues, sometimes helping to create self-acceptance, sometimes opening doors of perception.
Songs and story-telling have always been a part of Ginny' life, and those resources find their way into her communications with people. She taps into them spontaneously, and they're met with recognition that the feelings of the patients have been deeply understood â€“ and that they're universal as well as profoundly personal.
Ginny's background in the natural world, in mountain climbing and trekking, in working with shamans in the Andes, has provided personal confrontations with life and death, with extreme commitment to survival. Her will to survive has fueled a trusted bond with the natural world that she's able to communicate, encouraging peoples' willingness and ability to recognize the natural processes in which they're engaged. Her own experiences with near-death events have given her a very personal understanding of these challenges.
Training opportunities through Metta Institute, through San Jose's Hospice of the Valley, and through Zen Hospice training preceded (and entwine with) the opportunity to volunteer at Laguna Honda Hospital - in early days called "God's Hospital", the last alms-house in America. Volunteers precede and end each day's service with a Zen sitting practice, broadening their own spiritual presence.
THE ROLE OF STORY
Ginny participates in the Zen Hospice Story Project, recording patients' personal stories which can be kept for themselves and their families, or which they may choose to make available to the Library of Congress.
Outside of that venue as well, people near the end of their lives may discover meaning of incidents or past relationships through telling their stories. It can confirm the joys and sorrows of challenging life journeys.
Caretakers may also be helped in their own healing by sharing their stories. It can be an intense time of anguish at witnessing the suffering of a loved one, or holding in silence their own secrets, burdens, or personal suffering â€“ even celebrating unsung victories.
San Bruno Mountain, where the San Bruno Mountain Watch has long been dedicated to endangered species, has a number of plants and butterflies whose survival strategies are worth noting. When possible, Ginny brings people to the mountain to engage in various ways of contact with these life forms whose innate wisdom has kept them alive here. Even when that's not possible, she shares their wisdom through story and through guided meditations. New insights may inspire a different way of holding a challenge, of dealing with an anticipated treatment, of making peace with a legacy.
HANDS-ON ART EXPLORATION
Dream shields can be created that hold representations of dream elements, and can display symbols that may speak as the dream contents are kept available through collage or drawing.
Breastplates of protection can be created to help explore attitudes about anticipated treatments, about developing a relationship with the machines and medicines involved in treatment, Using natural materials from palm trees, decorated with symbols of all kinds, a tactile journey lets the fingers speak.
A group experience of a ponq'o, a healing practice from the shamanic practitioners of the Andes, allows friends to share their highest intentions for the wellbeing of the person who is ill. Guided through a process of connecting with the movement and energy of the universe and of the earth, we bring that focus to bear on the well-being of the person who's ill.
With the shamanic practice of Eating Hucha applied to the process of personal healing, one can learn to handle anxiety and apprehension so that the patient can become a more full participant in the healing process. It's similar to the Buddhist practice of "tonglen", translated as "giving and taking".
Making a despacho, either individually or with a group of caring people, to connect the positive energy field carried within the self to the energy, or chi field, present everywhere in the universe.
All of these shamanic practices are means of becoming aware of the energy field within and without, and experiencing the potential connection possible to all of us.
They can be done individually, or in the context of community, indoors or out.