Freedom To Express Oneself…

There have been such huge gaps in my blog updates – it’s embarrassing. Honestly, the last few months have been a rollercoaster ride. After coming back from vacationing in India, we were thrust right into the routine of our everyday lives. But is there such a thing as routine in the work life of a professional chaplain?

So much has happened in the last few months both at work and personally. There is plenty to reflect upon and each of the major events in the last few months will be shared in future posts. But for now, I am reflecting on the freedom to express oneself. Apt, I reckon, since it is India’s 72nd Independence Day today.

The world of clinical chaplaincy is so fascinating. I’ve been getting to experience what it is like to be the family of a patient due to hospitalizations of a very close family member. It has pushed me more to reflect on how I felt being in a hospital in a state that I am not familiar with and supported by those who I rely on most for strength and comfort.

Does everyone have the freedom to reach out to those who are a source of strength and comfort for them? Is it possible for loved ones to always be there? Is it not gut-wrenchingly difficult to leave a loved one in the hospital overnight? And in some cases, add on a layer of a language barrier. Can you imagine what it feels like to be them?

In a world full of evidence-based outcomes, how do I ‘show’ what it feels like when my loved one is intubated? How do I ‘show’ the sense of freedom that comes with being to express one’s concerns in a language that is understood by both the care-giver and the care-receiver?

So many questions – some rhetorical of course.

Freedom to express – a beautiful thing nevertheless.

Until next time,

Namaste

“If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door- or i’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

 

Let’s Talk – Organ Donation

One of the most gratifying aspects of hospital chaplaincy is being able to witness how families come together in support of their loved one’s wishes – even if it means going against what they would have wanted for their loved one.

Organ donation is a major, albeit sensitive, topic in a hospital setting. Generally, it has not been a major topic of conversations among families and friends since frankly, it isn’t exactly a fun talk. As a hospital chaplain, I get a chance to walk through with patients and families after they have made a decision to donate organs. The entire process is so profound. Receiving feedback on how many people were helped through donation is even more gratifying, especially for those loved ones left behind.

So what does Hinduism have to say about organ donation? Hindus agree that the body is the temporary carrier for the soul and the soul is a priority. Thus, the attachment to the human body is to be negligible, especially at the time of death. With this belief process, the willingness to donate organs is more understandable. Having said that, the ultimate decision is made by the individual and/or their next of kin. Since Hinduism is such an open source faith tradition, Hinduism Today  has some articles that briefly touch upon different perspectives on organ donation.

There is a lot of work ongoing to promote awareness regarding the need for more organ donors, especially those of Asian, South Asian origin. There is a dire need both here in the USA as well as India. There are some fantastic informercials that are being aired and circulated both on television and on social media. Here’s a link to one from Fortis Healthcare:

 

If possible, please agree to donate.

Until next time,

Namaste

Who am I? Not the body, because it is decaying; not the mind, because the brain will decay with the body; not the personality, nor the emotions, for these also will vanish with death. ~ Ramana Maharshi

Taking A Stand For Dharma And The Need For The Rise of Arjuna(s)

One of the best times of year for me as I’ve mentioned before is the month of Shravan. The entire month is filled with daily devotions entwined with deep significance. Then there’s Rakshabandhan and Janmashtami that fall during the month of Shravan as well.

This Janmashtami, like most years, we went to the local Hindu temple and joined the rest of the community in devotional chants as we awaited the birth of Krishna. There is so much beauty in chanting together with everyone. There are so many emotions as one loses oneself in the rhythm of the tabla and the words of the bhajan. The tempo keeps rising and the prayer hall is filled with a multitude of tones all unified in the chant – as the clock struck midnight – Nand Gher Aanand Bhayo, Jai Kanhaiya Lal Ki. My eyes teared up with emotion and suddenly, my mind began to recite the following verse:

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत । अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् ॥४-७॥

Whenever a decrease of righteousness [Dharma] exists, Arjuna, And there is a rising up of unrighteousness [Adharma] , Then I manifest Myself.

परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् । धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे ॥४-८॥

For the protection of the good and the destruction of evildoers, For the sake of establishing righteousness [Dharma] , I am born in every age.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, Verses: 7-8

My mind fresh with the news of latest atrocities over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, I found myself saying out loud, “Yes, Krishna – this is the time to manifest. We need you now more than ever. There’s so much discrimination and hate right now – we need you now.” And just as I finished saying it, a response in my mind answered, “Then, Uttishtha, Arjuna. I am here. Rise now, and carry forward Dharma.” [For a fabulous explanation of what Dharma means, please refer to this video and listen to it in its entirety. Please!]

I was now seriously freaked out. What was happening? Why was my mind playing these games with me? WHO is talking inside my head? I thought I am really truly exhausted physically and this inner conversation was proof I needed to get some rest. But I could not shake off the feeling. I could not deny the truth, the fact I was being asked to face now – Stand up, Shama. Take a public stand against discrimination, racism, hatred and bigotry. Stand up, as Dharma would expect you to do.

Those near to me and the ones I engage with in real life already know my stand on hatred and bigotry. But I realize that I represent much more than myself. It is time to take a stand as being Dharmic, to take a stand for nonviolence, acceptance, compassion, pluralism and respect for everyone and everything. Always.

So why now? The answer came : Why not now?

Why me?  The answer came : Why not me?

Sri Krishna says in the Gita, as referenced above, that He manifests Himself. In the Mahabharata, Sri Krishna could have easily said, “Alright, everyone. Here, Arjuna, hold the reigns of the horses, manage the chariot. I got this!” But that is not what happens. Had Sri Krishna wanted to do so, could He not have easily managed to? If He did, how would we learn what it means to follow and uphold Dharma?

What does Sri Krishna do instead? He talks to Arjuna, shows him the path to follow Dharma, to uphold Dharma. Yes, Sri Krishna manifests, but not to fight the battles for you. Instead He is the underlying, constant, uplifting, guiding Presence that nudges you forward. Uttishtha, Arjuna – Go ahead, you’ve got this. Follow Dharma. You’ve got this.

So that night at the temple when I ‘heard’ Uttishtha, Arjuna – it was for me and all the Arjunas today. Rise. The World needs you to step up and rise. I am claiming this now once and for always. As a Hindu woman of Indian origin, I stand with all people of color, for all indigenous peoples, for all those who feel that they have no voice, for all species. I stand FOR nonviolence, acceptance, compassion, pluralism and respect for everyone and everything. Always.

Until next time,

Namaste

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~ Rev. Desmond Tutu

I am a Board Certified Chaplain!!!

During the last week of September 2016 on a windy day in the windy city, I dressed up to go and meet my Board Certifying committee. I was nervous. Very nervous. A lot had gone into the journey leading up that day. A lot of tears, a lot of random bursts of laughter and lots and lots of writing.

Here I was walking up to this glass building giving out vibes of corporate environment through and through. I touched my parents’ feet before I entered the building. And towards the end of the interview, I was told:

“We would like to say – Congratulations, Shama. We are recommending you for Board Certification through the Association of Professional Chaplains.”

I’ve been wondering how to express my feelings over becoming a Board Certified Chaplain.

Should I talk about the rush of emotions I felt when the committee said that they will be recommending you for Board Certification or when I finally got THE letter informing me that recommendation has been ratified and that I can use the initials B.C.C. after my name?

Or should I recount the numerous obstacles I had to overcome to even be eligible to appear in front of the committee? The amount of times I broke down and cried my eyes out because a particular hurdle just appeared to be too big to clear? Or the times when I was completely disillusioned?

Should I talk about the times I practiced introducing myself? Board Certified Chaplain of the Hindu faith? Board Certified Hindu Chaplain?

I have been really excited. But repeatedly, my heart keeps circling around one emotion: gratitude. I am so very grateful for every single person who stood by me from the very start of the chaplaincy journey to Board Certification. My family. My friends. My educators – formal and informal.

To those that understood exactly what this is about. To those who were clueless but supported me anyway. To the ones I get to serve. The lessons I continue to learn. The amazing people I have met and continue to meet as I choose to walk this path more consciously. To learning to recognize the Divine handiwork.

To my Gurus.To Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi. To Shivji.  To learning that it is all Brahman.

The adventure has only just begun…

Until next time,

Namaste

Your right is to action alone; Never to its fruits at any time. Never should the fruits of action be your motive; Never let there be attachment to inaction in you. – The Bhagavad Gita 2:47