Friday, 8 April 2016


I regularly attended a weekly Satsang a few years back. (Satsang in Indian religions is being in the company of the truth or the good, by sitting together with a guru or a group of spiritual students) It was a time of great personal change and I was struggling to adjust to my new circumstances. I found great comfort in the practice as it opened my awareness to greater possibilities and new horizons of exploration.
Illustrations © Barbara J Holzapfel

One beautiful aspect of a Satsang is that the information being shared is unfolding in such an organic method that one can receive it in very personal, intimate terms. Each week I would leave the gathering bewildered, wondering.. how could the speaker have known what I needed to hear? Because every Satsang was like listening to streaming information from God/Spirit/Cosmos, devoid of any particular plan or agenda, it was an opportunity to be present without a specific expectation. I just never knew what was going to happen.. what was going to be talked about and how it was going to touch me.

I now find that sitting in silence, with no specific agenda, I often arrive at a similar place of peace and understanding that those sage encounters presented. Apparently all that is required is that I show up, ready to listen, and willing to hear.

Ultimately some experiences are only available to lone explorers.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016


There is a serious tug of war going on in end-of-life care. Consensus says that a stimulated lifestyle will uplift and potentially prolong living for those nearing the end of their life. With the ultimate goal being a long, rich life, it's reasonable that a compassionate approach to care would include creative activities, familiar visitors, and plenty of opportunities for social engagement.

In nursing homes all over the country the elderly are escorted from their rooms to gather in the common area and listen to joyful children sing, learn a new craft, or simply enjoy a coffee with the other residents. Sounds good, unless the resident is not as comfortable being as social as others may deem normal.

We know Christina's essential nature is to be friendly but solitary. At the hight of her mobility she was never one to go for coffee with the girls or volunteer to be involved in a local event. Her independence following the loss of her husband several years ago has been paramount in her personal goal for living a good life. She has spent the last decade living happily alone in her own home with little to no community involvement. To meet our goal of providing compassionate care for my mother-in-law, my husband and I must continually revisit what fits with her current emotional and physical state.

We believe offering the opportunity and encouragement to choose how her time is spent will help us in maintaining supportive, compassionate care.

Monday, 14 March 2016


As human beings born into this multidimensional world, our earliest movements are inspired by purpose; we cry to be comforted, we suck to feel full, we squint to understand what it is we are seeing. Eventually we evolve beyond our intrinsic motivation to survive and we reach simply to see how far we can reach. Every thought, feeling, and action continues to be provoked by the inexplicable power of purpose.

Like a locomotive carrying it's load safely along a winding mountain pass, purpose carries us throughout our well lived lives. When the end of life is creeping up this familiar sense of purpose begins to twist and turn and confusion ensues. The journey is coming to a close. The solid motivating purpose that has driven our living since our very conception has run out of fuel. The once powerful force supporting our every desire is now a hallow suggestion. Even the small, seemingly insignificant tasks ache for direction.

For many nearing the unfamiliar transition from life to death, there arrives a period of time where purpose transmutes from reaching out to resting in. Living shifts from action, to reception.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


There is a letting go that one must embrace during the dying process. At some point attachment to this physical world and all those we love diminishes, and we lean into the next stage of our soul's evolution. The soul leaving planet earth is not alone. Their family and friends must also face the ultimate surrender when they witness the inevitable decline of their beloved.

Illustrations © Barbara J Holzapfel
Our desperation to save our loved one and avoid the ultimate separation, pitted against the desire to provide compassionate, supportive palliative care, takes place on the final battle ground.. the death bed.

The ultimate question; how do we hold their hand without holding them back?

Wednesday, 17 February 2016


As our family struggled to manage eight months of shared 24 hour care for our matriarch in her own home, tension increased and tempers flared. Understandably, one by one, family members eventually leaned back to return to their own lives and leave the care giving to the remaining willing and able siblings. It finally became clear recently that, in order to maintain compassionate family care and provide a peaceful, safe environment, my husband and I would have to move my mother-in-law into our home and fully commit to her ongoing care indefinitely.

It was surprising how willing, even eager, she was to move out of her lifelong home. We then realised that the uncertain, ever-changing shifts of helpers coming and going was taking it's toll not only on the family, but on her too.

Our initial objective was to create a loving, safe, inclusive home experience for Christina. Her grandson's purchased a nice new television for her to watch in the sitting room, while we set to work to cozy up her bedroom in the warmest room in the house. A couple of days prior to the move we had our boiler serviced and increased the heat in the house to meet her desired temperature. Very warm!

Our local, government Homecare organisation has been very helpful and a valuable resource for advice and information. A few days after moving Christina into our home we had two members of the Homecare team come to have a look at how we were making out and offer suggestions on how we may keep her safe and comfortable while taking care of our own wellbeing.

Although the transition went well for the most part, there is an ongoing process of learning what works for the space and the care, depending on how she is on any given day. It is a fluid dance I share with my husband and this remarkable woman we dearly love.

Saturday, 12 December 2015


As the snow gently falls past my second story studio window, I notice a silence struggling to be heard. I turn off my music and listen. The snow laden trees are so still and accepting of this season of hibernation. It's as though the spirits of these great trees have leaned back to give the world a rest from life. I perceive no arguments from these giants, no determinations to stay relevant in this sleeping forest. Only simple and absolute acceptance.

I suppose I will notice the same resignation when the season turns to spring, and life once again flourishes outside my window. There will be no resistance to the cacophony of growth. Life will feel the undeniable urge to blossom and it will be so.

I find myself noticing these phenomenon with a tender heart. For the last several months I have been participating in the 24 hour care of my mother-in-law, Christina. She still lives in the same house she and her husband built almost seventy years ago; the same house in which they raised their five children. She is a strong spirited woman and I love her deeply.

As her community medical team and loving family strives to keep her body functioning she pleads to be permitted to just sleep away her remaining time on earth. She is caught between the desire to be physically and emotionally comfortable and her longing to be finished.

My medical wise friends tell me this long term care could go on and on. We could be putting the rest of our lives on hold for years in order to allow this elderly woman the peace of remaining in her own home. I find myself saddened at the thought of her continued conflict. Her spirit desperately wants this living business to be over, while her physical body just isn't finished quite yet.

Acceptance of what is may be elusive if the democratic nature of body and soul is at odds.

Thursday, 1 October 2015


A woman's body does not require permission to do what must be done in order to give birth. It knows what it must do and does it.. contractions come and go.. pain ebbs and flows. When I had my daughter, I discovered that resisting the contractions created the most panic and discomfort. The more I surrendered the control over my body, the less pain and fear I experienced. If I was able to breath above the pain everything seemed to move more gracefully.

Just as my baby's body knew how to grow fingers and toes within my womb, my body knew exactly what to do in order for this new life to make it's way out of my body and continue on it's earthly physical existence.

Death is a similar process. When the human body begins it's letting go of life in the matter of this world, the soul must also relinquish ownership of the familiar vessel it has called home throughout it's life on earth. As my baby eventually outgrew my womb and moved on to fulfil her personal destiny, my soul will one day release it's grasp on my body and transition out of this physical realm.

Illustrations © Barbara J Holzapfel
I suspect that a baby believes life is over when they are rudely evicted from their warm, familiar life inside their mother's womb and rushed into the glaring greater life on earth. I believe that, when I am no longer able to reside within my reliable physical body, I will be released into a whole new extraordinary world of spirit.