Book Review

            “May you have the commitment to heal what has hurt you, to allow it to come close to you and in the end become one with you.” 1.

Richard Groves, the founder of Sacred Art of Living and Dying  Educational Series, has written a manual for spiritual healing at the end-of-life based on his research, personal experience as a hospice chaplain for nearly 30 years and education. His writing partner is Henriette Anne Kauser, whose key role was to transcribe and shape the content of the book. 2.

The first portion of the book offers a historical survey of the end-of-life care throughout the centuries, crossing over cultures East and West.

         “Our Western ancestors created guides and manuals, for their work, but there is no “one size fits all” model to relieve spiritual pain.” 3.

This is the main premise of the book: how to heal spiritual pain at the end-of-life. Groves draws largely on the ancient term, Anamcara, a Celtic word meaning Soul Friend or spiritual midwife with skills in end-of-life caregiving.

The segment on Becoming an Anamcara, outlines:

10 Commandments of for the Anamcara

 1. BE PRESENT. . . . 2. TRUST THAT WHO YOU ARE IS ENOUGH. . . . 3. SHARE WITH YOUR FRIEND AS AN EQUAL.  . . . 4. LISTEN RATHER THAN BE CONCERNED WITH DOING. . . . 5. PAY ATTENTION TO CHANGING PRIORITIES. . . . 6. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR NEEDS AND FEELINGS. . . . 7. JUST KEEP BREATHING. . . . 8. PAY ATTENTION TO THE CLUES. . . . 9. REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE. . . . . . . . 10. GREIVE AND KEEP REMEMBERING.

In Commandment 9, Groves writes,

          “Our ancestors spoke of death as a natural friend who will eventually bring relief and welcome us home.” 4.

How different dying in the 1500s was compared to today. Could you imagine a doctor offering such a soothing interpretation of death to a dying patient in our present culture?

The second segment of the book teaches diagnosing and healing spiritual pain through nine true-to-life stories. Each lesson highlights a specific archetype with a certain spiritual pain and concludes with a Spiritual Diagnosis, Presumptions surrounding the individuals of the story and Lessons for the Anamcara.

Though the work reads slightly like recipe cards, Groves’ experience and wisdom is tangible and the tools and insights are useful. Each one of the stories is based on his real life accounts as a hospice chaplain and each is a truly remarkable and inspiring journey through the dying and healing process. Groves’ writing partner, Henriette Klauser, was able to bundle each story as a whole, give each a unique depth. The power of her writing is that she is able to share the healing in each story with the reader. 

The final section of Groves’ book, The Tool Chest, describes in great detail the healing tools used in the former stories, each with ample resources for further training and the level of expertise needed to apply the tool without causing harm.  His comprehensive list of alternative therapies includes: Art Therapy, Breath Work, Coma Therapy, Dream Work, Energy Therapies, Forgiveness Exercises, Guided Visualization, Healing and Assistance from Ancestors, Healing Religious Abuse and Images of God, Intercessory (Non-Local) Prayer, Journaling, Life Review Exercises, Meditation Practices, Music Therapy, Religious Rites and Sacred Writings, Rituals for the Bedside, Rituals of Release and Vigil Rituals and Rituals for Remembering.

The Groves manual illustrates a real comparison of end-of-life care.

            “The realities of bureaucratic regulations and the reluctance of the physician to refer patients to hospice early enough leave the system burdened with impossible expectations. A dramatic decrease in the length of stay (the number of days a person receives hospice care before their death) means that many of the classical tools for addressing spiritual pain are left untried. In many states, patients spend no more than a week in hospice care, whereas our ancestors consciously journeyed for months with their terminally ill.” 5.

I recommend Groves’ & Klauser’s book for its attempt to harness a value-system that speaks to,

         “an entire society [that] was once committed to doing whatever it took to support the peaceful dying of its citizens. Aspects of this ancient healing art are relevant today.” 6.

Living wisdom in the present moment, without a doubt we see a shift today in our desire of wanting more authentic living experiences. Grassroots collectives are sprouting up all over the globe, connecting people who are in touch with life supporting life, which includes death as a birth rite.

 

 Notes

1. p. 24.

2. www.sacredartofliving.org

3. p. 14.

4. p. 59.

5. p. 20.

6. p.14