Stories that Heal
One of the aspects of the Healing Journey Programme that people love is the storytelling. Each week we have either a story or a poem, and one of the wonderful sources of stories we use is Rachel Remen’s Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal. (Amazon links – UK – US – Canada.)
We were therefore delighted to find that Rachel Remen had brought out another remarkable book My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging. (Amazon links – UK – US – Canada.)
Dean Ornish has written of the book:
“Rachel is a true genius of the heart, mind and soul. This is one of the most extraordinarily moving books I have ever read, one of the few that really can transform your life. I am a better person for having read it.”
Rachel Remen is co-founder of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program in California, clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, and has counselled people with chronic and terminal illness for over 30 years.
The main power of the book lies in the stories themselves but here are some of the meaningful points I found in it:
The power of being present to others without agenda that enables people to be in touch with their own wisdom.
When “nothing can be done” from a medical point of view, the importance of staying with someone to bear witness so no-one need suffer alone.
The importance for all of us of holding our own hearts tenderly rather than repressing our losses, carrying pain ungrieved, and becoming hard and numb.
Caring deeply makes us vulnerable. Finding the right kind of protection is the first responsiblity of anyone wanting to make a difference in the world. This involves finding an inner place of refuge and strength rather than putting something between ourselves and the world.
“In the depths of every wound we have survived is the strength we need to live. The wisdom our wounds can offer us is a place of refuge.”
In order to see life in a new way, there are three questions you can ask yourself at the end of the day: What surprised me today? What moved me or touched me today? What inspired me today?
Finding meaning is often not about doing things differently, it is about seeing familiar things in new ways.
Rachel had a most unusual grandfather – an orthodox Rabbi – although her parents were atheist socialists. Before he died, her grandfather had the opportunity to instill the sense in her that life itself is sacred – an inheritance that she has taken forward in the most fruitful ways.
As she says, and lives out, “Every act of loving kindness… repairs the world”.