October 2013. I have successfully, willingly, and openly completed a 3-day training on the method of Heart Touch. I have learned to connect to individuals, specifically gravely ill patients, on a deeper and a more existential level. I started my first position as a professional social worker for a hospice agency about a year and a half ago. I am thrilled, excited, anxious, and “green”, as many of my colleagues have lovingly labeled me. I am so proud of myself and also so curious to see where this road may lead me. I feel that my life’s purpose has been answered in my official acceptance of the title of, “Hospice Medical Social Worker”, but yet… I’m still in awe. Awe of the gravity and universal importance that the role, the title, the calling brings. It’s easy, oh so very easy, to be carried away in logistics and routine. However, it’s times like today that I remember the importance, the honor, and the blessing it is to do this holy work.
Rewind: I am currently a 25-year-old Korean American female living in Los Angeles. I have driven through K-12 education on the very common Asian-American notion that one must ace school and gather as many credits to fill one’s resume to be successful in life. In a sense, it is a sad but somewhat reliable truth that many immigrant Asians have passed onto their children in the quest of the American dream. However, I fell “short” of that quest when I decided to throw away the “logical” and “safe” options of pursing the paths of highly “successful” careers such as physician, lawyer, engineer, pharmacist,“anything-rooted-in-math/science-jobs” and chose psychology for my BA in undergrad. Initially, this was a slap on the cheek for my parents, but I just felt that understanding the human mind was a calling. It was more than attending the lectures, learning about Freudian slips and classical conditioning based on rewards and punishments. It was, instead, learning about how society transformed and molded people in every day life, maybe, even without the person’s knowing.
As my 4th year in undergrad drew closer, I figured, “hey Al. Let’s just get this over with. Let’s figure out where to get our next degree and dive into work so that school will never again loom over our consciousness.” In that process, I was exposed to the field of social work. Unlike common misinterpretation, social work turned out to be more than the Department of Child and Family Services that “snatches” kids away from abusive parents (it kills me now to even admit that, that was my preconceived notion of social work) or magical government workers that gathered money for the poor (still a myth I try to debunk to patients, families, and colleagues alike). Instead, I found a framework to look at society that aligned exactly with my personal beliefs.
As I navigated through volunteer work, academia, and personal experiences, I was drawn to the hospice philosophy by the literal and general adherence to the very essence of my understanding of others: the biopsychosocial/spiritual perspective. Eventually, as stated in the beginning, I landed myself an amazing gift and honor of being a hospice social worker. As a hospice social worker, I accompanied patients, families, and even colleagues through thoughts, conversations, and experiences of life. Yes, hospice is a philosophy that focuses on pain/symptom management for individuals at the end of life: however, I found that the key word in that definition is not “end” but LIFE”
Very soon after I was welcomed into the hospice team, I was exposed to the idea of Heart Touch for patients receive hospice serivces: compassionate touch. Light massage and gentle touch, were the most common catch phrases I heard when people talked about HeartTouch. Light massage: I love getting pampered, but don’t get me wrong, not everyone likes that and I don’t feel “called” to pamper my patients in that manner. Gentle touch: I have been doing that to my friends and families without labeling it for as long as I can remember, so why do I need to be trained for that? Why should I dedicate an entire weekend to learning about that?!
3 days with the Heart Touch Project. No: 2.5 days. That’s all I ask you to give. Just try it. If you are working in the medical field, if you are working in a counseling/therapeutic position, if you are working with children or older adults, if you are working with animals, if you are in a romantic relationship, if you are in contact with your parents or ailing family members, if you are interacting hands-on with people, if you are a teacher… the list goes on! If you are interacting with humans, this training is for you.
Furthermore, if you are forgetting about who you are, if you are looking for a deeper meaning to life, if you want to give your time to a greater cause but don’t know how, if you want some time for reflection and meaning-making, and so much more…. This training is also for you.
Last but definitely not least, if you are a person that in any way is interested in patient care or hospice care, professionally or on a volunteer basis, please please please. I urge you, please. Sacrifice a weekend to this training. You will not be let down.
We will be more MINDFUL by the practice and lens of Heart Touch. Please be open to accept this invitation and CHALLENGE yourself to learn, experience, and provide this one avenue of love to others. Thank you!