Spirituality Handout for Support Group
or Individual Use
(Meditations based on the teachings of Nan Geffen.)
Meditation Exercise One - Shema
SHHHHH – Quieting – White noise - chaos
MMMMM – hum, tuning fork - harmony
Take a few minutes to focus on the breath.
Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. Let your breath fill you. Allow your chest to expand to its fullest capacity. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Hear the sound of air as it exits your mouth. Draw this sound out as long as you can as you deflate your lungs.
Feel your body releasing tension you are holding. Let your breath carry it away. Relax the muscles in your feet, legs, body, arms, neck, head.
Watch your breath as it fills your lungs.
Watch as your body expands to receive it.
Then notice your chest contract as your breath begins to depart.Notice your body release it.Keep your mind on your breath.To help stop your mind from wandering, add the Shema.
From Personal to Community
INHALE - Shema – Listen (personal, I need to listen)
EXHALE - Yisrael – All of us (community)
INHALE - Adonai – (my God)
EXHALE - Eloheinu – (our God)
INHALE – Adonai (my God)
EXHALE - Echad – One – Unity with God - unity with all souls
The breath flows in. The breath flows out.
Continue for a few minutes.
Sit quietly for a few moments.
Meditation Exercise Two – Focused Meditatation - Hineini
The Hebrew word, hineini, (hee-nay-nee), means “Here I am.” It was recited by Abraham when God called to him at Mt. Moriah. It was spoken by Moses as God called to him from the Burning Bush. This meditation helps us to focus on being “here,” rather than in the past or the future. Hineini means being physically present, emotionally ready and spiritually opened to the Divine. It means being open to the possibility of a spiritual connection.
Inhale deeply through your nose. Let your breath fill you. Allow your chest to expand to its fullest capacity.
Exhale through your mouth. Hear the sound of air as it exits your mouth. Draw this sound out as long as you can as you deflate your lungs.
Feel your body releasing tension you are holding. Let your breath carry it away.
Repeat several times.
Notice your mind as it begins to quiet down
and your body relaxes.
Move your attention to the word hineini – Here I am.
Focus on hineini
Repeat it silently to yourself.
Hineini – here I am.
Let the word become filled with your breath. Merge with it so that you experience being fully present.
Hineini. Here I am.
Hineini – Here I am
Readiness to receive
Hineini – Here I am
When your mind wanders, do not judge yourself. Simply notice where you have gone and return to hineini.
If you are distracted by the sounds around you, notice them and return to hineini.
Hineini – Here I am.
To end the meditation, sit quietly for a few minutes.
Throughout humanity, people have had to deal with difficult and challenging situations. Psalms are a record of people pouring their hearts out to God. Some of the following Psalms have been edited slightly to make the Psalm more personal for an Alzheimer’s family member. (Note: Adonai is the Hebrew word for God or Lord. I purposely did not use the name “God” in these Psalms but changed them to a different name for God such as “The Eternal One.” Each person has his or her own understanding of God. Sometimes it comes with “baggage” attached. The idea is to free you from specific theology and just feel the cries of the Psalmists.)
Psalm 13 – Feeling Alone or Abandoned
How long, Adonai; will You ignore me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long will I have cares on my mind, grief in my heart all day?
How long will my enemy (this disease)
have the upper hand?
Look at me, answer me, Eternal One!
Restore the luster to my eyes,
lest I sleep the sleep of despair;
Lest my enemy (this disease) say,“I have overcome him,” my foes exult when I totter.
But I trust in Your faithfulness,
my heart will exult in Your deliverance.
I will sing to Adonai, for the Source of Healing has been good to me.
Psalm 23 – Wanting/Feeling Support
The Eternal is my shepherd; I lack nothing.
You help me lie down in green pastures; You leads me to water in places of repose;
You renew my life; You guide me in right paths as befits Your name.
Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness, I fear no harm, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff — they comfort me.
You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies (this disease);
You anoint my head with oil; my drink is abundant.
Let goodness and steadfast love pursue me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of Adonai forever.
Psalm 25 - Hope
Adonai, I set my hope on You; Eternal One,
in You I trust;
May I not be disappointed, may my enemies (the disease) not exult over me.
Guide me in Your true way and teach me, or You are Adonai, my deliverer;
It is You I look to at all times.
AdonaiI, be mindful of Your compassion and Your faithfulness.
Be not mindful of my youthful sins and transgressions;
In keeping with Your faithfulness consider what is in my favor,
As befits Your goodness, Adonai.
My eyes are ever toward You,
for You will loosen my feet from the net.
Turn to me, have mercy on me, for I am afflicted.
My deep distress increases; deliver me from my straits.
Look at my affliction and suffering.
May integrity and uprightness watch over me,
for I look to You.
Eternal Source of Healing, redeem Israel (my family) from all its distress.
Psalm 30 - Giving Thanks
I extol You, Adonai, for You have lifted me up,
and not let my enemies rejoice over me.
Eternal One, I cried out to You, and You healed me.
ADONAI, You brought me up from Sheol (the dark place),
Preserved me from going down into the Pit.
O you faithful of the Holy One, sing to Adonai, and praise the holy name.
One may lie down weeping at nightfall; but at dawn there are shouts of joy.
When I was untroubled, I thought, “I shall never be shaken,”
When You hid Your face, I was terrified.
I called to You, Adonai; to the One I made appeal,
“What is to be gained from my descent into the Pit?
Hear, Adonai, and have mercy on me; Adonai, be my help!”
Turn my mourning into dancing, and girded me with joy,
That my whole being might sing hymns to You endlessly;
Eternal One, I will praise You forever.
Psalm 38 – Feeling Burdened
Adonai, do not punish me in wrath;
do not chastise me in fury.
For my iniquities (challenges) have overwhelmed me;
They are like a heavy burden, more than I can bear.
I am all bent and bowed;
I walk about in gloom all day long.
I roar because of the turmoil in my mind.
Eternal One, You are aware of all my entreaties; my groaning is not hidden from You.
My mind reels; my strength fails me;
my eyes too have lost their luster.
My friends and companions stand back from my affliction; my kinsmen stand far off.
I am like a deaf man, unhearing,
like a dumb man who cannot speak up;
I am like one who does not hear,
who has no retort on his lips.
But I wait for You, Adonai;
You will answer, Source of Healing.
For I am on the verge of collapse;
my pain is always with me.
Do not abandon me, Adonai, be not far from me;
Hasten to my aid, Source of Healing.
Psalm 88 – Feeling Down – Hear My Cries
O Adonai of my deliverance, when I cry out in the night before You,
Let my prayer reach You; incline Your ear to my cry.
For my soul is sated with misfortune;
I am at the brink of Sheol (this dark place).
I am numbered with those who go down to the Pit;
I feel helpless, and abandoned,
Like have put me at the bottom of the Pit, in the darkest places, in the depths.
My companions shun me;
I am shut in and do not go out.
My eyes pine away from affliction;
I call to You, Adonai, each day;
I stretch out my hands to You.
I cry out to You, Adonai;
Each morning my prayer greets You.
Do You reject me? Do You hide Your face from me?
I cry out to You, Adonai.
Psalm 121 – Finding Strength
I lift my eyes to the mountains;
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Eternal,
maker of heaven and earth.
Adonai will not let your foot give way
your guardian will not slumber;
See, the guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps!
The Eternal is your guardian, Adonai is your protection at your right hand.
By day the sun will not strike you,
nor the moon by night.
I call to you Adonai, guard me from all harm;
guard my life.
Guard my going and coming now and forever.
Modeh Ani - The Talmudic rabbis believed that when you slept, your soul visited God. God would return your soul to you when you awoke so you could continue living.
Kabbalah teaches that there are different parts of the soul. Using this concept, I wrote a modified version of the Modeh Ani prayer imagining that when my father seemed distant or not really all “there,” that the part of his soul which was his personality, was visiting God. When my father had moments of clarity it was as if God returned that part of my father’s soul to him, and to us. Adapted by Rabbi Michele Medwin (Changes are in capital letters.)
FOR A MAN WHO HAS ALZHEIMER’S DEMENTIA
Modeh/Modah ani l’fanecha, melech chai v’kayam.She-hechezarta BO NISHMATO BA-Z’MAN HAZEH, b’chemla, Rabah emunatecha.
I offer thanks to You, ever-living Sovereign, that you have restored HIS n’shamah to HIM, AT THIS MOMENT, with mercy. How great is Your trust.
FOR A WOMAN WHO HAS ALZHEIMER’S DEMENTIA
Modeh/Modah ani l’fanecha, melech chai v’kayam.She-hechezarta BA NISHMATA BA-Z’MAN HAZEH, b’chemla, Rabah emunatecha.
I offer thanks to You, ever-living Sovereign, that you have restored HER n’shamah to HER, AT THIS MOMENT, with mercy. How great is Your trust.
Elohai Neshama – A Pure Soul (We give thanks for the wonder and uniqueness of our souls. We remember that our loved one’s soul is still present.)
The soul that you have given me, O God, is a pure one. You have created and formed it, breathed it into me, and within me you sustain it. So long as I have breath, therefore I will give thanks to You, Eternal God and God of all ages, Master of all creation, God of every human spirit. Blessed is the Eternal, in whose hands are the souls of all the living and the spirits of all flesh.
Creative Prayer based on Traditional Jewish Liturgy
Mi Sheberach for Chronic Illness
by Rabbi Michele Brand Medwin
Eternal God, I ask for mercy and compassion
for me and my family, burdened with chronic illness.
Give us the strength and courage to face the daily challenges in our lives.
Compassionate One, give us hope for the future
and at the same time, acceptance of the present.
Help us to find a path towards spiritual wholeness.
Be by our side.
Help us to know that You are with us at all times,
even in times of doubt.
Source of Healing, comfort us
and bring healing to our souls. Amen
A Caregiver’s Prayer
Sustainer of the Universe, help me to care for my loved one, with hope, courage and sensitivity. Grant me insight, resourcefulness and the ability to ask for help
And to accept help when it is needed. May I find the patience to overcome difficult moments and to find meaning and purpose in the smallest task.
O Eternal God, help me to remember to take care of myself so that I may have the strength to help others.
Be with me and my loved one, as we journey on this path together.
May the One who makes peace in the Heavens,
Bring peace to me, to my family and loved ones,
and to us all.
One Line Verses for Meditation Mantra or Reading Throughout the Day
Be strong and of good courage; have no fear . . . for the Eternal One, your God, is the One who goes with you, never failing you or forsaking you. Deuteronomy 31:5
Those who hope in God will renew their strength and soar on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31
I see your journey, and I bring healing. I will guide you and bring solace to you. Says the Eternal God: I will heal you! Isaiah 57:18-19
Do not despair because of suffering, for life is suffering. Suffering and also joy. When life brings you suffering, hurt. When life brings you joy, laugh.
Mishnah Avot 1:7
The prayer of a sick person is answered not by having his disease disappear but by his gaining the sense of God’s nearness, the assurance that his illness is not a punishment from God and that God has not abandoned him. Harold Kushner
It may be difficult to believe that we can learn from adversity, yet it is our best teacher. It can open our eyes to things we couldn’t see before; It can make us grow in ways we never knew; It can give us the precious gift of compassion; It can teach us a universal truth: Life is not fair; And if we are very thoughtful, it can lead us to God. Maurice Lamm
When you need a place to turn, turn to God. Even if you never thought to do so, it is easy. Here’s how:
-Talk in your own language, the way you would to a friend.
-Do this when no one else is around to hear.
-Don’t feel guilty for neglecting to do it up to now. God has been waiting to hear from you and is delighted.
-If it is hard at first, keep trying. Practice makes perfect.
-Ask for God’s help - that is what God is there for.
-Tell God everything, God knows it all anyway.
Rabbi Medwin is available to speak to groups about "Alzheimer's Families."
Additional Readings for a Funeral or Unveiling of a Person Who Died From Alzheimer’s Dementia
written by Chris Mann, Laura Mann, Rudy Tanzi, Willy Beaman, Dora Kovacs
I need someone to hold, to hold on for me
To what I can’t seem to hold on to
The life we used to live, is slipping through my fingertips
Like a thread that’s unraveling
I suppose that nothing lasts forever, and everything is lost in its time.
When I can’t find the words that I’m trying to speak
When I don’t know the face in the mirror I see
When I feel I’m forgotten and lost in this world
Won’t you please remember me
There is a Time
Based on Ecclesiastes 3
There is a time for everything, a time for every experience under heaven:
A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;
A time for tearing down and a time for building up;
A time for weeping and a time for laughing,
a time for wailing and a time for dancing;
A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;
A time for seeking and a time for losing,
a time for keeping and a time for discarding;
A time for silence and a time for speaking.
A time to hate and a time to love.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to blame and a time to forgive.
And God said, “I forgive you, as you have asked.” Num. 14:20
We Don’t Mean To - It’s Always the Disease
From the blog of Rick Phelps who has Early Onset Alzheimer’s dementia
The one thing I’d like family members to realize
is that "we don't mean to."
When your loved one does the things they do,
they don't mean to.
When they say things that offend you, hurt you,
they don't mean to.
When I say over and over "What time is it? What day is it?"
I don't mean to.
It’s the disease.
It's not the person doing what they do.
It's not the person saying what they say.
It is indeed the disease. It's always the disease...
The Gift of Remembering
Eternal God, Master of mercy,
give us the gift of remembering.
May the memories of our loved one be tender and true,
undiminished by time;
let us recall him, and love him, as he was.
When dying is over, a different kind of memory takes over.
Not the memory that is obituary.
Not the memory that records the past indiscriminately.
But an active memory that sifts through the ashes of the past to retrieve isolated moments and that gives heart to the future.
That memory is an act that raises up from oblivious
the glories of forgotten years. Even the memories of failure, the recollections of frustration and regret are precious.
Broken memories are like the tablets Moses shattered,
placed lovingly in the holy Ark of remembrance.
What is life after death?
Pointers, ensigns, marking places
that raise us up to life and give us a changed heart.
Perhaps a life lived differently, better, wiser,
stronger than before.
What is left after death? The life of the survivor.
The Moments Shared
We remember the moments shared,
the times of celebration and the times of difficulty.
We also remember the times of warmth and closeness,
and the times of love and companionship.
We will continue to treasure
all that was good in our father and husband’s life,
and we will retain that good in the fabric of our own lives.
In Our Hearts
From the Blog of Rick Phelps
Did you ever stop and think where all our loved ones are?
They are in our heart.
This disease will affect me in ways
I cannot even imagine in time.
But it will never be able to change my heart.
That is where every loved one I have resides.
When I am unable to communicate, unable to speak,
Unable to recognize my loved ones,
And to tell them how much I love you, my heart knows.
When we tell someone we love them,
Many times you hear "I love you with all my heart."
You won't hear, "I will love you with all my mind."
Everything we do, it is because of our brain telling us to.
However, we love each other with our hearts.
Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be overwhelming. Unlike other serious diagnoses like cancer and heart disease, which often have positive outcomes, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. Having a family member with Alzheimer's affects the entire family. While most people think having the disease means memory loss, there are many more symptoms that go along with the disease including changes in personality, lack of motivation, apathy, changes in sleep patterns, lack of social filters, and wandering. All of these symptoms are invisible to the outside world so family members often suffer in silence.
This book was written to educate family members, their friends, clergy, mental health counselors and psychotherapists, and others that deal with family members or Alzheimer's patients. It offers emotional and spiritual tools to help families cope.
Chapter I: Everyone Knows Someone Who Has It
Chapter 2: Mental Health Care for Family Members.
Chapter 3: Grief and Loss
Chapter 4: Family Dynamics
Chapter 5: Why Some Families Feel Less Burdened
Chapter 6: A Spiritual Understanding
Chapter 7: Clergy Support for Families
Chapter 8: New Insights
Rabbi Michele Brand Medwin, M.A.H.L., O.D., D.Min.