Beginner's Mind and Dis-orientation to CPE: A New Beginning

Today was the second day of my first experience of Clinical Pastoral Education. Yesterday was officially “orientation,” which was hospital-wide and for anyone starting about this time, volunteer or paid employee. (I fall into the former category as a chaplain intern.) There were nurses, nursing students, janitors, medical records, and IT folks, plus much more, all in a big room without much personality or natural light.

Though I ended today knowing which areas of the hospital I will my primary work will take place, I spent much of it in a state of general dis-orientation, because the hospital is rather large complex of old and new buildings, multiple floors, sets of elevators, passageways, walkways, tunnels, and doors upon doors upon doors. I have no doubt that in time, perhaps even by next week, I will basically know my way around.

Today, however, I was very much a beginner, a beginner who did not know where she was going, a beginning who followed instead of led, a beginner who was told over and over where this department was or where that unit is, and none of it (well, very little of it) stuck.

To my surprise, I am okay with this. Which, in and of itself, is a big sign of maturity for me. Hello, Beginner’s Mind.

ImageWhereas yesterday’s orientation was hospital-wide, today’s was focused just on us chaplain interns. There are six of us. As it turns out, I don’t think I will be blogging about this experience – perhaps even this post is skirting the edges of what is appropriate. I have been given wise counsel that writing (for public consumption) about the CPE experience is not skillful on many levels.

The legitimate expectation of privacy that patients are entitled to might be violated. The legitimate expectation of privacy and safety that my peers are entitled to might be jeopardized, and thus their trust of me and my relationship with them. I might put into writing sure opinions and indisputable thoughts that, through the process of time and learning, vulnerability and integration, might not be so sure or might, in fact, become disputable.

Plus, the experience of CPE, when done right is an intense one. It may well be exhilarating, but it will always be exhausting and require concentrated effort and profound reflection. That energy should be turned inward, or shared with my peers, rather than diluted through the process of a public blog.

I do not know what this means for this blog: whether it will lay fallow for the next 11 weeks or whether I will blog on other topics, should the energy avail itself to me.  My intention is to return — whether throughout the summer or at its end.

So while all this is true, and the counsel I have received is wise, I am still writing this post, marking this new beginning. I think I am not betraying the advice I intend to follow (my explanation being that I have not yet begun direct work with patients) by writing this particular post. I do think I am being true to the pivot (or hinge, which is a metaphor I used before) at which I find myself and my ministry in this very moment.

I have just completed a series of good-byes and endings; now is a time for new beginnings. So I share here the reading that our supervisor shared with us at the beginning of this morning’s meeting at which the chaplains report on events of the night just passed (the deaths, the wild sufferings and the quiet comfort).

It is from the beloved John O’Donohue and his beloved book, To Bless the Space Between Us.  This piece is entitled, “For a New Beginning.”

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

0 thoughts on “Beginner's Mind and Dis-orientation to CPE: A New Beginning

  1. Thank you for writing this, Karen. I’ve taken the liberty of linking to your words since this week is made of crazy and I start CPE next week. See you on the flip side!

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