Spiritual experiences on the pandemic frontline

These past two years have been extremely difficult for everyone, especially for our healthcare workers. Two nurses who are members of our Centre, Kritagyata Nicholls from New York and Florbela Caniceiro from Portugal, share their experiences of how their spirituality has helped them and the people around them.

Hope, courage, endurance and cheerfulness

by Kritagyata Nicholls, New York

I am a neonatal and pediatric intensive care nurse, with a background in psychiatric nursing. In 1991, Sri Chinmoy asked me to co-ordinate his humanitarian service programme The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

When wondering how we could be of assistance during the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, I recalled my years in the neonatal ICU of Lenox Hill Hospital, where I would silently recite one-line poems of Sri Chinmoy’s while I was working. That one phrase became a powerful vehicle to bring a sense of peace and poise into our daily challenges at the unit.

At the beginning of the pandemic, our team also listened to interviews with doctors and nurses who were working tirelessly in our hospitals to save lives.  They spoke of the need for hope, courage, endurance and cheerfulness.

Researching Sri Chinmoy's poems on these themes, we created Thoughts for the Day, which brought inspiring and encouraging words of wisdom to medical teams.  Posters and banners were prepared for hospital Emergency Departments and related services.

The response was most inspiring from hospitals in Italy, Germany, Russia and the USA. I would never have imaged a huge banner of poetry in an emergency room, yet doctors and nurses found that the wisdom conveyed by these poems was deeply valued by patients and staff, and provided them with hope, strength and encouragement.

Banners in hospitals in Italy

Our Work with Children

As a nurse, I saw first-hand how devastating the lockdowns and restrictions were deeply impacting children’s emotional health. Our experience has been over the years, that once children participate in making things better, it empowers them, giving them a sense of fulfilment in the knowledge that their efforts are really making a difference. 

After listening to a speech by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, on the impact of the pandemic on the lives of children worldwide, and being aware of Sri Chinmoy’s dedicated service to the UN for 37 years, we initiated programmes to connect children in different nations.

In Kazakhstan children drew artwork as an expression of gratitude to doctors and nurses. The artwork was displayed as a huge poster at 40 bus stops in the capital city of Nur-Sultan, being placed just before the International Day of Healthcare Workers. The installation will be in place for almost a year.

We have had an ongoing programme called Drawings of Love where children send drawings to support children and adults around the world. This year children in Russia created artwork for children undergoing chemotherapy at the Raisa Gorbachev Memorial Institute in St. Petersburg. As both the donor and recipient children were experiencing a lockdown, this mode of communication coordinated by our team was most gratifying for all participants. Messages of encouragement, friendship and comfort were exchanged and turned into slideshows to share via hospital TV with all pediatric patients.     

Comment by Ambassador Mehrotra

We had the opportunity recently to tell Ambassador Lakhan Mehrotra, Former High Commissioner from India to Sri Lanka, about our work with hospitals and children, and he said, "Sri Chinmoy’s words act as balm on bruised souls, and inspire those engaged in serving victims of Corona!"

The inner connection

a personal story from Florbela from Portugal

I have been a nurse for 31 years and a student of the spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy for 12 years. I have been a frontline worker in the fight against the pandemic, either conducting individual or institutional screening tests, treating the sick in their homes, and now most recently doing vaccinations.

The last two years of my life have been like all of us, very difficult. But for health professionals they were beyond difficult. They were frightening and during some periods, absolutely lonely. The move away from our family and the fear of death were always very present.

But what I would like to share with you all, is not the difficult part of this experience, but the fact how much being a student of Sri Chinmoy has helped me personally, and allowed me to help co-workers and – above all – our patients.

Meditating daily gave me the confidence and courage I needed to reassure colleagues that together we would make it! It gave me enough peace to always convey to the patients the relief they needed, for the fear that flooded them.

Reading Sri Chinmoy's books allowed my mind to have a period of rest, optimism, and to be refreshed to continue receiving all the information, which came several times a day and had to be put into practice quickly to protect people. 

Sri Chinmoy's music made me feel his presence, his concern and love for all of us. It gave me hope!

Sri Chinmoy's videos were my companion when nothing else made me happy.

The inner connection with my spiritual Master saved me, in the most difficult time I have experienced so far.

But it goes even further. It has enabled me to help many patients during this most challenging time for humanity, and continues daily to enable me to help all the people I care for.

What I have received from Sri Chinmoy during the past 2 years cannot be expressed in words. I can only say: Gratitude! Gratitude for being able to have this life experience, is what I feel inside me the most.

Florbela describes the inner search that led her to meditation and the spiritual life

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Cross-posted from www.srichinmoycentre.org