The path of Light

‘I believe the universe is an evolution;
I believe evolution proceeds towards spirit;
I believe spirit, in human beings, completes itself in the personal;
I believe the supreme personal is the Universal Christ.’

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin –

Dear friends,

We have left behind the shortest and darkest day of the year with its longest night to, once again, re-birth in the Light.

But the Light is not a destiny. Living in the Light is a choice, a starting point, and a path. A path of awareness and responsibility to develop our full potential; to grow and evolve in wisdom, goodness and love.

Being generous, being grateful and finding ourselves in the service of others are the instruments that will best guide us to remain serene, focused, oriented and attentive on the path of Light.

To live in the light is to learn about giving with heart and soul, without conditions. Giving with no trace in our memory, without waiting for recognition or reward.

Living in the Light is also about learning to receive with a humble and open heart, ready to sculpt the gifts that are given to us so that we always have the opportunity to re-cor-dar (remember) with gratitude.

It is true that advancing in the path of Light we are also assailed by the shadows, the doubts, the fears, the uncertainties that subtle and insidiously come to suffocate and deafen the communication with our Soul.

Everything in nature has its form, its geometry, its structure and its function. A harmonic pattern that makes everything fit and flow in a precise and perfect way.

Bach flower essences give us light when the shadows assail us. They are amplifiers of consciousness; they act by empathic resonance facilitating the process of remember what we are, in Essence. In this way, our personality, our Spirit and our Soul vibrate again in harmony,  in balance, in the Light …

Here it is this magnificent conference by Julian Barnard on the hidden geometry of flowers. Available HERE.

As J.Barnard says, in order to see we need to develop a new way of looking …

* * * 

Live a bright and meanful 2018,

Elena Lorente Guerrero


Attachment, detachment, meaning

The Earth is an exile for the Soul. Being alive, embodied, implies a mismatch between the personality and the Soul. A search for the balance between attachment and detachment.

To be able to detach ourselves, and letting go, first of all we need to grasp, embrace what happens in our life. Feel it to heal it.

Attachment, detachment and meaning of life are present in Edward Bach’s philosophy. They are expressed in the two big groups in which the 38 floral remedies are divided. There is a complementary polarity between them.

The first 19 remedies (12 healers + 7 helpers) work with the attachment in life. They help us to feel what we do not feel and need to feel to integrate the lessons we’ve come to learn in life and develop the qualities of the Soul. Therefore, they help us to embrace and embody.

The second 19 flower remedies work with detachment in life. They facilitate us the integration of  the lessons that every life experience holds. They help to transcend suffering, let go, and grow up.

The observation and the study of these two groups in a complementary and parallel way, show that they express the life cycle from an emotional and spiritual learning perspective. We must drive our energy towards feeling, focusing on what we feel. The more varied range of feelings and emotions we experience, the more nuances we find in them, the more balanced we are.

The heart is a teacher. The mindful and serene listening to the heart connect us with the beat of our Soul. When  personality and Soul vibrate and resonate in harmony, this temporary exile of the Soul on Earth is enlighten by seeing its meaning and purpose. Aware that the meaning in life is outward, and in relation to others, everything we do in our passage through this world, let’s do it with love.



Elena Lorente Guerrero

Interview with ELEANOR OYSTON, The founder of oncology massage training in Australia: “Hands and heart are one. Touch is vital to healing and peace”

Dear readers,

I’m glad to introduce you to Eleanor Oyston, a great woman who has been her whole life doing research, understanding about cancer and bringing her heart and soul in everything she does.

At some point of her life, after 30 years observing cancer cells through the microscope and  studying their behaviour, Eleanor decided to leave the laboratory to start working with people using the best tool available, her hands.

Since then, she’s been 17 years dedicated to improve the welfare and quality of life of people living with cancer, she’s been training to therapists in oncology massage  and also she has brought this complementary therapy into hospitals.

Let’s know Eleanor and her fascinating story! Enjoy!

  • We are going to the beginning of your work in the laboratory, the place where an entire life dedicated to people with cancer did start.

I started in haematology in 1967 when we still did white cell counts on glass tiles with a grid called a haemocytometer. Given the task to set up the first white cell counting machine in our hospital I managed to eject the mercury counter balance fluid onto the floor. My boss was instantly there to help gather up the balls of mercury and I was warned to project my new engagement ring as we ‘hand gathered’ the mercury and put it back into the balance tube of the white cell counting machine.

Many aspects of working in a medical laboratory were very different from health and safety procedures in place today and understanding the microscopic examination of blood films was in its infancy.

To understand the workings of the bone marrow I learnt the full range of cells, immature and mature, in bone marrow using a light microscope. Electron microscope pictures were some years away. This information was taught using a multi-headed microscope and the laboratory technician who did the wet prep of the bone marrow specimen (me) sat with the pathologist while he or she ‘made sense’ of the sea of cells before them. What I learnt was it was very hard to standardise interpretation of cells and what the perceivable differences might mean.

I had learnt a great deal more than what we saw down the microscope. I had prepared the patient for the bone marrow, witnessed the suffering and fear of the bone marrow procedure and managed the bone marrow specimen through the laboratory processes. Then I sat with the pathologist while the diagnosis, or most probable diagnosis and treatment plan, was developed. All of my training in haematology, histology and cytology happened this way. I did a very comprehensive apprenticeship.

One Christmas eve I was the technician on duty and I ran all the liquid laboratory tests knowing that the blood film was urgent so I called in the haematologist and we sat together to look at a cell population that represented Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. The patient was 12 years old. In that moment I realised that I was the first to see ‘life changing cells’ and what I wrote on my report, to be counter signed by the pathologist, would change the lives of a whole family, a school and a neighbourhood, forever. I was 19 years old.

  • That must’ve been a big experience for you and an enormous responsibility as well. What happened next?

I think I floated along feeling confused as I didn’t have language to express myself and the laboratory culture didn’t encourage us to ‘feel’. We were stoic and professional. It took me another 20 years to find teachers who wrote about the philosophy of health and cultural attitudes to healing in my western culture.

Having my own children became an unstoppable force within my. I was a mother of two little girls by 25 years old. My children brought me a new level of ‘busy-ness’ that gave me purpose and a sense of being and doing the ‘right things at the right time’.

When I wanted to return to work after my daughters were in preschool (1976) the Australian culture was very anti working mothers. I was considered a neglectful mother by my peers and the school teachers didn’t tell me when my daughters were getting class awards because they were sure I was disinterested…I was a working mum!

I trained in the speciality of Diagnostic Cytology with the first Professor of Cytology in Australia while working school hours. Professor Barter was an inspirational leader in this field and we all ‘soaked up’ his wisdom and experience. Cytology was developed in the 1950’s based on the study of exfoliated cells by a Greek doctor call Georgios Papanikolaou. In 1976, when I started studying cytology it was a very new body of knowledge.

With a forward thinking employer I worked in the laboratory in the school term and in the school holidays a courier dropped off prepared cytology slides at my home and I screened them once my children were in bed. The slides were ready for collection early the next day. The cells taught me a great deal about people but I didn’t know that at the time. Much later I began to ‘join the dots’.

  • What have you learnt after years observing cancer cell behaviour?

Cells are characterised by their function and location. Squamous cells make up our skin so they differentiate and mature to be anucleated (without a nucleus) and ‘sluffed off’, allowing the emerging cells to take on the role of protection, balancing hydration and creating sensitivity to our environment. Glandular cells are open, florid cells, full of juicy, fluid filled vacuoles ready to secrete, lubricate and nourish. Cancer cells, to me, appeared like ‘naughty children’, able to get more than their own share of the food and attention. Will-full cells that refuse to obey the rules of cohabitation.

The exfoliated cancer cells I’ve seen down a microscope are most often surrounded by normal cells, often histiocytes and macrophages doing their best to contain the cancer cells or mop up the apoptosis of healing and repair.

What I have learnt from observing cancer is that I am not afraid of cancer, I’m curious. Not why me but why not me and if it is ‘me’, why now? What is it in my experience of life that has put my immune system to sleep long enough for these cells to grow and flourish undetected, and ‘stop me in my tracks’?

In my work running retreat programs for people with cancer and their partners I noticed a personality to match the features of the cells. Two wonderful examples come to mind:

  • Small cell carcinoma (SCC) of the lung is seen as small clusters of very dark small cells, hard to distinguish from histiocytes and very hard to identify accurately until the disease is well established. ALL of the people I met with SCC had personalities I could describe the same way….hard to see into and understand until they were very sick.
  •  Ovarian cancer cells are large, open, florid cells. Generously juicy and full of life. If you meet women with ovarian cancer think about my description of the cells and notice if that is part of the woman you meet?

My perceptions are broad generalisations and I do know that the cells will tell is so much more if we can open our curiosity to embrace the wholeness of each unique person.

Moment by moment we secrete a sea of chemistry in accordance with our thinking and feeling. That is science. The secreted molecules of emotion influence the ‘issues in our tissues’.

  • It makes sense, biography becomes biology. We’d like to know more about your journey and how epigenetics has changed the way to approach and understand cancer.

After two years as the biochemist and haematologist at the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Port eleanor-in-labMoresby, PNG, I moved to Canberra, ACT, and quickly got a job in cytology at the local hospital. At a dinner party I was asked what I did for a living and I heard myself say “I diagnose cancer while I grow my own.” Within weeks I was working as the technical manager of a development neuroscience laboratory at the Australian National University. When you really hear yourself there is no turning back.

I was working in cytology, doing fine needle aspiration biopsy, and daily witnessing this very painful procedure. Too often patients endured more than 10 passes through the ‘lump’, each pass more painful than the last. If the lump was coming out, as it always was, then why biopsy? The histology test on the biopsy sample is over 30% inaccurate. The pathologist still do this today, almost 30 years later. I was working in a toxic environment for my belief system and I felt like I was ‘growing my own cancer’somewhere!

During my time at the John Curtain School of Medical Research I had a ‘hobby’. I ran retreats for the Uniting Church called ‘The Walk to Emmaus’. This retreat program ran over a three day weekend and was led by lay people. The program was designed to support folk who had been wounded by the church or were struggling with their faith. This was when my experience with, and observation of people really began.

I know what every cell in the human body looks like down a microscope, how it functions when it is healthy and when it is not. Now I began observing the impact of our belief system on our behaviour and our health. Epigenetics came to life and I didn’t have a language to explain it until I started a Health Education degree that explored the philosophy of health and healing. Prof Chris Higginson at the University of Canberra developed a ground breaking degree that studies the sociology, economy and psychology of the western health systems. With consciousness we can regain a sense of control over life ….epigenetics is the science that explains this concept.

Dr Brice Lipton ‘wrote my book’ about epigenetics and called it The Biology of Belief.

After 10 years working in medical research, learning about people through the Emmaus program and tertiary study it was time to follow my heart. The year I turned 50 I went to massage school.

At massage school I felt that I knew nothing! Suddenly I felt energy with my own hands. This was when science came to life and epigenetics blossomed as the concept and the reality that we call ‘spontaneous remission’.


At massage school in 1999 I was taught that people with cancer could not be massaged. I was shocked and soon understood why the massage community had created modern day lepers…fear of litigation and a lack of understanding of pathological processes in the body! There is no medical or scientific reason why gentle touch cannot be offered to every person seeking it.

The modern massage profession grew out of musculo-skeletal sports massage. At the turn of the last century a massage degree was offered at university and massage therapists went to WW1. The success of massage in the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen saw massage therapists commissioned in the Australian armed services and later, in WW2, physiotherapy developed from the massage profession with the addition of new electronic technology.

Massage therapy was relegated to the pleasure and ‘red-light’ sector and quickly fell from favour. Physiotherapists did a lot of massage sixty years ago and it wasn’t until late in the last century that associations for complementary therapists began to develop in Australia.

Pathology was not taught in the Diploma of Remedial Massage in 1999 and the week after I finished my diploma I taught the first pathology course for massage therapists in Australia. It was 2000.

  • And the opportunity to work with people with cancer arrived.

I was asked if I would come to do massage for people with cancer who were on a retreat program at the Quest for Life (QFL) Foundation and I said “yes”. Here was my chance to work with the tactile challenges of complex pathology and to work in a supportive and nurturing environment, one that cares for me as a therapist as well as people with cancer and their partners.

The team leader at QFL was Petrea King and she had extensive experience massaging people with cancer and HIV AIDS and she developed a teaching program based on finding peace in the midst of chaos. Petrea became an internationally recognised author, media personality and a dear friend. With support, I confidently massaged people with complex bodies, huge scars, a variety of medical devices, lymphedema…just a few of my learning opportunities.

  • How did you feel massaging people with cancer, breaking the taboo?

Massaging people with cancer was an amazing adventure that has changed my life in profound ways. I have learnt how the human body manages adversity and disease, responds to relaxation and release, and how much can be sensed and changed by skilled hands.

  • Hands and touch are a more deep and sensitive way to see, listen, and communicate. What is oncology massage?

Massage is considered a type of complementary therapy. Complementary therapies aim to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms of disease. They are used together with conventional or mainstream medicine. Complementary therapies are not used instead of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or other forms of drug therapy.

Oncology massage (OM) techniques are not complicated. The techniques I learnt in massage school are the basis of OM and what I do is teach an adaptation and refinement of these techniques based on a deep understanding of cancer, cancer treatment and the emotions that people experience when living with a life limiting diagnosis.

When I began massaging folk with cancer I could feel subtle differences that I adapted and changed my touch patterns to accommodate.

I called my new massage techniques OM because Gayle MacDonald had already written Medicine Hands and was developing the Society for Oncology Massage. I also had excellent scientific credentials in diagnostic cytology.

I had developed a three day residential training program for qualified massage therapists called “Massage, Cancer and More”(MC&M) and I had been running it since 2002 at the Quest for Life Foundation where I worked facilitating cancer programs for Petrea King. Medicine Hands was the text book for my program as well as a basic pathology text book.

In 2000, when I trained in massage, pathology was not taught at all and one week after graduating from massage school I taught the first course in pathology to massage students in Australia. It was a basic 10 week course helping massage students to understand the various pathological processes they might encounter in their massage clinics. MC&M was an extension of this basic program with a focus on cancer aetiology, treatment and end of life challenges.

  • Oncology massage is a holistic treatment. How does it help to people living with cancer?

As well as improving physical symptoms, some people with cancer say that having a massage:

  • makes them feel whole again
  • helps them to relax
  • helps them share feelings in an informal setting
  • makes them feel more positive about their body
  • rebuilds hope.

Research shows that massage of muscle and soft tissue does not spread cancer cells.

Scientific studies have looked at the effects of various body-based practices on people having cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. These studies have shown that massage may reduce:

  • pain
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • anxiety and depression.

Individuals who have had massages during cancer treatments have reported a range of positive outcomes such as improvements in:

  • sleep
  • the health of the scar tissue
  • quality of life
  • mental clarity and alertness
  • the range of movement.

If there was a drug on the market to do this it would be front page news however there is little money to be made from the hands and hearts of compassionate oncology massage therapists. The information about the scientifically proven benefits of OM has been published in medical journal, written into information produced by government approved cancer support organisations and used globally to help cancer patients for over 12 years. Australia is a long way behind. WHY?

  • The benefits of OM are huge; it seems to be a good treatment for fragile patients, not only for people with cancer.

Yes, all manner of disease processes benefit from gentle, mindful massage, especially neuro-degenerative disorders.

  • How massage and cancer cells can be connected?

eleanor-oyston-oncology-massage-trainingGentle massage and the freeing up of fascia, the production of relaxation hormones and the ‘bliss hormone’ supports the immune system. This is a big topic to be written about in detail.

The recent medical research into the benefits, for people with cancer, of daily exercise supports research into OM. OM and exercise create similar tissue movement and endorphin production, especially oxytocin.

  • It is admirable how you knew to think out of the box and transfer to your hands the knowledge and experience gained at the laboratory.

I willingly embraced the work with folk with cancer because I know what every cell in the body looks like, how it functions in health and I can imagine how disease changes the process.

Everyone needs and longs for human touch. Babies cannot live without touch and that fact alone should tell the medical world that safe touch is vital to healing and peace.

I wanted to massage people with cancer because they need safe, mindful touch more than any well person. Any diagnosis of a life limiting illness; surgery, chemotherapy or radiation; invasive, frightening and painful diagnostic procedures creates fear, anxiety and isolation.

The up side of diagnosing cancer for over 20 years is that I don’t fear the word. I respect the disease and know that management of cancer is tricky. Deep down I think why would anyone not get cancer? We live on a toxic planet. 100,000 chemicals weren’t on planet earth 30 years ago. How can our species adapt in such a short time.

Not every chemical is carcinogenic but every chemical changes our environment and the synergistic processes, when huge options are available, is totally unpredictable. Some of us are like the ‘canary in the coalmine’, the first to develop disease and ‘fall off the perch’. Others are biologically more robust and the changes in our chemical environment show no ill effects. Epigenetics and genetics are exciting filters through which to explore this topic.

  • We carry on with your story Eleanor. Tell us about the evolution of your work as oncology massage therapist, providing massage, doing research and teaching.

 In 2004 I went to the inaugural meeting of the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO), a medical body based in the US and led by Pro Barrie Caselith. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre (MSKCC) NY, had just published the ground breaking scientific paper on the benefits of oncology massage (this paper is still the key research today in 2016:1290 patients over 3 years; pain and anxiety reduced by over 50%) and they had a workshop for oncology massage therapists at their conference. I was gifted funding to attend this meeting in NY. The benefit of oncology massage was not debated, everyone accepted them. What was debated was how to standardise techniques and employ OM therapists.

In 2006 I attended the SIO meeting in Boston, US, and met Gayle MacDonald for the first time. There was a panel of 9 OM teachers who had viable training programs and they each offered guidance on how to develop OM techniques, training and integration into medical services. When a question was debated they ALL deferred to Gayle to settle the issue. Gayle was the one I wanted to come to Australia and help me. I asked her that day and she said yes. Our friendship has taken us on a very special journey.

The NSW Cancer Council gave us $30,000 to host Gayle’s visit and she came for a month.

Gayle lectured on the East Coast of Australia and taught 48 therapists in her program. Our techniques and course content were very closely aligned and we each learnt from each other. I was already writing articles on epigenetics and Gayle was grabbling with this concept; I was grabbling with energy work and Gayle was an expert in this field. We had a great month together. My abdominal massage technique was my specialty and I have added a wee story on how it came about.


It is tricky for me to begin talking about oncology massage and research as for me it started 16 years ago on a dark and stormy night at Quest for Life, at 2 am in the morning, 2001.

As the facilitator of the cancer program part of my responsibility was to care for the participants overnight so when my phone rang at 2 am my support person and I made our way to the guest’s bedroom.

A woman my age, early 50’s, with advanced cervical cancer was in severe abdominal pain. She had taken all the drugs they had and put heat packs around her back and abdomen. This couple, with a lifetime of experience, both looked like ‘rabbits in the headlight’ and said ‘please don’t make us go to hospital, we just want this last weekend together’.

I don’t really know why, to give myself time to assess the situation I imagine, I knelt beside the bed and slipped my hand under the doona and onto her rock hard abdomen. Then I waited, just waited and the tension in the room slowly lessened. I don’t recall how long I gently held my hands on her tummy, it felt like ages, and the abdomen began to soften and we all began to feel much more relaxed.

I massaged her abdomen gently and she drifted into sleep. I tucked them into bed and put out the light.

The next morning we walked to the chemist to fill her script and she asked me what I did to stop the pain? I don’t know exactly what I did, there was not a double blind research project to advise me. I brought ‘human potential’ and compassion to the moment.

This is one of the many stories that guided me to write an OM training program in 2001.

  • Tell us about your oncology massage training program.

eleanor-oyston-omAs my skills and experience grew I ran more and more MC&M programs around the capital cities in Australia. I developed a data base of therapists who had done my course and offered it to cancer support groups. The OM skills gradually became known in massage circles and MC&M developed into Oncology Massage Training (OMT), two-three day programs which were non-residential. Moving to a non-residential format was easier to manage and I began to train other therapists to teach my program and a period of expansion began in earnest.

Late one Sunday night I was struggling to manage the office work of enrolments and venue management and I asked my daughter to help. I offered to pay Kylie and hourly rate and asked her to record her hours! She rang back in an hour and told me she took 19 minutes to do what would have taken me three days. I hired her and Kylie’s administrative skills, over the next 7 years built the successful organisation we have today.

OMT became Oncology Massage Limited, a not-for-profit organisation in 2011 and together Kylie and I weathered many storms successfully. Kylie’s husband is a Patens lawyer and my husband (Kylie’s father) is a Naval Officer so we were well supported in many ways.

Our whole family became involved and most of the work was unpaid. All the income went into paying the new teachers and administrative costs. Kylie did manage to pay herself a small salary in time.

  • You collaborate with The Western Sydney University (WSU), and South Weston Sydney Local Health District to support research into the use of complementary therapies.

Yes. As leaders in our field in Australia we fundraised to support university research into the use of complementary therapies for patients diagnosed with cancer. This is ongoing and results should emerge towards the end of 2016.

The partnership with WSU is a boost to moral and is costly to a very small charity. We know that massage in cancer hospitals is of compassionate benefit to patients and staff. An example is that therapeutic radiographers have approached OML to develop a research project to look at the benefits to brain tumour patients of OM before, during and after they have their radiation ‘mask’ fitted. This process is so upsetting for the technical staff that they have sort OML out. It is hoped that OM therapists can help relax the patient so that the patient can accept the procedure with less anxiety. Sadly funding has halted this program.

  • The Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Centre in the Austin Hospital, Melbourne offers the oncology massage. Any other hospitals?

Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Centre in the Austin Hospital, Melbourne was the first in Australia to contact me and ask me to help them develop a wellness centre that would offer oncology massage. Over two years, with the involvement of the hospital ethic committee, the Director of the Wellness Centre, Christine Scott, who took a global Churchill Scholarship, we set up a government supported service. Five OM therapists are employed and offer OM in the Wellness Centre, the day infusion units, radiation waiting rooms and the acute care wards. This is a very successful model.

A growing number of hospitals are offering massage in major cancer centres around Australia and this is the focus of the Western Sydney University research. Approximately 250 cancer service hospitals are keen to be included in the study, 109 have completed the questionnaire at this time and the results are expected to be completed by November 2016.

Major cancer hospitals like the Kinghorn Centre at St Vincent’s Hospital and the Chris O’Brien Life-House at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney are leading the way by developing permanent part time positions for several OM therapists. Completing OML’s training program is the essential qualification for being considered for the jobs. Cancer treatment providers are interested in creating the OM service as well as looking to fund the training of more oncology massage therapists. Currently OM therapists pay for all their own training.

As a not-for-profit charity our courses are run as cost effectively as possible but still costly for a professional massage therapist.

  • What kind of training is required to become an oncology massage therapist?

This varies from country to country. Australia is very well regulated and our massage industry is subject to the Australian Quality Skills Authority. Please go to our website at for more information.

  • Tell us about the feed-back from people with cancer who receive oncology massage.

Some stories from our website:

  • Terrific experience, I had no idea this could be so relaxing. Leanne was very professional and had superb mannerism. Will definitely have more massages.” Anonymous, QL D, November 2014
  • “Very professional, attentive, caring and friendly. Best massage techniques!” Maurice, QLD, November 2014


  • “Elsie is a very lovely therapist and I was very comfortable from the very start. She always asked about my comfort and her hands were very gentle. It was perfect pressure and very soothing and relaxing.” Narella, QLD, November 2014


  • “I enjoyed it very much. It was very relaxing. I fell asleep a few times. I didn’t worry about anything, I had no thoughts, it was just relaxing. Really beautiful and I think it was very good for my legs. Afterwards I felt no pressure at the top of my legs. Thank you!” Marina, QLD, November 2014
  • “It was a real comfort on my neck and scars. It felt good to have the gentle touch. I really appreciate being asked to take part, great experience!” Ellen, VIC, November 2014
  • Wonderful, very realxing. A lot of care was taken with taking my medical history which was appreciated. I have no experience with massage except deep tissue. This was a great experience.” Sandra, ACT, November 2014
  • “I loved it, it was so relaxing. Richard made me feel very comfortable and I can say he was very gentle. I could have one like this every week.” Anonymous, VIC, November 2014


  • What is the greatness you observe and perceive with your hands that any technology even the most advanced and accurate would be able to do?

To express compassion by physically connecting with the pain and suffering of the other with skill and wisdom, without judgement or ill intent. To offer a space where peace might grow and human touch may consolew

  • What have you learnt through your hands about cancer that you would never had learn from the laboratory?

How compassion changes the body. Skilled touch, born out of experience and knowledge allows me to feel much more than words can express and our science based, double blind, peer reviewed literature proves. The medical world does not encourage or tolerate opinions like mine. All my ‘knowing’ is based on observational research and the experience of one researcher, ME.

  • What have you learnt from human beings through your hands?

Hands and heart are one. If I only worked with my hands I would feel anatomy and physiology. When I am truly present to the other I feel compassion, energy and hope. The hope that I, or they, will not be abandoned to their suffering because of the fear of cancer. Maybe my sense of peace will allow the other to explore the possibility of the peace that passes all understanding for themselves.

  • OML International Conference was last October. What were the challenges?

The conference was an outstanding success and the international speakers congratulated OML on the high standards being set for OM services in Australia.

We ran a workshop on Touch, Caring and Cancer, a safe touch for carers, National Cancer Institute, USA, program developed by William Collinge. Scar management, post cancer treatment, and similar survivorship challenges were workshopped and the leading professor in lymphedema research gifted us all a comprehensive document on the latest understanding of lymphedema management.

 A fabulous presentation from the head of Palliative Care Australia affirmed our commitment to working in this area of OM and established in-hospital massage services were celebrated.

  • I’m sure that health professionals who work with people with cancer are already interested in OM. I’d like to invite you to embrace staff, health professionals who work in the community and hospitals. How can OM improve the quality of life of their patients?

The presence of an OM therapist in an oncology ward, chemotherapy infusion unit or radiotherapy waiting room has considerable positive flow on effects for medical and nursing staff.

In the simplest scenario, on a cancer ward, the physiotherapist moves the patient, the OM therapist massages them to sleep and the nurse has time to deal with other patients.

In a day infusion unit OM therapist is asked to massage feet while the cannula is inserted, especially when the first round of chemotherapy is at hand, and in radiotherapy gentle shoulder release or a leg massage sequence is calming pre or post the isolation of the radiation suit.

Everyone wins.

In initial conversation with hospitals I always suggest that an outpatient clinic be considers and made available to staff at a reduced rate. So far, to my knowledge, this idea has not been taken up. I consider a staff massage service a very viable idea to defrayed some of the costs of a well-run in house support for medical and nursing staff.

  • Thinking about self-care. Can Oncology Massage improve the quality of life of health professionals? In what way?

OM therapists have to have a basic training as remedial massage therapists and they have specialised in oncology massage. It has been my experience over 17 years that massaging only clients with cancer is not sustainable over time. I recommend that massage therapists have an eclectic practice working with a variety of clients. Many clients with caner will return to health Abouthowever, we as OM therapists, are aware of the signs and symptoms that precede a recurrence. This can be a stressor for the therapist.

If health professionals form over 50% of your client base OM therapists will be working with treatable physical musculo-skeletal issues. A healthy balance for a massage professional and excellent self-care for health professionals.

I have massaged many health professionals and successfully supported their work by using the relaxation techniques of oncology massage.

Another win-win.

  • Anything else you would like to share with us?

Funding a massage service in your hospital?

From the beginning of my interface with hospitals and doctor’s surgeries I have been told that funding a massage service is the main obstacle. In Australia the government provides health care free…well we pay for it in our taxes. Consequently patients expect medical services to be free of charge. This attitude appears to set massage against nursing budgets. Funding massage out of the money used to provide nursing staff is both divisive and not possible. However funding massage therapy from the ‘quality of life’ funding is sustainable. The money used to hang pictures in wards, leather lounges in foyers and the like.

Oncology massage therapists pay the same for their training as Occupational Therapists (in Australia) without any of the fee support that the government gives OT’s and nurses. We deserve to make a living from our skills and professional training, training with is regulated by the Australian Quality Skills Authority.

And lastly…the OM massage skills are perfect for the management of Alzheimer’s, dementia and aged care patients. To insure the physical and emotional safety of therapists they need specialised training to work safely with this high needs group. Ask an aged care RN and they will tell you that ‘care providers’ in this sector of aged care can be physically and emotionally dangerous!


* * *

Thank you for sharing your fascinating and precious story so full of passion and wisdom.

Thanks to Gabriel Heras who connected each other. It was so exciting and emotional to meet you Eleanor and a pleasure to feel how convinced you are that science, love and compassion should walk hand by hand, together.

There is a light of joy in your eyes, the joy of someone who has walked many people’s journeys with respect, humility, unconditional acceptance and understanding.

Touching is a sacred act. Even something as simple in our daily life as taking someone’s hand it should be done with mindful and being present. Sick people do not always need the best technology to be cared for, but they always need hands that bring peace, love, and hope.

Dear Eleanor, I am convinced that your testimony will be a big help to people living with cancer, and for those living with a progressive and limiting disease. I am already thinking about how massage can also benefit their relatives and how many health professionals who, regardless the area where they work, will be interested in oncology massage.

Thank you very much! Your life story is powerful, human, inspires and mobilizes to action. We wish you all the best. Keep bringing life through your hands, healing hands.

Elena Lorente Guerrero

The inner morning

“As yesterday and the historical ages are past, as the work of today is present, so some flitting perspectives, and demi-experiences of the life that is in nature are in time veritably future, or rather outside to time, perennial, young, divine, in the wind and rain which never die.

The respectable folks,

Where dwell they?

They whisper in the oaks,

And they sigh in the hay;

Summer and winter, night and day,

Out on the meadow, there dwell they.

They never die,

Nor sniwel, no cry,

Nor ask our pity,

With a wet eye.

A sound estate they ever mend,

To ever asker readily lend;

To the ocean wealth,

To the meadow health,

To Time his length,

To the rocks strength,

To the stars light,

To the weary night,

To the busy day,

To the idle play;

And so their good cheer never ends,

For all are their debtors, and all their friends”.

Musketaquid.  Henry David Thoreau

* * *

Time for silence, time for a litte rest.

All the best!



Elena Lorente Guerrero


All true knowledge comes only within ourselves. Dr Edward Bach, 1936

All true knowledge comes only within ourselves, in silent communication with your own soul.

Doctrines and civilisation have robbed us of the silence, have robbed us of the knowledge that we know all within ourselves.

We have been led to believe that we must be taught by others, and our own spiritual selves have become submerged.

The acorn, carried hundreds of miles from its mother tree, knows without instruction how to become a perfect oak. The fish of the sea and rivers lay their spawn and swim away. The same with the frog. The serpent lays its eggs in the sand, and goes on its journey; and yet within the acorn, and the spawn, and the eggs is all the knowledge necessary for the young to become as perfect as their parents.

Young swallows can find their way to their winter quarters hundreds of miles away, whilst parent birds are still busy with the second brood.

We need so much to come back to the knowledge that within ourselves lies all truth. To remember that we need seek no advice, no teaching but from within.

The Christ taught us that the lilies of the field, though they neither toiled nor spun, were more perfectly arrayed than Salomon in all his glory.

And the Lord Buddha taught us that we were well on the path to our self-realisation one we became rid of the priests and the books.”

Dr Edward Bach, written May 21, 1936

– The original writings of Edward Bach –

Interview with Joe Taylor, Community Psychiatric Nurse in Wester-Ross, Scotland: “We need to connect with people as closely as we can, to be there for them. This is the Essence of Nursing”.

What a challenge for me introduce you a very well qualified and experienced Community Psychiatric Nurse as Joe Taylor. Joe is the kind of Nurse who we’d like to work with, learning from him every single day. Lots of knowledge, skills, experience, gentleness and common sense.

Joe works in the Communities of the Highlands in Scotland helping people with dementia and their relatives to deal with their day to day life.

I’m so pleased to give Joe voice to share with you how he approaches to people with dementia, how Mental Health Nurses are the core of care, and how mental health services have changed over the years becoming closer to people, being part of the community services, where real life happens.

Let’s enjoy Joe, and his natural way to talk about a whole life looking after people, a fulfilling career and way to life with meaning. 

I’m a community psychiatric nurse. Originally the job in Wester Ross was working with anyone over 65 who had a mental health problem. But very recently it’s changed to working with anyone who has dementia or suspected dementia and it’s covering the whole of Wester Ross in Scotland.

So it’s to do assessment, somebody may feel they have a problem, or their family may feel there is a problem, generally they visit their general practitioner who will contact us, I make an assessment and depending upon what I find, begin the process of diagnosis. Christine McCallum, Dementia Link Worker, is involved as early as we can manage, usually before diagnosis very often, so we get the whole package working as quickly as we can.

  •  What happens after having a diagnosis?

When someone is diagnosed with dementia, it is a huge issue, an enormous issue for people and there are a lot of things that people can need help with. It can be emotional support that people need, there is a lot of understanding and learning to do, as a person with dementia and for the family, husband, wife, children who are going to look after their family member. Support, advice around finance, legal things, treatment, prognosis; people often ask: “How long am I going to live?” There is so much that people can need.

  • People’s reassurance is truly necessary.

It’s a difficult job to explain in some ways because although you could kind of plan in your head what you are going to be doing, some obvious pieces of work with people, things come up from nowhere, people want help with things you didn’t anticipate, sometimes there are major crises to help deal with.

  • What do families of people with dementia want or ask?

Families want to look after the person with dementia as long as possible, they want them to stay at home as long as possible and they will do everything they can. So, a lot of our work is around helping them to do that but with the nature of dementia sometimes the changes are dramatic and the requirements for the person’s care change very quickly and families are still doing their best to manage but maybe it becomes apparent that is not a realistic option anymore.

So we are sometimes in the position of negotiating with the family about what sort of care should continue for the person and maybe the advice we give is the advice they don’t really want to hear. I may have to say that the amount of care is beyond your resources now, I know that you want to carry on looking after the person but it is wearing you down, the person is getting more demanding of time and it is not a realistic prospect anymore. That’s a very difficult thing to say to people because they don’t want to hear it.

I have found anyway that generally people want the truth, what reality is. They want to know the challenges, not in a brutal hard way of course, but in an understanding and kind way. I try to help people to deal with the reality of their condition.

Years ago, nursing tended to be more paternalistic, like we knew best, trying to protect people and all that kind of thing. But not these days, it’s about helping people to deal with what’s happening.

On the other hand, sometimes carers are quite relieved that we are saying to them that things might have to change. They feel that they are allowed to back out to 24 hours’ care.

  • Lots of things to deal with around people with dementia and their relatives as you said. Sometimes you may give them bad news. What are your skills to work with people with dementia and their families?

I’m good understanding of the condition in the first place, lots of experience. I’ve done the job for many years so that helps, I probably understand people in that kind of situation quite well.

I care about what I do and I think people understand that, so that really helps because when I speak to them, they are more likely both to listen and to speak because they know that my interest is sincere.

I’m very good at listening to people and interpreting what they are trying to say sometimes. Naturally, people can find it difficult to put their thoughts and feelings about their situation into words, and it is my job to try to help them.

Christine McCallum: “Joe is on the case as soon somebody shows a problem, or if there is a crisis. He is honest, very caring”.

I try to treat people as individuals, and not just as someone with a mental health label. I don’t try to rescue people in an order to make things better because it is not that kind of work. You have to develop a particular mind set to be able to carry on doing the work but it is very worthwhile.

  • Your approach is people and family-centered care.

Yes, it is about treating people as people. If you treat people like human beings with feelings, with opinions, it becomes a more constructive relationship.

I think we do well. Christine and I never deal with the person with dementia in isolation, we work with the family whenever we can. Families don’t say to us, “We don’t know what’s going on, nobody told us”. We always keep people informed and part of the decision making.

Certainly we look at the mental health of the family. We know that carers are very prone to mental health problems because of the continue stress that they are under.

We give advice all the time, making sure people have breaks, even some short ones, as short as an hour, and obviously getting more as time passes. People find that very difficult sometimes, they feel they should be caring for the person all the time and nobody would do it as well as they do, which is probably quite true, but if carers don’t get occasional rests, they will break down and then the whole thing can collapse.

We give advice around dealing with their own anxiety, we check if people are depressed, that sort of thing. Fortunately here, Andre du Plessis and Helen Robertson, our social workers, are extremely helpful and very understanding of people’s needs, this makes the job a lot easier and they tend to be involved quite early, so that’s good.

One of the benefits of working in such small communities is just the size of the population really. We are not dealing with thousands and thousands of people, huge communities where people can disappear. We are dealing with a number of Village communities and even smaller than that, so nobody is anonymous, we hear about people, people hear about us, and people tend to not get lost.

  • There are benefits of living in a small community as you mentioned. However, at the same time, it can be difficult in terms of stigma for people who are not dealing well with dementia, when at some point they cannot hide the situation anymore, need care in a residential home, etc. How do you work around that?

 We talk to anybody in the family who wants to talk and listen, children of the family, for example. The more people understand what’s going on, the better for the person with dementia.

It’s always difficult to predict, isn’t it? Some people when they go to a residential care home improve tremendously because they are being supported all the time, the social side of care helps, people keep going. However, some people have lived on their own or just with one person all their life and suddenly they are in a communal situation which can take a lot of adapting to.

  •  When the time comes and someone with dementia needs 24 hours’ care in a care home or nursing home. Do the family still receive support from you?

Yes. We try to keep providing support for as long as people need it and we are able. Again, having Christine in post, this is much more achievable.

We don’t go in with a sort of standard learning package for people, I don’t think that’s the best way to deal with it. People have some skills already anyway. The way I look at it, it is more to do with helping and supporting people to deal with problems as they occur.

We may try to prepare people for what might be coming but things come out of the blue, out of I don’t know where, and people are astonished, shocked, and then that’s a good time to teach people how to deal with particular circumstances.

Again one of the lines that I always come out about with dementia care is that everybody has to adapt constantly because it is not a condition that stays the same, it is changing all the time, so the care and the challenges for people with dementia are also changing all the time so the carer never gets on top of dealing with every problem, it is impossible. That’s another reason why we need to keep in touch, to keep channels of communication open, then we can support as required, it might be incontinence or a particular aspect of behaviour or communication.

  • Sometimes people don’t remember their strengths, the way they used to deal with problems.

Sometimes is easy for carers to maybe be overwhelmed by a succession of problems. We can help people to focus on particular areas that they can have some influence over.

One of the issues in the dementia sometimes there is not a solution, there is not a successful way of dealing with a particular piece off behaviour, that’s a hard thing for people to accept. For instance, quite often I call in nursing homes or residential homes to give advice around particular aspects of behaviour. We go through everything they have been trying and sometimes there is not a solution, and then people must carry on doing what they can. It is not their fault.

  • Tell us about your career path. Why did you want to be a Nurse? Why mental health?

Joe's parentsI was born and brought up in rural Gloucestershire, the fifth child of five. My Mum and Dad had both missed out on education and they really encouraged us to better ourselves. I was not a great student at school, I had a good brain but nothing really inspired, other than Literature and football! I became a Chelsea fan and fifty years later, I still am!

When I left school I had no real ideas about my future. I trained as a teacher because it seemed like a good idea, and I enjoyed but I never found a permanent job. For a few years I worked in the law courts in England but I knew it wasn’t for me. I was happy not to study for a while but after three years or so I thought that I would train to be a mental health nurse. I didn’t really know why, it sounded interesting and I knew that I wanted a professional career. I had learned in teaching that I could put ideas into words, and that I was a good listener, so maybe it was for me.

I was 26, and I trained in Hereford, England. In those days the school of nursing was attached to the largJoe Taylorer hospitals, so I trained attached to the hospital. Lots of different placements, mostly in the hospital. I did my first community placement in the second year and I thought right, this is what I want to do. I wanted to be a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) as soon as I could and after working in a ward for 6 months, I applied. I stayed in that job for 18 months. After a promotion, I took a job in East Cumbria, Kirkby Stephen, a little town about the size of Ullapool where there had never been a CPN before. This was more than 30 years ago, and the idea of community mental health services was just becoming established.

I nursed people with all kinds of mental illness, drugs and alcohol problems, dementia, everything. It was a fantastic experience, bearing in mind that I worked single-handed for nine years. By then, other services came to the area and the service developed. I moved into management for a few years, leading teams and managing wards. It was not so much fun and I was very happy to return to clinical nursing, on the West Coast of Cumbria, at a place called Millom. I was there for 4 years, built up another team but eventually felt like another change.

By then my kids were grown up, I was 50, I could retire at 55 and had always wanted to work in the Highlands. A job came up, an advisory job, giving advice to a management team and to community teams but it wasn’t a very good job. People were welcoming and friendly but management, some of the senior managers at least, thought that they knew mental health better than I did and my advice was mostly disregarded. Local managers were much more receptive and we did some good work together. There was not much job satisfaction and as quickly as I could, I went to work with the Community Mental Health team in Skye and Lochalsh, and later in Wester Ross also. I was back where I belonged. When I was 55, after 30 years service, I took my retirement but came back part-time as an advisor on a year’s contract. After 6 months, I was told that there would be no more funding at the end of the year but very fortunately for me, my present job became vacant in Wester Ross and I was lucky enough to start working here in October 2010.

Joe, you have a whole picture of how mental health’s approach has changed and improved over the years and how necessary is to keep improving on research, resources and support.

  • What are the challenges with dementia?

Historically across the UK, mental health services have been under resourced, it’s always been a Cinderella service. Most of our money is still spent in hospitals, whereas virtually all mental health problems are in the community. We need hospital beds, of course, but good community services keep people out of hospital.

Critical things have improved a lot. When I look back to the beginning of my career, comparing it to now, things have changed tremendously. When I started we used to have wards full of people with dementia, these don’t exist anymore. There is more understanding of dementia but still rely on having enough resources, people as well as money, to do the job.

The General Practitioner’s role is important. In our role we are involved closely with them and with families day to day. Very often we sit in the gap between the medical side and the family with dementia, we interpret both ways to make sure everybody understands what’s going on.

Up until very recently we were part of the community mental health team along with the adult side and drug and alcohol side. Historically this was fine because dementia was not high on anyone’s agenda. However, Scotland’s dementia strategy makes it plain that dementia is everyone’s business, not just mental health services.

It seemed to us that we have been too isolated, as dementia practitioners, within the mental health team. To be most effective, we really needed to integrate much more closely with Social Work, Community Nurses, GPs and the charitable sector. That’s where people who deal with dementia and their families spend more time so we have to be there too. Our relationships with our colleagues were always good, but now they are better.

So, that is where we are now, much closer to the community rather than within the Community Mental Health Team, which is a big change. It is for me particularly, because I’ve for with Community Mental Health Teams for 30 years, spending a lot of time and energy in building and developing them. But, things change rapidly so we have to make sure that we change too and we are not left behind.

  • What would you say to young Nurses who begin with their career?

Be patient with yourself, it is a difficult job, you don’t really start learning until you are into the job, making mistakes and doing things right, so be patient and don’t get too carried with the latest marvellous theories, they are fine for a while, and you may take something useful from them but the essentials of the job do not change.

The success we get in the job is because people understand that we care what happens to them, this is where the real benefit in nursing comes from, people realise “I’m not on my own with this insoluble problem, somebody understands me and is doing their best to help”. Sometimes there is not very much that we can do for them, but people understand and accept that.

And also, new nurses shouldn’t feel guilty about making a genuine mistake. There are always mistakes that happen and as long as we learn, that’s fine. When I was a manager I wasn’t hard with people when they made mistakes, I was hard when didn’t try hard or when they were lazy.

As part of my job as Mental Health Advisor, I had to investigate unexpected deaths or incidents, so I had to interview nurses and go through records, checking that people did all the kind of things they were supposed to do and invariably people had done the best that they could. I never found negligence, many occasions when nurses might have done things better but not negligence.

When you are dealing with adult mental illness, there are suicides and attempted suicides, that’s very emotional for nurses involved and they often feel very guilty, even sometimes to the point that they think that if they had done something different, a suicide wouldn’t have happened. This might or might not be true but as long as a nurse has done their duty properly, they should not be criticised. Nursing can be a very tough job, and nurses are their own worst critics.

  •  What would you tell to people who look after a loved one with dementia?

Don’t try to deal with it on your own. It’s a massively difficult thing to deal for the family. Accept some help, the nurses and doctors and social workers want to help, not take over.

Try not to be too self-critical. You are human, and you will get things wrong sometimes. That’s normal. Don’t forget, you are under great stress and must be kind to yourself.

The person you are looking after will most likely die before you, so there will be an end to this. Your life doesn’t end with dementia, there is an after.

  • One sentence for someone who has just been diagnosed with dementia.

I always say to people, you have a diagnosis now, but enjoy your life and do the best as you can for as long as you can. Don’t waste your time, go on holiday, spend your money, do whatever you want!

  • And now Joe, you are going to retire soon. What are your plans for the future?

I’m going to retire in March. I’m looking forward to it, I’ve been a nurse for so long, 36 years is a long time. Simply, it becomes part of your identity, you are not just a person, you are a nurse too. I won’t be nursing after my registration expires at the end of March but I won’t be out of picture, I’ll be working as dementia advisor for Alzheimer Scotland, just four days per month.

I have lots of interests outside work – running, photography, football, reading. I am looking forward to seeing more of my children, who are all in England.

  • What have you learnt after a whole life looking after people?

I have learned that, although it can be difficult work, it should not be complicated. People are people, they have very similar needs, wherever they are.

I have learned that people have the power to constantly amaze and humble me, with their courage and fortitude, their selflessness and their honesty. Not everyone performs at their best in terrible times, but so many do.

I have learned to focus on the important things, on how people are feeling, rather than diverting my energies into tasks that make me look busy.

I have learned that it is ok not to know everything, people don’t expect that. They expect to be listened to, and treated as fellow adults.

I have learned that I have never stopped learning, and that is why I have lasted so long, and remained so interested.

  • What is Nursing about for you?

It is about physically being with people. There is a huge benefit in face to face contact, it is what people want and what they respond to. That’s what I try to provide and it is the essence of nursing. Yes, you need skills and knowledge but you need to meet with people as closely as you can, of course you must remain professional but still connect as closely as you can. This is what nursing is about. If you can’t do that, then chose a different job I would say.

  • What would be your advice to keep ourselves mentally healthy?

Nothing clever, I’m afraid.

Everything in moderation, but go crazy every now and again.

Deal with stuff, don’t procrastinate, it wastes time.

If you have an opportunity, and unless there is a good reason not to, take it. Life revolves around change and opportunity.

Help others, but don’t forget to help yourself.

  • Would you like to share something else with us?

Yes. I am at the end of my career and naturally I am reflecting back on the many people I have met and worked with.

To so many courageous patients and their families, who have just done the best that they could, you have my great respect.

Professionally and personally, I have been influenced by some marvellous colleagues over the years. One of the joys of this career is that I have always worked with some exceptional colleagues, some people have always stood out for me. I could name people from every discipline but I’ll go for nursing, people who influenced me so much.

My ward sister in my first job in Hereford was Barbara Maddy. She was tough and uncompromising, only the best would do for her patients and she would defend their interests to the end. She would take on senior management, consultants, she didn’t care. She only selected the best staff available for her ward, and anyone who didn’t measure up was quickly moved on to somewhere less demanding. The end result was a well organised ward where people got better quickly. I am a different personality type to Barbara but she was an important influence in my development, and remains so today.

Colin Abbott was a CPN colleague in Humberside, We only worked together for a year or so, but I learned all about being a CPN from him. He was highly professional but also deeply compassionate. He was clear-headed, sometimes personally vulnerable but would always face challenges directly, never shirk them. My year with Colin prepared me to take on the challenge of my single-handed job in Cumbria, and we kept in touch until his sudden death a couple of years later. He was an exceptionally modest man, and you needed to work with him to appreciate what a fantastic nurse he was.

One of the joys of being a CPN is when you work with a partner. That doesn’t happen so much in Highland, where teams are usually small and multi-purpose. Colin Abbott stands out, as does Tony Hill, a nurse whom I recruited and mentored, and who eventually took my job in Cumbria when I moved on. We were chalk and cheese, but made a great partnership. People would talk to him when they wouldn’t talk to me, and vice versa. Tony died a couple of years ago and I miss him. Lastly, Christine McCallum has been my colleague for the past three years, successfully reminding me, on a daily basis, that two heads are better than one.

There are so many others, past and present, that I don’t have time to mention but what a privilege to work with them.


* * *

Dear Friends,

When I invited Joe to be interviewed his answer was a straight yes. He wanted to do it as easy and natural as possible and we did it.

We spent a very nice morning with Joe and Christine at home listening Joe and having tea. It was such a rewarding time, a trully pleasure.

He is the kind of human being who doesn’t care to show to others how good he is, no pretention at all. So Christine and I had to push Joe gently to talk about himself and how people trust him and feel safe and secure under his professional advice and care. 

Joe tries to be there, physically there for his patients, when there is a problem that he can help with. That makes a huge difference for people with dementia and their relatives. A real reasurance on this frail and uncertain journey.

Thank you so much Joe! And you too, Christine. I’m just delighted. It’s such a  pleasure to enjoy Joe and Christine as family members of the blog.

Dear Joe, I wish you all the best. Have a very happy retirement, although we’ll ensure to keep learning from you. Love,

Elena Lorente Guerrero





The power of vulnerability

Dear friends,

Although it seems to be too late, we’ve just started 2016. Many people are still reviewing all about last year and making a list of intentions for the next 365 days. Although maybe it is just about knowing, accepting WHAT I AM and then transcend it and raise it to WHO I WOULD LIKE TO BE.

To do that we must put certain qualities on the table, be honest and vulnerable. Who knows a lot about that is the qualitative researcher Brene Brown who has spent over ten years studying vulnerability, human connection, our capacity for empathy, of belonging, of love.

Diving in people’s stories searching for data and measurable, controllable, predictable information, Brown found the most difficult issue for her. She had to open her heart to face up her own hidden vulnerability. That happened during the research work and brought her to a break down, although her therapist assured her that it was only her spiritual awakening.

This qualitative researcher in her TEDxHouston talk shows what she’s learned after hearing so many stories of other people and after unexpectedly knowing herself. Here there are some of the main ideas:

About connection:

  • Connection is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.
  • We have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen and that makes us feel vulnerable.
  • Feeling shame is universal, everyone feels it. It is the fear of disconnection.
  • What underpins this shame is the feeling of “I’m not good enough”and not worthiness of love and belonging reinforces shame.
  • People who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they worthy.


  • It is the core of shame.
  • But it is also where the connection, joy, creativity, belonging and love born.
  • It is the path to access dignity.

On worthiness:

  • When we believe “I am enough …”  we stop shouting and we begin listening.
  • Feeling worthy, deserving, helps us to be kinder to ourselves and to other people.

The four “C” of  genuine people:

  • They have the COURAGE to be imperfect.
  • They have the COMPASSION to be kind to themselves and then to others.
  • They have CONNECTION. As a result of authenticity they are willing to renounce to be of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they are.
  • They are CONFIDENT. They trust, they accept vulnerability in their life because they consider it necessary.

Brené Brown concludes that vulnerability and tenderness are important because to feel vulnerable is to feel alive. We should love with our whole hearts even though there is no guarantee and to practice gratitude and joy.

Leckmelm Gardens

Vulnerability, connection, courage, compassion, confidence, dedication, authenticity, gratitude, love. Undoubtedly a challenge for the new year.

Happy 2016!

Elena Lorente Guerrero