Smudging is a major part of the healing process for many patients, families and visitors of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC). Understanding that mental and spiritual wellbeing are crucial components of a person’s overall health, smudging is now offered on a regular basis for anyone who needs it.
A common tradition among many First Nations, smudging involves the burning of one or more sacred medicines gathered from the earth: tobacco, sage, cedar and sweetgrass.
“It’s a cleansing ceremony that can also be described as a different form of prayer, to either God or the Creator,” explains Michael Robinson, Spiritual Care Provider, TBRHSC. “The smudge can help to calm and centre patients and visitors while they are here at the hospital.”
Michael originally started offering smudging to patients and their families once a week when he joined the TBRHSC team back in April, but since then demand has grown so high that he has increased his smudging services to four times a week.
Regularly scheduled smudging takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in both the morning and the afternoon and can either be performed in the specially ventilated Chapel, or the Spirit Garden located in one of the hospital’s beautifully decorated courtyards.
In addition to the regularly scheduled sessions, personal smudges can also be requested at any time. Michael does an average of 16 individually requested smudges a week, and notes that people of all backgrounds and cultures are welcome to participate.
“It’s important to me that I remain accessible to patients and families whenever I’m needed, and I’m always happy to help in any way that I can,” says Michael. “I can offer guidance to patients of any faith, but as a First Nations man, I specialize in Aboriginal spiritual care. I think it’s especially comforting for our Aboriginal patients to find out that I’m also a Pipe and Eagle Whistle Carrier, because they know that means that I come with an understanding and awareness of their needs and concerns. It also helps that I’m always walking around smelling of smudge,” he jokes.
Through his work, Michael is helping to grow a culture of awareness and understanding of Aboriginal health within the Health Sciences Centre. He hopes that as people become more aware of his position and all that he can offer, people will become more comfortable requesting his services.
Anyone interested in learning more about smudging, how they can access it, or other components of Aboriginal culture and spirituality are welcome to contact Michael at the Spiritual Care office by calling 807-684-6235.