Peaceful Places

Today I was inspired to take a look at the world’s most majestic libraries. The first is the New York Public Library mentioned in my last post. A man named Samuel J Tilden bequeathed his fortune to establish and maintain a free library and reading room. With the funds from two other benefactors Astor and Lenox the library was opened in 1911. Today the library is funded with State Aid, Grants and Donations.


All our libraries are needing to established their uses amongst the community as people turn to e-readers and free downloads. Facilities within the libraries have kept up with advancements, such as offering internet access, WiFi, coffee and a sofa. The changing image of the book is coinciding with the image of the libraries as modern buildings are no longer bound in polished wood and brass fittings. The modern libraries are as sleek as the e-readers, such as the Stuttgart City Library in Germany.


My personal preference is the Monastic library in Prague. The Bishop Zdik founded the monastery including the libraries in 1140. The buildings have since been rebuilt over the centuries but the layout of the rhythmical shelves is just magical.

prague library

My last library is the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland. The original Old Library was founded by the Military Colonel Thomas Burgh from 1712.  He was an engineer, architect and a member of Parliament in Ireland. The layout is row upon row of methodology looking like a well dressed line up of military structure on parade.

trinity library dublin

If changing the nature of these buildings is necessary for their survival then so be it. But I fear the quiet spaces for silence, thought, peace from outside chaos will be diluted as new services are introduces to keep the doors remaining open. Social activities are now featured in these buildings, knitting circles, family history groups, and internet suites. If the temper and the ambience is to change in order for the continued stay of these magnificent spaces then all I can ask is, please can we have a reading room that remains just the same?

(Images from Google images)

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Love Libraries


I think I have always loved libraries and I am not ashamed to say that the appreciation was probably first realised when I saw Ghostbusters. I know sad but true, not for the ghostly feel but for the vastness of the building, the history and the peace. A library is a public building, it welcomes in people from all situations, on lunch breaks from work, retired, mothers and toddlers and yet it is still respected as a quiet place for thought and concentration.

When I was a student I used the libraries as a second home. My accommodation was too noisy and distracting for study and I developed the love for these buildings from noticing the architecture, the furnishings, the old majestic surroundings. I had once also believed that I have a love for learning. I have spent the last twenty years studying for one qualification or another but now I realise it is not a love for academic study so much as a love for writing. I like the detective work of discovery, the researching something new of interest. The shaping and polishing of the findings. The creation of words to float over the pages. The end result of a delectable read of expression. Even better is the formation made under the same roof as other scholars,  other readers and solitude finders in for a purpose or in from a storm. Libraries collect not only books but minds. The building attracts the inquisitives, the searchers, the daily fantasists and literary feeders looking for action, relaxation, knowledge and development. And the writer looking on for the inspiration.

(Image from Google images)

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Attitude to Gratitude


Last month was World Gratitude Day a celebration day I had not heard of until recently. The story goes that in 1965 a group of people at Thanksgiving decided to call this date, 21st September, Gratitude Day. Every year since the day has been celebrated and has been sweeping the world over as a healing phenomenon for good attitude for the giver and receiver of good cheer.

I heard about this celebration from an inspirational speaker. He spoke of a good attitude and good manners. When we were children our mother would say “what do you say?” if someone made a kind gesture and as a child we would response “thank you”. This is a simple pleasure for the giver and the receiver of the good will.

Now as adults we do not receive a reminder of our attitude, to say thank you, and it is with this simple awareness that we can show our gratitude. The writers at webpages claim that developing an attitude of gratitude is a healing power. We must strive to maintain this when surrounded by indifference and ingratitude. They even suggest that by keeping a Gratitude Journal we all become more thankful and positive about the lives we lead and increasingly recognise the richness of our blessings that we may have not seen so clearly before.

My inspiring speaker called this an attitude to gratitude that leads to beatitudes.

(Image from Google images)

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Therapeutic Spaces



On watching a documentary recently on the closure of the East Riding Mental Health Buildings of High Royds Hospital I was touched with sadness. Such institutions by no means had a perfect reputable history but the sadness was evident within the local community and their campaigning to have some areas of the estate maintained in the memory of the hospital.

As a student nurse at Leeds College of Health I travelled to High Royds for study days. The hospital was being used by the College for teaching all branches of nursing students whilst the Hospital was still part functioning. We experienced the vast miles of internal intertwining  corridors, the views over the Dales and the many gardens within one hospital, and the beautiful architecture of the buildings. The trips were blooming driveways in summer and crisp frosted paths from the small train station in winter. I remember being informed of the history of the place, being a self sufficient village of a farm, dairy, gardens all on one site.

You will be right to think my description is a romantic reminiscence of the time and place and limited in the functionality of the hospital. The physical locality of the hospital does seem dated and fitting to times when patients were cared for in rural areas, mental health institutes, infectious diseases wards, rolled out verandas for fresh air.

Our modern day hospitals and high tech equipped units, with clean, sterile, white washed corridors, brightly lite seem very clinical in comparison. Outdoor spaces in hospitals are the car parks, the transport links and loading areas which are of the upmost importance. But do we need outdoor space that is green? In times of distress, illness and worry which are experienced within a hospital setting, do we need a therapeutic space?

In todays hospitals these spaces still do exist but they are often compact, than rolling fields and views. Sensory minimalism comes to mind as the modern gardens can still be in ear shot of the sounds of the clinical environment oppose to the sounds of nature.

A writer called Clare Hickman explored hospital gardens in her research. In the early 1900s it was viewed that open air spaces are beneficial for physical health, a view held by Florence Nightingale herself as specific spaces for patients for convalescence (1893 Notes on Hospitals). In sanatoriums the benefits for fresh air where valued. In Asylums the view was held that “what a person sees he emits, taking in the vast beauty of landscapes and the peace and tranquillity”.

Do we need to value our therapeutic spaces more deeply centred to health? Do we need to look towards the community garden projects to reintroduce fresh air benefits and areas that can promote mindfulness in our hospitals?

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Healthy Minds, Healthy Hearts – “when empathy hurts, compassion can heal” by Adam Hoffman


Nursing is a unique job. We experience the  triumphs and the traumas sometimes all in a day.  Patients and their families  welcome us into their lives and first hand we see healing, relief, health, illness, trauma and sadness of others. Our living with other peoples births, deaths, healing and distress up close and emotionally centred in others means we are no longer a stranger to them or them to us.

So how do nurses cope with these vast emotional experiences? How are nurses taught to deal with distressing situations? These life experiences of nurses are emotional, often visually traumatic and in the face of it all nurses practice compassion, empathy, sympathy and support. But how does a nurse process this information when repeatedly exposed to such stress?

An article I read by Adam Hoffman (22 Aug 2013) explained that over time this level of distress limits the amount of compassion  and empathy from their stores of emotion. In a study they exposed a group to TV clips containing highly emotive traumatic scenes and supported this group with meditation, a loving kindness meditation class from Eastern traditions. The second group did not receive the meditation class. Overall the emotional responses from those in the meditation group were more measured, less stressed and had an increased ability to cope.

So do nurses need more compassion to give compassion? It is no surprise that the emotional stresses nurses experience cause burnout, anxiety and stress over years of exposure to pain and suffering of others. How many hospitals currently offer relaxation classes or meditation groups? The current media discussions are focused on the care and compassion of nurses, the 6c’s and dignity training for nurses. But do nurses need to be recipients as well as givers?

(Image from Google images)