Michael Harrington has spent the last 15 years working as a hospice volunteer and private, end-of-life caregiver, both in curative and palliative-based modalities. In this role, he has worked predominantly as a spiritual practitioner. Besides his unique background in end of life caregiving, Michael has been involved with various elements of ‘death, dying and end of life care’-experiencing groups such as: Threshold, Hemlock, and Death Cafe and studying case histories of Near Death Experiences.
Threshold, a local Santa Cruz group, deals with practical and emotional issues in the death and dying field, including ethical wills, DNR, advanced directives and POLST forms.
Hemlock, now officially known as Compassion and Choices (and somewhat related to Final Exit Network), still has some local area groups. It is for those interested in dying with dignity in certain recalcitrant and severely debilitating situations like ALS, Parkinsons, late stage cancers, brain tumors and others -wherein inert gases, and other dignified, self-deliverance methods and procedures are discussed.
Death Cafe is an introduction into the death and dying field, or as they say: “a discussion group of death with no agenda, objectives or themes.”
This abstract was taken from a blog Michael wrote on this site entitled: “Let’s Die Now”- that speaks of his experience as an end of life care provider:
“I have been a professional in the field of death and dying for the last thirteen years, beginning as a hospice volunteer in the Park City, Heber Valley and Sundance areas of Utah in 2001. As a practicing acupuncturist and massage therapist, I traveled to the homes of those in the last weeks or months of life, offering compassionate presence and hands on healing to ease pain and suffering. In the years that followed, I continued to work with the dying or those severely debilitated and chronically ill with syndrome labels like ALS, MS, dementia, late-stage cancers and others.
The more I sat with the dying, the more I saw the futility of effort, the fruitless energy waste, when one attempts to control or alter experiences. I came to see and feel deeply that what the dying person wanted was a listening heart, someone not invested in their form. Those nearing this passage wanted a companion with no ulterior motive, someone who could just be. It wasn’t about my technical skills, gifts of healing touch, years of training, what really mattered was seeing their immortality and each encounter became a profound meditation on the Eternal nature of Life itself.”
With a background steeped in meditation (non-dual spirituality), and a rich history encompassing more than 20 years in alternative healing methods and touch therapies, including time spent as an: acupuncturist, hatha yoga & meditation teacher, massage therapist, author, thai yoga practitioner, and leader of holistic detoxification retreats. Michael has sat many long silent meditation retreats (both vipassana and self-inquiry). His background also includes: Reiki, study with a Hopi-trained shaman, immersion in Hemispheric-Synchronization Technology and many years studying and experiencing the floatation tank.
Michael’s background includes National Certification in Acupuncture, in addition to Massage Certification, both Eastern and Western. He taught hatha yoga from 1995–2005, and spent much of the last ten years as an end-of-life caregiver. In 2008, he authored a book, Medicine of the Heart. Writing is one of his main modes of meditation and inquiry. It helps to extract and share the delights of the soul. His newest book, published October 2015 is a memoir, entitled- From Illness to Stillness: Uncovering Your Innermost Being.
Michael’s journey into the healing arts began in 1987 with Metaphysics. He discovered the floatation tank which was popularized by John Lilly and inspired by his research with dolphins. The Floatation tanks or isolation tank is soundproof and lightless where the water is saturated with 800 pounds of epsom salt allowing one to float on top of water. Michael began to experience the alpha-theta brainwaves that powerfully mimic authentic meditation, the direct experience of the natural state of being. Several months later he began listening to ‘hemi-sync’ tapes. Hemi-Sync, as it was coined by Robert Monroe, allows one to experience brain coherence through binaural sound technology. This technology connects one with ‘whole brain power’, what is known as hemispheric synchronization. These two tools became therapeutic and transformational aids acting as facilitation devices, allowing the unconscious to unload debris, bringing it to consciousness.
In the early 1990′s, Michael began training in the hands-on healing arts. Although his background included many Western style massage modalities along with two years studying with a Native American healer, for most of the last fifteen years he has utilized his training in the Eastern Energetic-based Medicines of India, China, and Thailand. Michael began practicing yoga in 1993, and teaching in 1995, which was the year he took his first meditation retreat. In 1996, he traveled on a spiritual pilgrimage to India—inspired like so many after reading Autobiography of a Yogi. He became Reiki certified with a Hopi-trained shaman in 1997, also the year he began acupuncture training. Michael became nationally certified in acupuncture in 2001.
In 2005 and 2009, Michael traveled to Thailand to study Thai Massage. He has trained in Thailand with three diverse and influential teachers: Nut Tarragorn, a gifted blind masseur who practices a more southern style Thai Massage (very deep); Mama Lek, who teaches a ‘nerve touch’ style (energetic massage) at the most popular school in Chiang Mai; and with Pichest Boonthumme, in the northern style Thai Massage (more movement, flexibility, assisted yoga asanas). Having studied and trained with many sweet healers, teachers, and practitioners, Michael sees them as great reflectors of oneness—our essential nature—in unique and inspiring ways. Michael’s dear friend Chetana has been one of his best teachers. She has the unique ability to sense when another being is identifying with the mind while in physical contact with her body. The instant feedback she gave while ‘in session together’ with Michael, had a deep effect on his hands on healing.
Along with this rich background in touch-based therapies, during the last 15 years Michael has supported the dying and their families during a time of profound transition. End-of-life caregiving has deeply affected his healing practice.
One of the most significant life events occurred when Michael made the sincere decision to fully embody Truth. This fueled a powerful shift and spiritual awakening in 2003. Disengaging from the cultural conditioning with its compulsive need to reference thought as reality fueled an intensive, self-healing. False beliefs and conditioned patterns fell away at an accelerated rate.
Michael enjoys outer nature as much as the inner, including hiking, biking, tennis, backpacking, spontaneous conscious dance and many other creative expressions.
Two of his favorite quotes that speak of outer nature and inner contemplation:
“We had seen God in all His splendors, heard the text that nature renders. We reached the naked soul of man.”
–Ernest Shackleton (Polar Explorer)
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and storms their energy, while cares will drop away like autumn leaves.”
–John Muir (naturalist and preservationist)