Are you a caregiver for a loved one? Perhaps one of your parents? This can be an incredibly difficult, yet important and rewarding role....but takes its toll on the caregiver. How do you go about this on a daily basis being both compassionate and accepting of the situation as it is? How can you achieve serenity wellness for yourself while caring for an ill or elderly loved one?
Here is a mindfulness practice specifically for caregivers from Jeff Brantley, MD, Founder and Director of the Mindfulness-Based StressReduction Program at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, NC. I met Dr. Brantley while completing my integrative health coach training and certification at Duke. He is an amazing person who not only practices mindfulness, but has the unique capacity for helping those he teaches how to do it as well. Just listening to him talk, always put me at ease and able to be mindful - or paying attention on purpose, with intention, in the present moment, in a friendly and non-judging way. Please try this practice if you are a caregiver or pass it along to someone who is.
Metta for Caregivers
The emphasis in this practice is on balance - the balance between opening one's heart endlessly, and accepting the limits of what one can do. The balance between compassion and equanimity. Compassion is the trembling or the quivering of the heart in response to suffering. Equanimity is a spacious stillness that can accept things as they are. The balance of compassion and equanimity allows us to care, and yet not get overwhelmed and unable to cope because of that caring.
The phrases we use reflect this balance. Choose some phrases that are personally meaningful to you. You can alter them in any way, or use ones that you have created out of their unique personal significance.
To begin the practice, take as comfortable a position as possible, sitting or lying down. Take a few deep soft breaths to let your body settle. Bring your attention to your breath, and begin to silently say your chosen phrases in rhythm with the breath... You can also experiment with just having your attention settle in the phrases, without using the anchor of the breath. Feel the meaning of what you are saying, yet without trying to force anything....let the practice carry you along.
"May I offer my care and presence unconditionally, knowing it may be met by gratitude, indifference, anger or anguish."
"May I find the inner resources to truly be able to give."
"May I offer love, knowing I cannot control the course of life, suffering, or death."
"May I remain in peace, and let go of expectations."
"I care about your pain, and I cannot control it."
"I wish you happiness and peace, and I cannot make your choices for you."
"May this experience help me open to the true nature of life."
"May I see my limits compassionately, just as I view the suffering of others."
"May I, and all beings, live and die in ease."