CareGiver Guide

You can't care for another until you care for yourself…first!

Archive for the category “Compassion”

A Valentine’s Gift for Your Self: Visualization

Visualization: The Gift for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is the holiday which celebrates love. Love has many dimensions: romantic and sensual love (eros), familial love (philia), friendship love (storge) and divine or unconditional love (agape). These are the types of love we experience in our relationships.

This Valentine’s Day why not go beyond having relationships you love to having a life you love?  One way to design a life you love is to visualize it. Usually on Valentine’s Day, we give gifts to others. This Valentine’s Day, include yourself when giving out gifts. Give yourself the gift of visualizing a life you love.

Open your visualization gift by finding a quiet place free of distractions. Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Using your imagination, begin to visualize your ideal life. Remember, when you visualize, you have no limitations of time, talent, or treasure. Know that everything is available to you.

Use all your senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Imagine a time three (or five or ten) years from now. You just woke up and are ready to get out of bed. What do you see? What do you hear?  What do you smell? With whom are you or are you by yourself? Where are you? Answering these questions is how you begin to create your idealized future – your inspired life. 

Visualization is the link between inspiration and manifestation. Belief powers the link. 

As you answer these questions, visualize your idealized future in as much detail as possible. The more details the better. As you allow your imagination to run free, you will feel more inspired. The more inspired you become, the easier it will be for you to step into the world you are imagining. You can begin to see and feel yourself in this new world.  It may take several rounds of visualization to form a detailed image of your idealized future. Give yourself the time to continue visualizing. Be generous with your gift to your Self.

As you visualize, don’t entertain any limiting thoughts. Don’t let doubt seep in. Don’t say to yourself, “This is a just a dream. It will never actually happen like this for me.” The truth is that when you visualize something, it just did happen. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between imagination and what we call reality – the manifestation of our imagined thoughts.

Do you find it hard to believe that the mind doesn’t know the difference between what you imagine and what is in physical form? Haven’t you ever noticed that when you smell the scent of your favorite food you begin to salivate whether that food is available for you to eat or not? The mind recognizes the scent. It then does what the mind always does. It reacts to that stimulus and sets in motion a reaction in the body. It doesn’t matter whether the food is on the table ready to eat or not.

Believe in what you are imagining. Without a strong belief in what you are visualizing, it cannot come into reality. Doubt can prevent it from coming into being.

Feelings fuel belief. If you can feel the feelings associated with what you are visualizing, the vibrational energy of the feelings will attract the conditions necessary for what you are visualizing to manifest.

Experience the feelings first. Then wait for the manifestation. If you depend on the manifestation to occur before you can feel the feelings, you are living a conditional life. You are living life backwards. Imagine first. Believe it. Feel it. Then allow for your inspired visualization to manifest. (Of course, there are actions you will take along the way, but that is the subject for another time.)

When you live a conditional life, your happiness is dependent on conditions outside of you.

When you live your life from inspiration, you are living an unconditional life. You are joyful because of who you are being. Your joy is not dependent on conditions outside of your Self. You don’t need certain conditions to be present to feel happy. Instead, your inspiration generates joy.

Do you now understand more fully what unconditional love is really all about?

This Valentine’s Day you can be in love regardless of what conditions exist – whether you are alone, with your ‘valentine,’ at home, or on a vacation. Conditions don’t determine whether you are in love.

For this Valentine’s Day, give yourself the gift of visualization and share it with those you love.

Be kind

Managing your Attitude as a CareGiver is a critical skill.
As you begin each activity of care giving, remind yourself ‘to be kind.’

‘Be kind’ is as much a guiding principle of care giving as ‘do no harm’ is a guiding principle of the Hippocratic Oath.

The Way of the CareGiver

The Way of the CareGiver

Find Beauty in the Small Places of Your Life!

Is there a plant growing in a crack in the sidewalk? Did you stop to notice it?

Did you hear the cooing of a morning dove as you backed your car out of the garage?

Did you notice the play of colors on the bedroom wall reflected from the mirror on top the cedar chest?

Did you see the sun peeking through the clouds of pink and grey?

Beauty surrounds us, each and every day, unnoticed in the small places in our lives.

Gather that beauty into your heart. Store it away to draw on when worries mount and hopes fail.

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Greet The Present Moment!

Take a breath.
Take another, slowly. Inhale…Exhale.

Take a moment to notice what you are feeling.
Can you locate this feeling in a specific part of your body?

Have you felt this feeling before?

Notice what happens as you slowly inhale, and then exhale.
Feel your lungs and diaphragm as they inflate and deflate.

As you exhale, can you feel your breath as it passes over your upper lip?

Rejoice that you are alive, that you can breathe, that you can feel the air passing in and out of you.

Rejoice that you can feel the touch of those you love and who love you.

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Having: Expectations – Day 7

We all have expectations. Some of us tend to expect the best, others, the worst. What we might not have considered, is the affect of our expectations on those we care for.

Researchers conducted a simple experiment to show the power of expectations. Here’s how the experiment went.

Research was being done with laboratory rats. The rats were put in cages labeled either  ‘smart rat’ or ‘stupid rat.’ But the rats were really all the same. The sign designated their ‘intelligence.’

When the researchers (who were unaware that there really was no difference among the rats) performed their tests, the rats in the cages marked ‘smart’ always outperformed the rats in the other cages.

How the researchers interacted with the rats changed based on the label on the cages. Effectively, the ‘smart’ rats were expected to do better; those rats were treated differently and they wound up doing better than the rats labeled ‘stupid.’

The same holds true with people. Expectations affect the performance of children, students, soldiers and those with physical impairments such as blindness. Source: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/544/batman

Given this research, Care Givers have to be aware of their expectations as they interact with the person they care for.  If the Care Giver is worried and fearful, it will affect the mindset of the person being cared for. Guard against bringing your expectations into your care giving activities.

The Flickering Flame & The Winter Solistice

Today is the Winter Solstice. In the northern hemisphere where we are, it is the day with the least amount of sunlight. The days grow longer from now until the Summer Solstice in June.

Early this morning I had an empowering experience involving light as I meditated. Normally, I just sit in a darkened room as I meditate. For the past days, I’ve kept my eyes open and fixed on the flame of a small votive candle. Lighting candles each day in this season leading up to Christmas is a tradition I decided to follow this year.

As I sat to meditate, I noticed the wax and wick in the votive candle were low. I wasn’t sure the flame could last through the entire meditation period.

I lit the candle anyway. Soon the flame was barely a flicker. I thought if I removed some of the melted wax, the flame might get a bit bigger as it did when I did this the day before. Then, I recalled that my meditation practice advises that once the period starts, neither move nor hold onto any thought. So, I let the candle alone. I just observed. I let go of desiring an outcome (having the flame last the entire session) or of doing something to extend the life of the candle. I let it be.

The flame continued to flicker faintly. At one point, the flame was so faint, I wasn’t sure it was still alive. Then, it did go out.  After it went out, my judgmental mind awoke and said, “See, the candle didn’t last.” No sooner had that thought entered my mind, when the bell to end the meditation session had rung. Without my doing anything, the flame had lasted.

What I experienced reminded me of what it was like to sit in the hospice room when my mother was in coma the day before she died. I so much wanted to do something to change what I knew was coming. Listening to her struggle to breathe was like watching the flame faintly flickering.

Unlike with my experience with the candle during meditation, I was not there when my mother drew her last breath. Unlike my experience with the candle, I did wish I could do something, I just didn’t know what. I struggled just to be there despite attempts to read, pray and meditate. Nothing I did made it any easier to be with her. Finally, having finished the book I was reading, I got up and left.

Now, all these years later, observing the candle has taught me a lesson of how to sit with someone who is dying. Be a compassionate presence. Let go and let it be. Suspend the desire to do — anything.

Enjoy the light as each day grows longer!

CHILL OUT

Guidance For CareGivers

 

When the day-to-day existence of being a CareGiver has worn you out, when you feel like you cannot do it another day, CHILL OUT.

On a practical level, you need to find a way to make the time to ‘chill out’. When it may seem like your world is closing in on you, as if nothing is going right, and as if you can’t do another task, these are all signs it is time to give yourself a break.

Even if your break is only 5 minutes long, find a way to take it – no matter what. Right now!

There is a path of ‘preventive maintenance’ to make sure you don’t reach your limits of what you can deal with as a CareGiver. You can remember the path using the acronym “C-H-I-L-L  O-U-T”. It stands for:

Compassion

Healing

Intention

Listen

Love

 

Organize

Understand

Tenderness

These are the attitudes or virtues you need to develop as a CareGiver. Putting these skills into practice each day will keep you from burn out.

Compassion starts with being compassionate towards yourself. In Zen Buddhism, this attitude of being friendly toward oneself is known as maitri.

As a CareGiver we often neglect our needs as we strain to care for another. It is important for the CareGiver  to practice  the attitude of maitri.

You then expand this attitude of friendliness toward others around you. You can draw comfort in the realization that other CareGivers experience the same exhaustion and frustration inherent in being a CareGiver as you do. Compassion gives you the ability to open your heart wider to others, and in particular, to the person you are caring for.

Eventually your compassion expands so that it includes all living things. The attitude of compassion gives you the capacity to experience your connection with all living creatures.

Healing is something we usually associate with medical professionals. We often are oblivious to the power of healing we already have within us. For example, studies show the power of touch in healing. Never underestimate the power of a kind word, thought or touch.

A frustration of being a CareGiver comes from the feeling that there is nothing you can do to help the person you are caring for. But there is – you can always extend a healing word or touch.

Intention is about living your life with purpose. If you are in touch with why you are doing something as you are doing, it will help to motivate you to continue to want to do what you are doing. It is easy to get caught up in a routine and feel it doesn’t make a difference. If you perform an act with the intention that it will benefit another, it will.

Listening is a key virtue in CareGiving. You have to learn to listen not only to what is being said but what is not being said. A simple example is you don’t have to wait for the person you are caring for to ask for something to drink. If you start to hear a raspy voice, it may be because the person is thirsty.

Love is an attitude of wishing good for another whether or not you think they deserve it. You might be annoyed by the way the person you are caring for responds to you. As, Mother Teresa would put it, “Love them anyway.”

Organizing your activity can reduce the stress of CareGiving. Some of the stress of CareGiving comes from having to react to crisis after crisis. You are in react mode most of the time . Having a plan, organizing your activities, can help you move out react mode into act mode. In act mode, you are anticipating what is needed before it is needed.

Understanding encourages you to look for what is right about a situation rather than what’s missing or wrong. It’s putting yourself in the ‘shoes of another’ and seeing the situation from their point of view.

Tenderness toward those around you can short-circuit angry or frustrating situations. It is difficult for someone to remain angry if there is no one in opposition. As the song goes, “try a little tenderness.”

By practicing these virtues and cultivating these attitudes each day, you can prevent yourself from reaching a point of burn out, of feeling unrestrained anger, of feeling useless. The next time you feel CareGiving is wearing you down, remember to CHILL OUT.

Steps to Reduce the Stress Level of Being a CareGiver.

Care giving is a stressful activity. If you want to reduce the stress level of being a CareGiver, consider these steps.

If you are a new CareGiver or your loved ones are still in good health,

do the first two steps immediately, as in RIGHT NOW!

Do these two steps now. You’ll save a lot of stress later!

Step 1. Have a conversation about death.

Step 2. Prepare the legal papers, especially “The Advanced Directive”

If you are already actively involved in CareGiving or know it’s coming soon, get to work on Steps 3 through 7.

Step 3. Develop a Care Plan.

Step 4. Learn about Palliative Care and Hospice.

Step 5. Learn about the power of music in caring and healing.

Step 6. Develop a support system for you, the CareGiver.

As I say often, “You can’t care for another unless you care for yourself…first!”

Step 7. Learn to become a compassionate listener.

 

These work.

 

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