Mother Teresa said, "It is not how much we do, but how much love we put into doing it. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into the giving."
Your intentions in caring for your loved one are very important. If we have been thrown into this role, there most likely wasn't enough time to really think about clarifying our intentions.
Some of the immediate issues most caregivers concern themselves with are:
Where do I begin?
How can I give my loved one the quality care he/she needs?
Where do I find out more information about their condition?
Does my loved one need another consultation?
How do I juggle my work with caring responsibilities?
These are just a few of the questions that pop up immediately when one become a caregiver in an instant as the result of their diagnosis. While these issues are priorities there are others at hand, which sometimes get overlooked by many in their roles. They are mindfulness, giving and love. These three areas are imperative in creating a dance of harmony, cooperation, fluidness and balance between yourself, as the caregiver and the one you are caring for.
The "Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche speaks of mindfulness in the following way:
"The practice of mindfulness, of bringing the scattered mind home, and so of bringing the different aspects of our being into focus, or stilling yourselves in the nature of your mind, accomplishes three things?
1.All the fragmented aspects of ourselves, which have been at war, settle and dissolve and become friends. In that settling we begin to understand ourselves more, and sometimes even have glimpses of the radiance of our fundamental nature.
2.The practice of mindfulness defuses our negativity, aggression, and turbulent emotions, which may have been gathering power over many lifetimes. Rather than suppressing emotions or indulging in them, here it is important to view them, your thought and whatever arises with an acceptance and generosity that are as open and spacious as possible. In this space there is a feeling so warm and cozy that you feel enveloped and protected by it, as if by a blanket of sunlight. As you remain open and more mindful, your negativity will slowly be defused; you will begin to feel well in your being.
3.The practice unveils and reveals your essential Good Heart, because it dissolves and removes the unkindness or the harm in you. Only when we have removed the harm in ourselves, do we become truly useful to others.... we allow our true Good Heart, the fundamental goodness and kindness that are our real nature, to shine out and become the warm climate in which our true being flowers."
By now, you may be saying to yourself, "What is she talking about?"
If you can reflect back to a time when you felt loved and you loved, remember how it felt to you.
Now remember a time when you were angry or hurt. What did that feel like?
Can you recall at time in your childhood when you wanted to tell your parent about something exciting only to be told, "I am busy, you will have to wait until I am finished.?"
Do you remember a time when a relative might have pinched your cheek out of love and you thought to yourself, "Ouch! That hurt!?" A gentle stroking touch would have felt more loving to you.
Now, can you remember a time when you fell asleep and woke up feeling uncomfortable because your bed linens were crumpled beneath you?
In caring for another person, mindfulness, intent and love all play an important part in meeting the needs of both of you. If you are not in a loving space; if you are coming from fear, resentment, guilt, obligation, feeling overly responsible, or some negative space when you are caring for your loved one, your role will become burdensome and you will burn out.
When you come from mindfulness, with a clear intent and love, your role will become easier and more effortless. Your loved one will feel the differences as well. Slow down before you take action. Be fully present in all that you do. So by thinking, "this is full time work in itself. I don't have the time or the patience to do any of this!" So be it.
However, if you see how much time you waste, how much confusion is caused by your actions, your attitude and vibrations if you aren't focused and coming from a loving space, you will realize that by aligning your self and becoming aware, you will create much more peace, joy and happiness for yourself and your loved one.
If your loved one has suffered a stroke and cannot speak, if they have a form of dementia and do not understand, or if they are in the final stages of their life and cannot describe the sensations they are feeling as their body is closing down, then you will not be able to tune into what they may really be needing in the moment. Just as you were able to recall about the time you were pinched instead of stroked, or that crumpled bed linen that awakened you, it is your responsibility to tune in to what your loved one truly needs.
Love is the most powerful healer for both caregiver and carerecipient. Open your hearts so that your loved one may open theirs. We can shift our role from being a burden to being a remarkable gift. We have a choice in how transforming and rewarding our caregiving experience can be. Make the right choice for yourself and the one you are caring for.