Another friend of mine, who was a bit of a mentor to me in a long-past life, has been dealing with severe health issues for a few years. He has a caregiver who has done an amazing job in some really horrible situations. He's doing much better lately, but wouldn't be so if not for her. I went, with some friends, to visit him this weekend and her support of him was evident in his improved health. My friends and I, to whom this man matters a great deal, feel we owe his current presence to hers.
There's an even more interesting story buried between those two individuals stories which helped me to see more clearly the fact that there is good and bad in all people, and that gave me deep insight in to "Store Consciousness" this weekend, but that is a whole different story. Maybe I'll get back to that some other time.
Anyhow, seeing both of these two situations up close this weekend, and involving two people whom I care about was both interesting and enlightening. With them on my mind, as well as my own role as an emotional caregiver (which I am grateful to be able to do) for many people at the moment, I sat with these in mind and performed Sharon's LovingKindness Meditation for Caregivers.
I won't write the whole meditation here, as you can find it in Real Happiness if you need it and it applies to you. But I wanted to talk a little about some of the things Sharon brings up on the matter in the book. She says:
"Skillful caregiving depends on balance - the balance between love and compassion for oneself and love and compassion for another; the balance between opening on's heart fully and accepting the limits of what one can change. Moving our hearts toward balance allows us to care and yet still cope because of that caring."
Wow. Well said Sharon Salzberg! These people (caregivers) often teeter on the edge of burnout, which Sharon also talks about, and they really are handling a lot of things. To do well as caregivers, they must find that balance, and the two examples I saw this weekend do very well given their very different but both overwhelming tasks!
A few of the phrases Sharon suggests for this practice (if you are the caregiver) are:
"May I find the inner resources to be able to give to others and receive myself.
May I offer love, knowing I can't control the course of life, suffering or death.
I care about your pain, yet cannot control it.
May I see you as I wish to be seen, as big as life itself, so much more than your need or pain"
Read that last one again. Wow, huh? I practiced these, and the others in Real Happiness during that sit, and they really helped me feel more balanced. I hope that if you are in the position of being a caregiver - and let's face it, we ALL are in some way - that you will find comfort and balance in these practices!