My last column talked about caregiver burnout resulted in me speaking to several caregivers caring for their spouses, and how it had brought them to a realization of their own inner feelings about their situation.
The purpose of my writing about the symptoms of this place we can arrive at where we want to just escape, to leave, to push away all that is happening was to offer an opportunity to do something differently.
Having been a caregiving personality all my life, I fully understand the conflict that can arise in oneself when attuned continually to giving and the programming that this emanates from.
Especially as we age and continue in life with a particular pattern of behaviour, often our deepest emotions about these situations cause us to revert to a sense of wanting to flee, or to fight or to freeze.
In all of these reactive states, we are in a form of resistance against what is.
How do we counter the conditioning to control our inner experience which leaves us trapped inside a painful mood?
How do we change the cycle of not fully being with what is, embracing the feelings that arise with that acknowledgment so we can come to a greater understanding of what is triggering these emotions and open up a space for acceptance to enter?
I think for many of us, we truly desire a greater connection to peace and grace as we are aging.
We’ve been there and done that so many times, there is a genuine willingness to change.
This authentic intention is very important. For me it came fully into being as I watched my mom struggle at the end of her life to let go as I cared for her through those intense last months.
She would not surrender. She kept fighting and it was painful to watch.
I decided I did not want to replay this in my own life, and it opened up a sincere openness to discover how I might accomplish this.
The answers have come slowly and developing a practice to liberate my consciousness is the pathway to healing that I think so many of us seek.
Freedom comes with a pausing, being with what is and having the courage to realize that our reactions to circumstances do not come from anything outside of us, but from our own perceptions of what we feel we need to do to be loved, feel safe or feel like we belong.
Mindfulness is a practice of being present in the moment with what is.
Instead of pushing our feelings away, we pause and be with them whatever they are.
Often when caregiving for some length of time, the first emotion you may connect with is anger or frustration, a resentment of what you are going through.
If you ask, “What is going on inside me right now?” and then breathe deeply into that and let it be, let it expand, this is mindfulness.
It takes courage to name whatever you feel and accept it.
As you do, you make room for a door to open to what is underneath.
Ask what this is. It may be fear or it may be feelings of guilt or perhaps sadness.
Let each emotion be felt and use your breath to embrace it without judgment.
As we do this, it allows for a shift to occur. One that will take us to being able to act from right action, not from habit, or protection, but from a more compassionate place for ourselves and for those around us.
We are listening, truly listening to a voice within us and in this acceptance we can move to being able to respond, rather that react.
This frees up an amazing amount of energy to move from resistance to acceptance.
Carl Rogers said, “It wasn’t until I accepted myself just as I am, that I was given the freedom to change.”
Engaging with how it is and allowing it, frees it. It moves you from resignation, which is very different from authentic acceptance.
Opening to whatever is can be heartbreaking, but let the heart break.
Let the natural inclination to resist soften, and use the intention to do so as an invitation to receive the support that will allow it to happen, one little step at a time.
A wise man said, “If you let go a little, you find a little peace. If you let go a lot, you find a lot of peace. If you let go absolutely, you find absolute peace and tranquility.”
Danna Faulds in her poem White Dove says it with such wisdom:
“In the shared quiet, an invitation arises like a white dove lifting from a limb and taking flight.
“Come and live in truth.
“Take your place in the flow of grace.
“Draw aside the veil you thought would always separate your heart from love.
“All you ever longed for is before you in this moment if you dare draw in a breath and whisper ‘Yes.’”