Caring for the Caregiver: Honour Your Gift of an Awakened Heart

Dr. Phyllis Quinlan
Dr. Phyllis Quinlan

Inspired by the ancient book of wisdom; The Tao Te Ching: Verse Eighty One

True words are not beautiful
Beautiful words are not true
Those who are good do not debate
Those who debate are not good
Those who know are not broad of knowledge
Those who are broad of knowledge do not know

Sages do not accumulate
The more they assist others, the more they possess
The more they give to others, the more they gain

The Tao of heaven
Benefits and does not harm
The Tao of sages
Assists and does not contend

Lao Tzu


The more they assist others, the more they possess. The more they give to others, the more they gain. Lao Tzu clearly captures the essence of what drives a caregiver with these two simple sentences in this final verse of the Tao Te Ching. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, caregivers possess what is termed bodhicitta. The literal translation is an awakened heart. Many people study and engage in spiritual practice for years to develop the partnership between their head and heart (compassion and wisdom) that arises naturally in professional and family caregivers.

In the meditative practice designed to develop an awakened heart, the practitioner is taught to meditate on the two aspects of bodhicitta which are both of equal importance. The first practice is intended to assist one in connecting with and anchoring the flow of caring and compassion one already feels. The second practice is aimed at acknowledging where your caring nature is still blocked. I respectfully suggest that the professional and family caregiver’s greatest blind spot is for insight into their personal need to devote equal time to their own wellbeing. Caring is not a sprint it is a marathon. An undertaking of this nature requires preparation, training and a devoted attention to what it will take to keep you in the race.

Reshaping the industry of healthcare will place greater focus on wellness and preventative programs. The larger vision of this redesign is in returning the patient back to the community in an appropriate, efficient and safe manner. However, we are slowly coming to realize that many of the community healthcare resources and systems that were available in recent years are greatly modified or no longer exist. This is but one of the consequences felt within the healthcare industry as a result of the economic downturn.

The reality of these challenging economic times places unimaginable stress on both professional and family caregivers. Emergency departments are being crushed as more and more hospitals close. Individuals without healthcare coverage multiply daily. Often they wait to seek care until needs become dire. The strain of trying to deliver safe, quality patient care in the face of huge cuts in reimbursement and ever increasing regulatory oversight is taxing the resolve and spirit of many on the patient care frontlines.

Families struggle to render care at home and keep loved ones of all ages comfortable and safe. Every day is an exercise in juggling work, family and caregiving responsibilities on a twenty-four hour shift that offers no break in sight. Family caregivers did not ask for such responsibility but they did not run when the going got tough.

Individuals who stand ready to meet these challenges cannot fuel their awakened heart (bodhicitta) from energetic fumes. They must be able to call upon a ready, intact source of power. This ability begins with gentle introspection that reveals a personal understanding of what your authentic motivation is in deciding to be a caregiver. Quiet time that enables you to get genuinely acquainted with your qualities and shortcomings and make friends with both is essential. Get comfortable with who you are, who you may become and who you could never be. This creates the level playing field necessary for you to admit that you are a kindred spirit with those in your care. You may be indispensable but you are not indestructible.

You must make time for yourself regularly if you are going to be able to remain generous and available to help others. You must plan for it. Do not piece it together from the scraps of time that are left over. You must be able to look forward to taking time for yourself. Not in some undetermined future but routinely. Find a way to weave vibrational healing sessions into what you do for yourself. Follow the basic principles of Feng Shui. Address the clutter in your environment that is reflecting the blockages in your personal energetic fields. Get rid of the clutter. Don’t organize it or store it in pretty containers. Throw it out! Build meditation, massage, Reiki or any other me centered holistic health practice into your routine like brushing your teach.

Honor your gift of an awakened heart and never take it for granted. Jesus of Nazareth declared, blessed are the merciful (the compassionate), for they shall obtain mercy. He shared these words so that those with an awaken heart would know that they are not alone. Please, take care of yourself at least as well as you take care of others.

Oṃ ma ṇi pad me hūṃ = I honor the life force within you

Respectfully submitted by:

Phyllis Quinlan, PhD, RN-BC
718 661 498



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