The first time I actually tried to meditate, I thought I would wiggle a hole in my jeans. Still my mind, I could even sit still! I kept rationalizing that this stillness was bad for my arthritis but that argument went out the window as I found walking mediation frustrating and anxiety provoking. Imagine being subjected to the onslaught if all the thoughts in your head as you sit in silence.
I have often heard Pema Chodron say in her audiobooks that the goal of meditation is to make the space between two thoughts longer. The Tao Te Ching teaches that the empty form created by the spokes of a wheel is what provides strength and function for the wagon. So it seems that the lesson here is to understand that, much of what we need to function as a whole lies within our silent core.
Silence or better yet, stillness is not something that Caregivers are often comfortable with experiencing. Caregivers are doers/fixers so it naturally follows that their comfort zone lies within the boundaries of being busy and joy is defined as the ability to multitask well. The paradox is that Caregivers view inactivity as wasteful and annoying but they often lament that they cannot wait for some “down time”.
It is not uncommon to hear Caregivers describe that “down time” as crashing. Family caregivers speak about crashing on the couch or bed at the end of the day. Many of my colleagues arrive to work on Monday describing how they crashed over the weekend. I am still guilty of this practice from time to time. The thing we need to contemplate is our need to drive ourselves to the point of exhaustion.
Is it superstition? If we don’t work till be drop, will something bad happen? Is it fear of what others might say about us? Is consistently pushing yourself beyond endurance really going to create positive gossip? Why is stopping or stepping aside to allow others to contribute; or do their share so uncomfortable? The answer is indeed, in the stillness where silence lives.
Sitting in silence takes courage and practice. However, what Caregivers initially lack in courage they usually can make up in discipline until they can access their courage. Preparing to meditate is actually easy:
- Find a supportive space. Home, backyard, park, etc. Cell phones off. Stretch a bit to loosen tight muscles and add a little space between your joints.
- Assume a comfortable sitting position on a meditative cushion (s) or a straight backed chair. Posture is important so that you can breathe easily.
- Make sure that you are sitting on what I like to call your Butt Bones. These are actually the posterior processes of your pelvis. It is important, if you are on a cushion, to position yourself so that your knees are lower than your hips. This will help to give a good straight alignment to your spine. Don’t exaggerate your alignment. Think strong back, soft front. Relax your jaw.
- At first you may want to keep your eyes closed but try to work toward keeping your eyes softly fixed on a spot three feet in front of you.
- Visualize a connection between you and the center of Mother Earth. This is import to anchoring you to the present moment and aiding you in remaining in your body.
- Now breathe regular, comfortable breaths. You may find yourself yawning at times but just go with it. Keep your attention in your body and on your breath. If a part of your body becomes uncomfortable, gently adjust your position and breathe into that part of your body until you are more at easy.
- Your mind will drift through thoughts. Realize that this is inevitable. The goal is to realize that you have left your body and moved into your head. Acknowledge this and move back into your body and focus on your breathing once more.
- Start slow, perhaps five to ten minutes and work up to whatever works for you. Daily practice would be great. There is no room for self-criticism in meditation; only patience and loving kindness toward yourself as you slowly make the space between two thoughts longer.
I sincerely recommend trying stillness. Find the discipline to sit quietly and find the peace that can only be found at your core. You will discover that this sense of peacefulness will slowly fill up that internal well that we always draw from so that we can stay present and available to all we love and serve. The answers to so much are in that wonderful, peaceful, empty space.
Phyllis Quinlan, RN-Bc, PhD, LNC, CEN, CCRN
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