Meditation for caregivers

It Takes Courage to Care with a Smile

Vijaya and Natrajan had the picture-perfect marriage till Vijaya was diagnosed with cancer. Hearing the news, I braced myself before meeting them. I pictured them with faces pinched with sadness and uncertainty, questioning their fate. Imagine my surprise when I was welcomed with the usual smiles and irresistible South Indian filter coffee.

I only marveled at this couple more and more and tried to decipher their secret: how can one maintain a sense of peace, optimism and zest for life even in such circumstances?

“My last moments have been so happy because of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Sudarshan Kriya, meditation and wisdom, and they are our constant companions,” said Vijaya, with a smile, while her husband patiently tended to her needs. Everyday the couple would meditate. Even when Vijaya could no longer sit up, she would do a guided meditation, lying down.

How does meditation help?

Meditation releases stresses which accumulate in our body and mind. Allowing stresses to build up causes ailments in the body and fatigue in the mind. Daily practice of meditation prevents this build up and heals us at all levels.

“When you meditate and your aura is calm and settled, it will affect others in the same way,” shares Bhanumathi Narasimhan, senior teacher of the Sahaj Samadhi meditation. A caregiver influences the extent to which a patient responds to the treatment and how he/she views the situation. A stressed caregiver will unsettle a patient; whereas a calmer, more peaceful caregiver will transmit that same energy.

“Meditation has given me strength and dispassion, to accept myself and my situation as well as given me the capacity to love others,” shares Kangsha, a bright, bubbly girl in her late-20s with arthritis. Several operations haven’t broken her spirit. Today in spite of struggling with her condition, she is a tutor to a group of children from underprivileged backgrounds. “Earlier there were lots of ‘whys’ in my life. Now I think about how to make my life better and more useful.”

Kangsha’s mother also meditates in an effort to create a positive, comfortable environment. She finds herself more sensitive to her daughter’s delicate needs and is able to patiently look after them, without getting angry or frustrated.

Meditation also gives a feeling of solace, faith and security. Even if an illness changes our world as we know it, meditation keeps us grounded and strong to brace those changes. “I accepted my son’s condition as soon as he was born,” says Jyoti Gandhi, mother of a 33-year-old man who is autistic and has severe mental retardation.She says meditation, prayer and mantras, surrender and faith in God gave her strength all these years. “I realized that I would have to serve my son throughout my life. Seeing me peaceful, everyone around me also made peace with the situation and gave him so much love,” she says.

“I want to meditate but how? I’m needed all the time.”

This is common query among caregivers.

Here are a few tips to help you and the person you care for:

  • Meditate together: Meditate with the patient everyday. Switch on a guided meditation. If there is company, ask them also to join the meditation. There is a lot of power in sangha or right company and pleasant company is always welcome.
  • Anywhere will do: If you’re waiting at the doctor’s for your turn or taking your patient to the park, close your eyes and meditate, even if it is for a few minutes. It is said that twenty minutes of meditation is equal to four hours of sleep. So take the rest.
  • Anytime will do, too: Except immediately after a meal, you can meditate anytime. So the next time, someone comes to look up your patient, excuse yourself and meditate. Your patient will be fine, don’t worry. And you will feel better after having taken a quick meditation-break.
  • Shake it off: Doesn’t matter if you’re feeling a little low on some days. Even nature has sun and rain. Spend a few extra minutes meditating that day. Even if you have to be away from your patient for a few minutes, the stronger and happier you will reflect in your ability to care.
  • Commit to yourself: Invest in yourself. If you take a few minutes to watch television, surf the Internet or listen to music, see if you can devote some minutes to meditate. Do all your activities, especially the recreational ones. Yet remember to meditate. This will change the quality of enjoyment of all your activities.

Spiritually, meditation helps us experience that we are not just the body:The body may face death but our spirit is eternal. Whether we are playing the role of a patient or caring for a sick one, this knowledge is a blessing.

Life is a gift. As a caregiver we’re fortunate to be entrusted with caring for another life. So smile away, care and meditate. The strength of the human spirit is awe-inspiring. With meditation as your companion, you will marvel at the way you deal with the situations you face.

Inspired by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's wisdom talks

Inputs by Bharathy Harish, Sahaj Samadhi Meditation Teacher.

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