Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Uplifting Spirit During Caregiving - An Inquiry

This is the way you slip through into your innermost home:
close your eyes, and surrender.

You may recognize spirit in its absence—when you feel drained, weak, or depressed—but what calls spirit to rise to the occasion of life, especially during caregiving? Where do we connect with spirit? What heals us?

There are many ways to think about spirit. Some are organized bodies of thought about our relations with the eternal. Others speak to the degree of life we feel within us that has more to do with our relationship to our inner being, and it shows up as... well... uplift. Some say the growth of spirit is about all of that, suggesting that a life force, around us and within us, connects us to humanity, nature, and the All of creation. Whether you are clear about your beliefs, are a seeker, or have no particular spiritual beliefs, the following inquiry may offer you some new access to inner peace.

I believe, as many do, that caregivers with some form of spiritual practice have an easier experience. So where does one begin? One community adept at moving the spirit is the Quakers, or the Society of Friends. I was raised Quaker, which for me has been less a set of beliefs than it is a way of being, a way of thinking and living. The skills I learned for Quakerly, compassionate reflection put backbone into my caregiving, were the “rod and staff” that kept me vertical.

As there are numerous ways to speak about spirit, there are many places we can find it. The book Faith and Practice, from the Society of Friends, suggests that we might find inner peace “through group worship; through a relentless pursuit of truth; through a sense of the beauty and wonder of the world about them; through meditation; through art, music and literature; through sympathy and love in the family, and among their fellows.”

Certain locations or times of day can be conducive to connection with your life force. My spirit is most alive in the early morning when I feel at one with nature. As John Woolman tells us in his Journal and Essays, “The place of prayer is a precious habitation... I saw this habitation to be safe, to be inwardly quiet, when there was great stirrings and commotions in the world.” Communing with the spirit makes everything a bit quieter, a bit easier. It calms the “great stirrings and commotions” of caregiving.

Caregiving forced me daily to seek ways of healing my spirit, and so I created my own ways of communing with spirit. As Idrove to visit my mother in the nursing home, I would visualize aprotective cloak around me, a barrier to the force of her negativity. Ihad never been one to pray, but one day as I drove, I found myselfspontaneously saying aloud, “Dear God, still my soul. Bring me thypeace. Give me a vision broad and blue to tent my day.” Verbalizingthis prayer gave me instant peace.

I gradually learned to choose life exactly as it was. Saying “Yes” to my life became one of my biggest tools for leveraging my well-being. But then there were times when I just felt like quitting. In such moments, my prayers took on a more infantile tone. I’d like to go away with God’s blessing. I’d like Him, or someone, to clean up my life, saying, “You go on now. I’ll take care of this mess and these people.” So maybe I’m not a mountain climber after all. Maybe walking by the water in the valley will really make my cup run over.

Wanting to seek relief or to take a break is so very human. You can make room for that feeling too. As you allow your state of mind, whatever it is, and accept that you are merely a part of a much bigger whole, life gets easier. You may need to set aside time to tune in to your spirit, or you may be able to do it moment by moment
during the day. Whatever it takes, whatever it means to you, for the sake of everyone involved, make spiritual recharge a priority.

My Prayer of Acceptance

Listen here! I’ve done my best!
(Now I lay me down to rest)
I won’t stop here but could this be...
(Where is thy staff to comfort me?)
Don’t need to know what waits me there
(Be thou my comfort and support)
But keep me well. And keep me whole
(And after all, be still my soul.)

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