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 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. Those shaping the industry of healthcare are concentrating on wellness or preventative programs but the greater goal of their redesign is in returning the patient back to the community quickly and safely. 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.

This reality places unimaginable stress on both professional and family caregivers. Emergency departments are being crushed as more and more hospitals close. Those individuals without healthcare coverage multiply daily and seek care in the only venue available to them. 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 front lines.

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. Most family caregivers did not ask for such responsibility; yet 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. You see, getting comfortable with who you are, who you may be become, and who you could never be 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 and not just 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 and 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, or 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.

O ma i pad me hū = I honor the life force within you

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Eighty

Small country, few people
Let them have many weapons but not use them
Let the people regard death seriously
And not migrate far away

Although they have boats and chariots
They have no need to take them
Although they have armors and weapons
They have no need to display them

Let the people return to tying knots and using them
Savor their food, admire their clothes
Content in their homes, happy in their customs

Neighboring countries see one another
Hear the sounds of roosters and dogs from one another
The people, until they grow old and die
Do not go back and forth with one another

                                                                    Lao Tzu

It is not uncommon to hear friends and colleagues lament that there never seems to be enough hours in the day. It is not just that we are incredibly busy. It is as though time itself is compressed; squeezed into something dense and at times challenging to navigate. The paradox of modern living is that we often find ourselves longing for the Simple Life.  Is it possible to have both?  The guidance offered in this verse of the Tao suggests that it is.

The reason modern times feel so demanding is that we tend to isolate ourselves. Sure we have more ability to connect than ever. Internet, email, texting, phones that reach Mars but has that promoted socialization or has it just made it easier to communicate without leaving the office, car or our home?

Recently my tri-state region was pummeled by super storm Sandy. Much of the area lost electricity, phone service, cable and Internet for days. Many areas are still without power. That forced us back to basics. We started communicating in a more fundamental, simple way. We talked face to face. The effects of that great storm were profoundly devastating but we found solace and support as we began to reconnect and acknowledge our interdependence.

We are not meant to live solitary lives. We are meant to form communities and participate within them. We are meant to be neighbors. The lesson that we can take from this is remember to cultivate connectedness. However, as human beings we tend to fall back into our old ways so the true goal is to cultivate sustainable connectedness.

Sustainable connectedness has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with the feeling created by growing genuine relationships. The key to this is acceptance. We need to walk away from our dualistic nature to judge, comment and alienate and move toward promoting civility, respect and mutual support. I believe that this is possible.

We are entering an age that is described by some vibrational healers as a time of the Solar Feminine. This is a term for a world where the masculine (Yang) energetic principles of life; private ownership, greed, might over right and war are brought into balance by the feminine (Yin) energetic principles of collaboration, co-creation and connectedness.

The challenge is to balance the masculine and feminine energetic qualities we each possess. We can do this if we are willing to struggle less and ease into life as it is. We need to stop a minute, survey the clutter and remove the barriers to our ability to connect first with ourselves; than with others.

Deciding to commit to cultivating sustainable connectedness means making quiet time; being patient and coming to know yourself in a way that is gentle, kind and accepting. This is the foundation of compassion. Mediate on the Four Immeasurable:

  • Loving Kindness: the wish for you and all sentient beings, without exception, to be happy
  • Compassion: the wish for you and all sentient beings to be free from the self-imposed suffering or perpetual discontent
  • Joy: the ability to rejoice in your virtues and happiness and the virtue and happiness of others
  • Equanimity: the ability to be accepting of everyone as an equal

Make these virtues a part of your guiding principles. It is not that doing this will make it easier for you to connect. It is that doing this will make you irresistible therefore; creating and maintaining relationships will be Simple.

 

I

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Nine

After settling a great dispute
There must be remaining resentments
How can this be considered good?
Therefore the sage holds the left part of the contract
But does not demand payment from the other person
Those who have virtue hold the contract
Those without virtue hold the collections

The Heavenly Tao has no favorites
It constantly gives to the kind people

                                                                              Lao Tzu

Letting go of the need for resentment, finding peace after an angry dispute; is it possible? According to Lao Tzu, the wise person (the Sage) has reached a point in his/her personal awareness that they cannot justify their need for resentment therefore; they are able to let go.

What fuels resentment? Is it the need to be seen as right? Do we imagine ourselves as champions of some great principle? It is a tool to justify your shortcomings and promote blame? Do we need to experience the echoes of pain that much? Whatever the lure of holding onto resentment offers, Lao Tzu cautions to be very careful for resentment is seductive. It can lead you into a delusional mindset of Righteousness that can only serve to isolate and separate you from the others and options. Nothing good can from that outcome.

The Buddha instructed that, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else…you are the one who gets burned.” The paradox of resentment is that the anger directed toward another actually only affects you. It holds you hostage to a perpetual state of discontent.  There is nothing healthy, noble or righteous in this. A wounded heart does not have to scar over with inelastic tissue and stiffen. A wounded heart can use the pain to connect with compassion; even if it is only for yourself; and let go.

“Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.” ~ The Buddha

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Eight

Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong
This is because nothing can replace it

That the weak overcomes the strong
And the soft overcomes the hard
Everybody in the world knows
But cannot put into practice

Therefore sages say:
The one who accepts the humiliation of the state
Is called its master
The one who accepts the misfortune of the state
Becomes king of the world
The truth seems like the opposite

                                                                     Lao Tzu

Highlighting the characteristics of water was among the favorite analogies used by Lao Tzu to share his insights. I envision him sitting by a lake or river quietly meditating and gaining inspiration from the wonders of nature all around him. Water is such a paradox, nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water; yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong.

This poetic description sounds like our human spirit, doesn’t it? We are so vulnerable to internal and external thoughts and opinions yet, when the going gets tough…So what is the lesson being shared in verse seventy eight? I believe it is to fully embrace our innate fluid nature.

When we are infants our bodies are composed of over seventy percent water. We are saturated with adaptability, resilience and the ability to flow in a different direction as we navigate obstacles. As we grow and age four very distinct things occur. Our bodies begin to wear out, slow down, cool off and dry up! Adult bodies are composed of only fifty percent water. Our internal well is literally running dry. Must this age specific dehydration process take its toll on our Spirits too? You know the answer.

Life is meant to present us with the challenges and obstacles that will reflect where we need to do our personal (Soul’s) work.  This is an unsettling and frustrating process that triggers our darker side. Nothing will dry you up quicker than anger followed by all the

other negative emotions that sap our benevolent natures. Most would advise to avoid the people, issues and events that would trigger those responses. I am going to suggest that you not deny any part of your nature but move closer to those emotions and vexations of the Spirit.

Find the fortitude to sit quietly and reflect on those things and people that relentlessly drain you of your vital fluid self. Accept don’t deny and please try to avoid justifying. Just float with who you are and make friends with yourself. Touch that essential goodness within and gently decide to shift course.

You can choose to envision your life as something to overcome or you can replenish your Spirit by adjusting your perspective. Observe nature. Floods, fires and other natural disasters can scar and destroy yet; they are also essential for survival and providing opportunities for new growth. Impermanence is at the core of our existence. You can choose to lose vital life force raging against change and lamenting over the past or you can be a phoenix and rise up. Overcome. Find your equanimity and say supple.

 

 

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Seven

The Tao of Heaven is like drawing a bow
Lower that which is high; raise that which is low
Reduce that which has excess; add to that which is lacking

The Tao of heaven reduces the excessive and adds to the lacking. The Tao of people is not so. It reduces the lacking in order to offer to the excessive

Who can offer their excess to the world? Only those who have the Tao
Therefore sages act without conceit; achieve without claiming credit
They do not wish to display their virtue!
              

                                                                                                                          Lao Tzu

I believe these words from the Ta Te Ching are a tribute to the Virtue of Generosity found within all caregivers. I have said this often but it bears repeating. The ability to be a caregiver is not common. Caring is a special quality of a person’s character that enables a them to mobilize their compassionate nature into action. It is the highest form of generosity.

Family and professional caregivers not only give of their time and energy but they are often most generous with the knowledge they’ve gained through their experience. They share freely. They teach. They strive to make caring sustainable.

You see at the core of each caregiver is an energetic vibration in profound synchronization with the Tao. They get it! We are each a citizen of the Great Oneness; energetic siblings of the Universe. We intuitively know that what affects one affects us all. Our caring is not just what we do; it is a vital piece of who we are and what makes our time here on earth meaningful.

 

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Six

While alive, the body is soft and pliant
When dead, it is hard and rigid
All living things, grass and trees,
While alive, are soft and supple
When dead, become dry and brittle
Thus that which is hard and stiff
is the follower of death
That which is soft and yielding
is the follower of life
Therefore, an inflexible army will not win
A strong tree will be cut down
The big and forceful occupy a lowly position
While the soft and pliant occupy a higher place

                                                                                                                         Lao Tzu

That which is hard and stiff is the follower of death. That which is soft and yielding is the follower of life. These profound and predictive words offer insight to all caregivers into the Nature of Contentment. Discontent with one’s present circumstances is usually at the center of personal confusion and if unresolved; can lead to a hardening of one’s attitude and heart. It is often the reason why someone seeks guidance from another person; whether that individual is a spouse, trusted friend, mentor, spiritual counselor or personal coach.

As someone who has chosen a life dedicated to healing; it is often disappointing to admit that I am powerless and cannot offer a remedy to someone’s pain. What can be offered is an empathic, critically thinking ear that can listen intently and gently help a person sort through the emotions and attachments that cloud personal insight. The remedy that results from this process is Perspective. The relief that can be felt by having the ability to broaden ones view so that patience settles over the situation and options can be accessed is invaluable. From this place of calm reflection, one can sort through the layers of why Contentment is elusive.

Caregivers often confuse their role with that of a caretaker. A caregiver renders hands-on care to someone with an acute or chronic illness and participates in the plan of care for that person. A caretaker is employed to take charge and manage goods, property and act in a custodial capacity. Clearly these are two very different roles but it is easy to understand how the boundaries between them can become blurred and intertwined.

Perspective provides the much need space in which to catch your breath and rethink your actions. It enable one to ask unsettling questions and gain insight into habitual behaviors that have undermined ones efforts to attain contentment in the past. Often it is from a place of perspective that a family caregiver can finally acknowledge the need for outside help.  This place can also offer the professional caregiver the ability can peel away at the layers of professional dissatisfaction. Many times it has provided that professional caregiver the opportunity to realize that the profession may not be at the core of their issues but rather; dissatisfaction with the reality of their personal life has spilled over to the workplace and clouded their judgment.

How does one gain the perspective that may eventually be the foundation of their contentment? You must first really want it. Not just intellectually acknowledge a need for a change but sincerely, honestly admit that you have been killing yourself softly and decide you deserve better. Then explore these approaches:

  • Identify the habitual behaviors that have sabotaged you and stop clinging to them. This takes two things; acknowledging your basic goodness and the courage to love and respect yourself NO MATTER WHAT.
  • Release yourself from having a Poverty Mindset. Be mindful. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”
  • Simplify your circumstances. Scale back. Say no and mean it. What do I really need that offers me a sustainable return on investment? Begin to save some money now, no matter how little. It will add up.
  • Find and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Give yourself the priceless gift of quiet time. Make friend with the noise in your head. Relax with it and smile. With practice, meditation offers respites of quiet, replenishing space.
  • Invest in your own health. Make that appointment with your doctor and dentist. Walk, take the stairs, have a massage often.
  • Have faith and learn to adapt. Try to embrace the example of compliance exhibit by the bamboo tree. Have the strength to yield elastically when a force or any strong wind comes your way. View thinks in terms of new opportunities rather than, this is the end of the road.
  • Forgive. Under no circumstance condone. But free yourself from reliving the event and reconnecting with the pain. Let go. It does not serve any good or useful purpose. It only serves to harden.
  • Choose a sober life. Get help for whatever you are addicted to; alcohol, other substances, gossip, criticism, anger, etc. Develop or renew a healthy relationship with yourself. Addictions are diseases of isolation. You will find it easier to take part and join in with others in a new and healthy manner.
  • Work to develop the characteristic of Equanimity. This is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain or challenges that may trigger one to lose their sense of balance.

Contentment is attainable but being Content is more than just a simple change in Perspective. It is a commitment to your personal sense of wellbeing gained through acknowledging that it is your birthright and daily training (meditation) of our thoughts, behavior and actions.It is a conscious choice to, Stay soft and yielding.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mohandas Gandhi

 

 

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Five

Is due to the glut in their ruler’s pursuit of life The people’s hunger
Is due to the excess of their ruler’s taxation
So they starve
The people’s difficulty in being governed
Is due to the meddling of their ruler
So they are difficult to govern
The people’s disregard for death

So they disregard death
Therefore those who do not strive for living
Are better than those who value living

                                                                              Lao Tzu

Trust is a very broad moral value that we customarily learn from our parents. It is delicately built on a foundation of honesty, faith, reliability, integrity, respect and bankable confidence in another. The dictionary defines Trust as having a confident dependence on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Trust is the cornerstone of establishing credibility; and while the strength of Trust is great, it is not resilient.

The message contained within these words of the Tao speaks to the consequences of the decay of Trust. It is virtually impossible to reach adulthood without having your Trust shaken on some level but we continue to hope that our Trust will be well placed. Many times our Trust is bruised by thoughtless acts of inconsideration. We may find it easier to buy-back into that relationship if we are able to believe that intent and malice played no part in that indiscretion. It is the intent to hurt and the need for malice that devastates and destroys any hope of restoring a betrayed Trust.

We are all citizens in the Great Oneness that is the Universe (the Tao). A huge part of our obligation to one another, within that citizenship, is steeped in mutual Trust. It is vital that we take the time to reflect on how each of us may have inadvertently or willfully damaged the Trust of being caregivers to each other.

Anyone who has had their Trust violated can relate to how visceral a blow it is. It feels violent. Like any other traumatic event; it leaves a residual, lingering effect. This is what we (professional caregivers) subject each other to when we pledge to create and maintain a healthy work environment free of lateral/horizontal violence yet break that pledge by allowing it to continue either overtly or in the shadows. Choosing a career in healthcare has often been likened to taking on a sacred Trust; first do no harm. We usually interpret this directive as referring to the recipients of our care but it also refers to doing no harm to each other.

So much has been written and discussed on this issue. Everyone agrees that it must stop. Yet, everyone knows that it continues. Research shows that the on-the-surface ripple effect of lateral and horizontal bullying in healthcare affects efficiency, patient safety, quality outcomes, and retention. Stephen M.R. Covey, the author of The Speed of Trust, writes, “When trust goes down, speed goes down and cost goes up.”

But no one can measure the long term effect it has on those who have been the object of hostility. How do they cope and heal with the unacknowledged anger they must live with? In her landmark work, Ending Nurse-to-Nurse Hostility, Kathleen Bartholomew, RN, MN shares that the effects are holistic taking a toll on self-esteem, motivation, contributing to substance abuse/overeating, decreasing immune responses and increasing the likelihood of cardiac disease.

So how do we go about repairing this Sacred Trust? Definitive action is needed. I suggest we consider the tactics of law enforcement first responders to a mass shooting; go into Active Shooter Protocol. The Active Shooter Protocol is direct and results oriented. Simply, the agents enter and conduct a search for the shooter. They initially step over the injured in relentless pursuit of the perpetrator with the single minded goal of stopping them before there is one more victim. Imagine.

In this analogy, we are the first responders. No more being a bystander and turning a blind eye to what is going on. No more believing that some individuals are sacred cows and insulated from corrective action, no more being intimidated, manipulated or acting like the walking wounded. Professional caregivers promote lifelong learning, specialty certifications and strive for professional empowerment but what does that all mean if we cannot stand up tall for what is an inalienable Right for ourselves and each other?

I refuse to believe that members of the same staff cannot agree to poll their courage and act. Be professional. Set limits and keep them. Find your courage and your voice. Be thoughtful; speak from a place of truth free from emotion. Use the Team STEPPS approaches taught to you and SBAR if necessary to organize your thoughts. Be respectful of your chain of command and Human Resource department. Hopefully, your Trust will be well placed in their leadership. Seek the counsel of an attorney if the situation warrants. Be part of the answer to restoring Trust. If not now, when?

“Self-confidence is knowing that we have the capacity to do something good
and firmly decide not to give up.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Four

People do not fear death
How can they be threatened with death?
If people are made to constantly fear death
Then those who act unlawfully
I can capture and kill them
Who would dare?
There exists a master executioner that kills
If we substitute for the master executioner to kill
It is like substituting for the great carpenter to cut
Those who substitute for the great carpenter to cut
It is rare that they do not hurt their own hands

                                                                                          Lao Tzu

In this seventy-fourth verse of the Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu uses the word death as a metaphor for Change. There are very few individuals who can claim to actually welcome change. Those who do are most likely finding themselves at a point where the reality of their situation is unmanageable or unbearable and the possibility of change is viewed as a welcomed relief or even salvation. However for most, trying to maintaining the status quo is a desired but futile goal.

This is especially true of Caregivers whether we realize it or not. Each time we step in and try to fix something we are saying, wait, wait…I can put this back to the way it was. We turn a blind eye to reality of Impermanence and cling to the illusion that we have the ability or power to restore order.

What if we actually let things fall apart. What would happen, Chaos? Life would continue. It may not be in the manner envisioned but it would continue.  It is our fear of the unknown or not having what we think is control that fuels us to rage against the inevitable and torture ourselves. If we stopped and took a fresh look we would realize that chaos (change) is not the absence of organization but a natural process of evolution resulting in the restructuring of what is known into that yet unseen or understood.

The challenge is to change your belief system around the issue that you do not want to change. The tighter you hold on, the greater your battle with your demons. Wouldn’t it be better to see how things reorder themselves and align our efforts with the new reality? Open yourself to the possibility that the change process is a breakthrough to the next chapter of your life and you can transmute fear into an adventure.

“Fear is truth just slightly ahead of itself” Nancy SantoPietro

Renowned Feng Shui Expert/Vibrational Energy Healer/Teacher/Author

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Three

The bold in daring will be killed
The bold in not daring will survive

Of these two, one may benefit, the other may harm
The one hated by Heaven – who knows the reason?
Even the sages still find this difficult

The Tao of Heaven:
Does not contend and yet excels in winning
Does not speak and yet excels in responding
Is not summoned and yet comes on its own
Is unhurried and yet excels in planning
The heavenly net is vast
Loose, and yet does not let anything slip through

                                                                             Lao Tzu

When I think back on the character of those individuals who shaped my life private and professional life in the most profound and powerful manner; the fundamental quality that was common to each of them was Discernment. This virtue is more than the ability to exercise good judgment. It is an intuitive wisdom about issues, events and people that are often overlooked by others. Individuals who possess Discernment are capable of looking beyond the obvious and dissecting a relationship, situation or event to reveal the reality of the thing. This gift enables one to make carefully considered distinctions in order to arrive at the Truth.

Often others attribute this life-skill as being sharp or shrewd but that would be an injustice. That interpretation of their nature would be to imply that they view life as a game with the goal of being able to manipulate and maneuver themselves and others in order to attain what they want. Nothing could be further from the truth. These souls possess great spirituality and strive to honor one of the most fundamental laws of the Universe; every action creates a ripple.

When you have arrived at the place where you understand that your actions or inactions are weighted with Energy that create a Karmic Receipt, you come face to face with how your dysfunctional habitual behaviors have built a very high barrier around you and your ability to navigate your life wisely. It is in that moment that you begin to sow the seeds of Discernment.

When you realize that your actions and more importantly, the intent fueling your actions, drive the Principle of Karma, you begin to accept the reality that you alone own your legacy. You alone are responsible for shaping your life in a manner that not only reflects an understanding of your citizenship in the world but your interdependence with all mankind. Life is not random.

The prerequisites for becoming competent in the skill of Discernment are Mindfulness and Patience. You must be aware of yourself and your surroundings and resist being complacent. You must give yourself the space to consider your actions. You must breathe. You must keep your heart open for there cannot be Discernment without Compassion.

Remember to show Compassion to yourself first. Like any other life-skill, Discernment takes time to develop. You will probably get things very wrong at first. Keep a close eye on the intentions you act on. Monitor the results of those subsequent actions. Keep asking yourself, are you creating the legacy and the Karmic Receipt you want?

“Intentions just don’t float in and out of the mind without leaving a trace.”

 From:Giving Rise to Discernment October 29, 2002

By Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Buddhist Monk of the Dhammayut Order

 

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Two

When people no longer fear force
They bring about greater force

Do not limit their place
Do not reject their livelihood
Because the ruler does not reject them
Therefore they do not reject the ruler

Therefore the sages:
Know themselves but do not glorify themselves
Respect themselves but do not praise themselves
Thus they discard that and take this

                                                                                   Lao Tzu

In this prose Lao Tzu encourage the caregiver to resist the temptation to be the person everyone goes to and depends upon. I’m sure the gut reaction to this advice is, easier said than done; but it is important to understand this cautionary message. Your reliable availability could ultimately be your undoing.

It is not that the recipient of your generous gift of time and energy isn’t grateful. It’s that if boundaries are not set and maintained dependency could develop. That sense of dependency could breed contempt in the person you are caring for and sow the seeds of resentment within you as well.

You must focus on remaining mindful that for a relationship to work each should carry their fair share. The key phrase here is fair share; that does not necessarily mean equal share. Resist jumping in to do it all because you are so willing to help, you are capable or you believe it is just easier if you do it. Instead encourage the recipient of your caring to remain as functional and as independent as possible so that their self- esteem and dignity remain intact. This may require that at times, you care in a subtle manner; dissolved into the background or from afar.

Keep in mind the wisdom shared by poet Robert Frost, good fences make good neighbors. Healthy boundaries are vital for a balanced life. Healthy boundaries offer the person cared for privacy and time to work through any emotional and psychological issues associated with needing to be cared for. They also serve to help that individual feel less burdensome. Healthy boundaries provide space and offer the caregiver an opportunity to maintain patience and to breathe. This is exactly what is needed to maintain a balanced relationship, keep your well (energy) full and your compassionate heart appropriately available.