The Delicate Balance: Patience

feather and stone balance

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

The Tao masters of antiquity, subtle wonders through mystery
Depths that cannot be discerned because one cannot discern them
Therefore one is forced to describe the appearance Hesitant, like crossing a wintry river; cautious, like fearing four neighbors
Solemn, like a guest; loose, like ice about to melt Genuine, like plain wood, open, like a valley Opaque, like muddy water Who can be muddled yet desist in stillness gradually become clear?
Who can be serene yet persist in motion gradually come alive? One who holds this Tao does not wish to be overfilled
Because one is not overfilled; therefore one can preserve and not create anew

Lao Tzu

 

It is hard to image life 500 years before the time of Jesus as hectic. Yet, it must have been. Why else would Lao Tzu compose a verse of the Tao Te Ching reminding everyone to slow down and be mindful of all that is around you?

I am concerned about the pace of life today. I am concerned that I can’t keep up. I’m concerned that I am not certain I want to keep up. I am concerned that I arrive at work all too often not remembering the ride in the car. Lately, I am troubled by the thought that I am not walking my path but running down it at such a speed that I am going to fly by my intended destination.

Slowing down is not something that comes easily to me. I am venturing that it does not come easily to most professional or family caregivers. The thought does drift through my conscious mind every now and then. Customarily, I ignore it. I continue at the same pace or faster. I ignore the signals that I need to rest until the Universeslaps me in the back of my head with sickness, the flare up of an old knee injury or even a fender bender and asks, “Do you hear me now?”

Is living and working under a sense of urgency necessary to accomplish anything meaningful in this mundane world? Do I really need two phones and several other Internet accessible devices to be productive? In an age when we are all expected to be outcome oriented is it sacrilegious to be concerned about the process and the people involved in that process? Is the journey no longer of any value? Is it just about the destination? I believe that it is possible to be active, engaged and yet calm and patient. Now if I could only figure out how to manifest that belief.

I think the first step is to tell my ego, the voice of my insecurities, to shut up. Enough with the relentless thoughts of doom and retribution for venturing to consider that there may be an alternative to living in the fast lane. You can have a great work ethic without having to make yourself sick to convince yourself or anyone else that you are capable of achieving much.

Embracing your Yin/Feminine energy is also a good place to start. Till some soil, plant your hopes and dreams, and watch them take root. Nurture them to be yielding and adaptable to the winds of impermanence. Be patient and receptive to whatever shows up. I realize that is like asking water from the moon but try to sway. Be patient and aware.

I honor the law of attraction. I honestly believe that you can create the life you envision but remember it is not the law of insistence. All will come when it is supposed to. Nothing could or will ever change this. I sometimes think that when prayers are answered it is because you’ve somehow aligned your request with the intended timetable for that manifestation.

Slow down. Don’t be hurried or harried. Breathe. Look around you and be in each step to the best you are able. See the synchronicity of life. You will be amazed how your life will flow to you and how you will flow with it.

The Art of Nursing: Reconnect With the Nurse Within

Dearest Readers
This coming Nurse’s Week,(May 6th) I’m speaking as part of an exciting new event called the Art of Nursing. It’s a four-day series bringing together 12 extraordinary nurse pioneers to share their thoughts on how we can bring back the art of nursing – that healing presence and patient-focused practice first envisioned by Florence Nightingale.
I know how passionate you are about the nursing profession, so I wanted to personally invite you to join us and explain how you can register.
How it Works
The Art of Nursing begins on Tuesday, May 6th and runs through Friday, May 9th. Each day, 3-pre-recorded, video interviews with presenters like me, will be “unlocked” for you to watch, download and keep.
These interviews will be filled with fresh insights on topics such as self-care and stress management for nurses, how to reignite the love for your career, and how to remain mindful and present amid the new technologies being introduced into our work.
The Faculty
The Art of Nursing is organized by Elizabeth Scala, herself a nurse educator, speaker, and author. She’s gathered together 12 fantastic and forward-thinking women to share their knowledge and expertise with you.
In addition to yours truly, interviewees include an awesome array of nurse entrepreneurs, international speakers, authors, certified wellness coaches, and even an award-winning filmmaker. You can see the full list of faculty here (http://elizabethscala.com/aon), but trust me when I say that you’re guaranteed to learn something invaluable from this group and never again will you get access to them all in one place!
What You Get
 12 Video interviews and their audio-only companions (all downloadable)
 The Art of Nursing workbook – filled with additional tools and resources from our speakers
 Access to both the Art of Nursing Facebook and Linkedin groups both of them made up of nurses from around the globe
Your Investment and How to Register
You can register for the Art of Nursing via the links below:
 Student rate: $95.00.
 Individual rate: $150.00
 Organizational rate*: $3,500.00
*Organizations include hospitals/wellness centers and nursing schools, associations, and organizations. The fee of $3,500 covers registration costs for all of your staff; however, your individual staff members will still need to “register” so they get the daily emails during the event.)
If you have any questions or difficulty registering, you can email support@elizabethscala.com. I’d love to have your presence during my presentation and hope you can join us

Join me for a special #NursesWeek event – the #artofnursing http://bit.ly/1eKC4ec

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Three

Do not glorify the achievers so the people will not squabble
Do not treasure goods that are hard to obtain

So the people will not become thieves do not show the desired things
So their hearts will not be confused thus the governance of the sage:

Empties their hearts, fills their bellies, weakens their ambitions,
Strengthens their bones, let the people have no cunning and no greed
So those who scheme will not dare to meddle

Act without contrivance and nothing will be beyond control

                                                                                                      Lao Tzu

This wisdom from the Tao guides us to understanding that envy, greed and even stealing have its beginnings in the perception that we are lacking something and that happiness can be ours if only we could acquire it. Lao Tzu counsels that this type of personal torture can actually sow the seeds of perpetual discontentment. Yet we engage in chasing the illusion that acquiring more will make us happier almost daily.  He suggests that if those who have the desired things that are hard to obtain live inconspicuously then others would not have a sense of lacking and therefore no need to chase the illusion

The essence of this teaching challenges us to confront our need to engaging in the behavior of comparing ourselves to others and then judging ourselves as better or worse.  It asks us to rethink the type of fuel we use to drive our lives. So many of us depend on the neurotic mantra, “If only…” If only this, if only that…then I could be happy. Caregivers seem to have a double dose of this trait. I think our ability to be open and available to others also makes us more vulnerable to personal and outside criticism.

We want so much to get it right and are so willing to fix ourselves that we will do whatever it takes to accomplish just that. Many times this ability to take on more in the pursuit of getting it right is referred to as inner strength. The quest for excellence does require strength and stamina however, I am concerned about the motivation to pursue more?

Nurses have been caught up in this quest, and I am no exception. I am not certain when the moment came. Perhaps it was because the change was subtle. For most of my early adult life I struggled to ensure that I would be seen as equal and be afforded equal opportunities. I am a child of the fifties with my most formative years shaped by the woman’s movement. However, there came a time when being seen as equal was no longer good enough. The pursuit of excellence morphed into a need for perfection.

I entered the nursing profession in the seventies at a time when hospital affiliated training programs no longer met the core requirements needed to prepare RNs for the modern challenges facing the profession. Academic preparation at the college level was now an essential part of that fundamental training. Associate programs gave way to baccalaureate programs. In the 80’s clinical certification in a chosen specialty became the newest benchmark. More than one certification couldn’t hurt. Graduate programs evolved. The finish line was elusive. I bought into this pursuit of excellence whole heartedly. I encouraged my friends, my family, and my colleagues to do so as well. I agree that these growing pains were vital to the development of our profession but what collateral damage happened along the way? Are we more united in our hopes and visions? Are we more credible or are we just incredibly credentialed?

Opinions on what it took to be a competent nurse began to divide the profession into opposing camps. The necessary and healthy dialogue on the vision of the profession in the twenty first century was frequently overshadowed by destructive, judgmental attitudes of right and wrong. Did we unintentionally send the message to many that they were not good enough? Did we perpetuate the image of women undermining women? What part did our male colleagues play?

There is a global shortage of nurses today. The reasons cited for this global shortage are complicated and multifaceted but it is time to now ask; what did we contribute to the problem? Did our need to organize actually drive us to polarize? Did we inadvertently create an environment that nurtured hostility and perpetuated the image of nurses eating their young? The profession has worked hard and has come such a long way but I fear that unless we find ways to reconnect we will be doomed. We will be unable to create a new, stronger and sustainable reality. The price we pay along the way will include peace of mind, compromised health, failed relationships, and wounded spirits.

So how can professional and family caregivers avoid the pitfalls of buying into the tantalizing pursuit of the illusion that more equals better? I suggest we slow down and take the time to really get in touch with ourselves and the true nature of our motivations. If we come to the decision that our pursuit of the next great thing is fueled by our own innate desire to grow; then go for it. However, if in the silence of our introspection we can find the strength to acknowledge that there are extrinsic forces at work then perhaps we can find the confidence to resist entering into another dualistic struggle.

There can be no achievement without a focused mind so practice sitting quietly. Listen to the wisdom that can come to you in those meditative moments. Work to know yourself. Embrace your strengths and acknowledge your shortcomings. Find the humor in your own physical and emotional challenges. Accept all that you can about yourself. Set high but achievable goals and methodically work toward improving the rest. This process cannot work unless the goals you set are yours and yours alone. Walk your personal and professional path with courage, integrity and gentleness toward yourself.

Work to develop your intuitive self by respecting that inner voice that can guide you in a clearer direction. Embrace a fundamental concept in Feng Shui and begin to address the clutter in your living and work space. Do not organize the clutter. Get rid of it. Get into that closet, go throw those draws, look under the bed and discard that which no longer serves you. This energetic exercise will assist you in quieting the clutter in your head and drawing in that sense of freshness that can inspire your own authentic, sustainable personal growth.

 

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Two

When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other
Therefore the sages:
Manage the work of detached actions
Conduct the teaching of no words
They work with myriad things but do not control
They create but do not possess
They act but do not presume
They succeed but do not dwell on success
It is because they do not dwell on success
That it never goes away

                                                                            Lao Tzu

Through the words contained in verse two, Lao Tzu instructs that in our efforts to explain what cannot be explained, the human experience can be a journey along a continuum of emotions. He shares that we feel joy because we have experienced sadness. The completeness that comes with knowing that you belong to someone can only be truly embraced when you have known the void of being alone.

Our belief systems define our experiences as good or bad, bitter or sweet, beautiful or ugly and so on. It is in this struggle to get a handle on something; to find an explanation for why things are the way they are that is the basis for dissatisfaction with one’s life. However, Loa Tzu goes on to write that there is an alternative to the dualistic battle that we create for ourselves. The option lies in the insight that the Universe is ever changing and that our assignment is not to rage against the tide of change but to flow with it. In reality, all is as it should be even if it is not obvious or easily understood.

Caregivers can find accepting this a challenge. We set up a dualistic continuum of our very own, fixed versus broken. After all, isn’t it our job to FIX things? Fixing things, turning negatives into positives is what we do best, right? Here is where we can get ourselves into trouble if we are not continuously in touch with our true motivation for caring and how being a caregiver can serve us.

It can really feel good to be needed by someone and to be able to meet that someone’s needs. It feeds our compassionate nature. It can give us a sense of purpose and competency. The caring can very subtly start to become about us. When things work out, that is, the desired outcome is the outcome achieved; we can delude ourselves into thinking that we have control or at least a strong influence over those results. It can be a bit addicting so we begin to give more, care more. Before we realize it, caring becomes a socially acceptable substitute for doing one’s own work, walking one’s path and addressing all our personal life lessons along the way.

Some of the dangers signs we tend to ignore include the inability to put our needs such as pursuing our own interests first. We deny the need for help when a lifeline is offered. We can find it challenging, even irritating, to seek or accept assistance from any resource for a respite citing any number of plausible reasons. We tend to allow our compassionate nature or work ethic to be used against us. Finding ourselves in the role of the go to person on a constant base is not always a complement. The added stress can deplete us of valuable energy and lead to resentment.

The common denominator for all of these behaviors is our tendency to make judgments and the need for control. It seems almost cruel to assign such labels to a person’s commitment to service. However, it is necessary to shed some light on this dark side of a one’s good nature. Caring too much enables us to write and tell our story in the context of anothers rather than let the meaning of our own life, scary as it may be, unfold. When we think we’ve been successful in fixing something, that feeling fills in some of the places in our personality where we are wanting and vulnerable.

Caring too much has a paradoxical effect on our life. You would think it would build relationships but, in reality, it ultimately causes us to become increasing isolated from others. Our propensity for judging begins to alienate us from friends and colleagues. The increasing need for control causes individuals to push-back and the frustration that this drives can become the foundation of mistrust and anger.

So where does the answer lie? It should be no surprise to discover that in all struggles with duality, the answer lies in the middle. The middle way gives us perspective and feedback. This is a great start to creating balance. The challenge is to blend compassion for others into your life and not allow that wonderful capacity to dominate and impede your ability to live your life fully.

Develop a personal spiritual practice that offers you quiet time. Not just free time to fill up with doing other things; but real quiet time that allows you to strengthen your ability to slowly access your intuitive knowledge and higher-self. The support and guidance you can gain will begin to transmute your need to cling to the duality of your emotions into an ability to peacefully coexist in the world without the need for judgment or conflict. Your ego will slowly let go of the need for the allusion of having control and relax into the reality that all is well and all are safe.

The answer truly is in the silence. Taking the time to put your own oxygen on first lets you come to know and embrace this truth. Moving away from the habit of defining your life in dualistic terms lets you step closer to understanding that developing a trilistic relationship between yourself, your life lessons, and that god-like nature inside each one of us provides us with the inner fortitude and skills to walk our own path, feel compassion for another and flow with life.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse One

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence
Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

                                                                          Lao Tzu

These beautiful words, offered by Lao Tzu, pay homage to the fundamental nature of the   Tao, the Creator of All Things, and advise us to resist trying to give a name and form to something that is nameless and without shape. Attempting to describe or define the infinite nature of the Universe is a futile undertaking that can actually hold us back from experiencing a full relationship with the magnificence of the Cosmos.

Letting go of such temptations doesn’t involve will power as much as in necessitates faith. Having faith means having the courage to let go of the notion that you have control no matter how strong willed you are. Faith requires an acceptance that all is fundamentally good and as it should be even when your need for control or clarity rages with indignation. Faith is an innate knowing that our life and the challenges that it offers us is meaningful; and filled with a profound purpose that often escape our comprehension until time passes and reflection upon events offers us the gift of understanding.

So how is it that caring can lead to caring too much? Isn’t one of the basic measures of living a good life the ability to have compassion for another human being? In her book, The Fearless Heart: the Practice of Living with Fear and Compassion, Pema Chrodron shares her believe that our compassion arises from our relationship with pain. She views pain as the place where we can all identify with a common experience and thus close the gap on feeling alone. I agree. It is a gift to be able to feel a connection with another human being when they are most vulnerable.

However, having that sense of connection with another is one thing but allowing that sense of connection to grow into a personal need that we feel compelled to justify is something entirely different. Compassion for another should never be a substitute for compassion and caring for ourselves. We cannot let the ability to identify with another’s pain serve as a distraction from addressing our own issues and walking our own path. This is where the danger lies. When we buy into the delusion that caring to the point of self-sacrifice is noble; we begin to loss our perspective on our motivations. We begin to deny that perhaps it is easier to walk another’s path for them than it is to make our own way. You maintain the delusion until the day you discover that you can no longer postpone dealing with your own issues and your life seems to have become unmanageable. How did something so well meaning turn into something so scary?

This syndrome is known as Compassion Fatigue. Unresolved Compassion Fatigue can cause the healthcare practitioner or layperson caregiver significant distress that can result in impaired occupational and social functioning. It is important to understand that the development of compassion fatigue is not sudden. It takes time. It is usually slow and insidious and often unrecognized by the person experiencing it until things start to unravel.

Compassion Fatigue can manifest as a preoccupation with the individual or in some cases a job, that needs care to the point that it begins to cause problems in other relationships. It can cause the caregiver to experience a heightened state of tension associated with the need to render more care. One can begin to demonstrate an irritability that leads to seemingly unexplainable burst of anger or aggression. Perhaps this irritability begins to cause conflict at work or excessive absenteeism from work. Finally the sense of connection, which was once your fuel, degenerates into an increased sense of separation from friends, family and other support groups.

It is vital to understand that Compassion Fatigue can be successfully worked through and balance can be restored. However, there is no easy or quick resolution and the only road to a solution is through the problem. There is no side stepping the needs that predisposed one to developing Compassion Fatigue. There is only facing the reality of your situation with the same commitment that you once offered another.

So as we embark on this journey into understanding whose responsibility it is to care for the caregiver; I pray that we will have the courage to take a look at the places that scare us and enough faith in the Universe to reassure us that we are protected in this adventure and all is how it should be.