Monthly Archives: May 2015

Just love. Just presence. Just acceptance.

Pink alliumsOnce again I am convinced that our loving energy is felt by someone with a dementia-related disease or Alzheimer’s. Even when our loved ones do not recognize us, they recognize the love….the loving energy that we bring to the relationship.

My friend told me that when she visits her mother in a long-term care facility that her mother does not know her name. She wasn’t certain if her mother even was aware that she was her daughter. But in spite of that challenge, my friend visits her mother often and has memorable visits each time.

I wanted to hear more. “Well, I often take her gifts – small items that are pretty, or soft, or glitter – you know, girly things!” Yes, I know. My sister and I searched high and low for pink stuff for my mom – pink flowers, pink vases, pink cards, pink clothing, pink nightgowns…even, books!

So, a pillow adorned with sequins, a soft blanket, a cozy afghan with multi-coloured stripes, these are the kinds of things that her mother loved to receive. And when she received them, she would tell her daughter, “Just put it on that chair so that I can see it as soon as I open my eyes each morning.”

Oh, how lovely! Yes, that is a gift that is very much appreciated.

How could her mother not be aware of the love and thoughtfulness of those gifts to her? Yes, I am certain that her mother can feel the love.

When my mother had a roommate in the hospital (another woman with Alzheimer’s), the roommate’s adult daughter said to me one time that she and other family members often crawled into their mother’s bed and snuggled up to her while she dropped off to sleep.

The woman told me that one time the granddaughter crawled into her grandma’s bed and asked her, “Grandma, do you know who I am?” Her grandma replied, “No, I don’t know you…but I can feel the love.”

Loving energy! It’s a real thing!

I wrote the following when I first began to blog last fall, a few months before my mother died; I am re-blogging it.

What if?
What if…when I visited my loved one, I had no ulterior motive, no hidden agenda and no expectations, except to be with my loved one?
What if…when I visited my loved one, I went with love; nothing else, just love?
What if…when I visited my loved one, I walked through the door, and said, “I’m here for you. You are not alone.”? Just that.
What if…when I visited my loved one, I said, “I’m sorry that you are ill, but know that you are not alone.”?
What if…when I visited my loved one, I left resentment, anger, guilt, anguish, stress and grief, outside? And instead, I carried into the room – peace, forgiveness (for yourself and for your loved one), kindness and compassion?
What if…when I visited my loved one, my presence…”healed” (in just a small way) their heart?
What if…when I visited my loved one, my presence mattered?
What if…when I visited my loved one, my presence (just by being me) kept them tethered to the present – this moment?
What if…when I visited my loved one, she (he) understands that I bring positive energy? And if not intellectually, what if intuitively, perceptually or spiritually they “feel” my loving energy? What if she does not know my name, but recognizes love?
What if…when I visited my loved one, I opened my eyes and recognized a face of joy, delight, pleasure and love?
What if…when I visited my loved one, I opened my heart?
What if?

Being, not doing

You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are.
– Yogi Bhajan

I sat through an informative palliative course last week and learned that the most difficult challenge to a volunteer is learning how to be present, how to just be. To sit and be present with someone who is dying is a privilege and to sit in silence and allow a sacred space to unfold is a gift. But it is not an easy gift to give. Our first instinct is to fill the silence. Or, to become busy.

The instructor’s message was simple: Being; not doing.

Ah, the act of doing. Busy, busy, busy. As humans, just sitting still does not flow naturally. Since childhood we have been programmed to “do something.” Teachers chastise us when we stare into space. Our paychecks and annual reviews are contingent on our annual output.  We are not paid to just be.

We are a competitive species.When someone achieves success in their workplace, or someone writes a beautifully-worded blog, or we see an exciting painting, or someone writes an evocative poem, we wish that we had written those words or painted that work of art. Suddenly our being is just not good enough. Everyone else is smarter, thinner, faster, and richer. And more creative.

We are a  wanting species. What we have is never enough. Wanting means we work harder and longer. More importantly, wanting leaves us restless and unfulfilled.

Since I have retired and spent a number of years watching the decline of my parents due to a dementia-related disease, I have become fully aware of acceptance and love – of oneself.  How ironic! I learned to accept their illness, to continue to love them – just as they are – and in the process, I learned to love and accept myself. (The theme of sharing our gifts is prevalent in all of my writing and it all started with learning to love and accept myself!) And while on this journey of caring for parents, I have found the secret to being content – to being, not doing – is…

Drum roll, please! Love yourself. That’s it. That’s the alchemy. Begin to love yourself just as you are. What follows is a miracle. You will begin to accept the moment – just as it is. You will be happy for other people’s success and rewards. You will not be competitive. There is no reason! You are happy that someone else has reached their goal.

When we love and accept ourselves, we come to the understanding that we are already enough! No longer do we have to strive to be better, bolder, or more beautiful. We are already enough. Right now. We don’t have to wait to be older or wiser. There is no prize at the end of the rainbow because the pot of gold is within us.

We no longer have to be busy doing. Just being is enough.

Now that does not mean the game is up. Nor does acceptance mean that we no longer have goals or want to improve ourselves, or that we no longer make plans for the future.

Here’s the funny thing that happens when we begin to accept and love ourselves: we become fully excited about being the best that we can be! And yes, that might mean I want to expand my mind, my creativity,  and my strengths; and yes, that might open my awareness to my weaknesses and reveal some needed work on those, too.  Growth is necessary! But I am okay with my weaknesses. I am okay with the need for growth.

And I no longer come from a wanting, competitive, doing state; instead, I flow from a state of acceptance, and from a state of love. That makes all the difference.

A peace and contentment (and joy) comes from that state…it leads to a deep knowledge that I am enough. I am enough.

Your success and happiness delights me. I am rooting for you. I want you to succeed. Your success does not scare me…I share in it.

When we share in others’ happiness and success, it fuels our own happiness and success.

To live in this state of awareness each day can only flow from loving ourselves – knowing that we are where we are supposed to be; knowing that we are who we are supposed to be; knowing that we are loved deeply (by our spirit within).

Gratitude follows.

Every day I try to practice mindfulness in meditation (and in all my actions). Mindfulness leads to acceptance and love. Accept the moment we are in. This moment is all that we have. (Thank you, Thomas Merton.)

Mindfulness is the practice of sitting still, doing nothing! Paying attention to the breath. Noting the silence. Perhaps birdsong breaks the silence. Just take note. Perhaps a car horn interrupts the stillness. That noise, too, is part of the moment. Just be. Do nothing. Attempt to let your mind rest.

Mindfulness is called a practice because it takes time to practice the art of sitting still in silence. But the rewards lead you to acceptance:  acceptance of the moment.

The next time I want to do something because I am restless, I will ask myself, “Why? Is this moment of just being, not enough?”

When I am aware that I am trying to escape from restlessness, I become fully conscious of the moment…and I remind myself that I am enough…even restless…I am enough. That calms my restless spirit. In other words, I am not trying to rid myself of my feelings, I am recognizing my feelings, and then accepting those feelings. I am enough…even when restless.

I begin to recognize that doing leads to: busyness, change, wanting and desire; being leads to: stillness, acceptance, love.

Being leads to ease; doing stems from un-ease. In doing, we try to avoid or distract from uneasiness.

The palliative course instructor reminded the volunteers that when someone is dying (or chronically ill, or suffering), that person might want to talk or share their emotions, our presence (just being there) allows the space for that to grow. I call that a sacred space.

A sacred space can lead to profound moments in a person’s dying, and can lead to a shared connection with another.

And the beautiful thing is that we do not have to do anything! Just be. That’s all that is required.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are meant to share our stories because they connect us!

Immigrated to Canada

Immigrated to Canada

When I showed up at the designated time to sit and record the resident’s life story at the long-term care facility where my mother lived before her recent death, the activity director informed me that my resident was ill and that our visit was cancelled. I was skeptical. This has happened before. So I asked the activity director if I could just pop in and say hello to the resident.

I knocked on the door even though her door was wide open, and I was told to come in.  My friend, the resident, was lying in bed.

She told me that she wasn’t feeling well and that our interview should be cancelled indefinitely. Yes, I suspected as much…anxiousness about the interview.

“Another day,” I assured her.  And because I suspected that her stress regarding our interview had caused her to feel ill, I asked her if she had second thoughts. “My story isn’t very interesting anyways,” she admitted. She sat up a little in bed.

I chuckled and reassured her that when the activity director told me a story about the resident’s trip to Canada, solo, as a young woman, that I found it not only interesting but courageous, and that I was anxious to hear more stories.

She sat up straighter in bed. “Now take a seat. Where’s your recorder? Are you going to take notes?” I burst out laughing and asked, “Is the interview back on?”

I prompted her with a couple of questions, and she elaborated about her family growing up in Europe, her trip to Canada, and her marriage. I was enthralled. Like many of us who grew up listening to stories about our parents who immigrated to North America, and sat in wonder as they told us about their  childhood and lives – so very different than our childhood lives, her stories reminded me of my own parents – their childhood in England, and their immigration to Canada and adapting to a new country. Her stories gave me pleasure; my reward – wonderful memories of my own parents’ stories now connect me to her stories.

During my visit, I noticed that my friend has sat up in bed, made herself comfortable and she has leaned in – she was vibrant and quite aware that she had a captive audience of one.

It was time to leave (an hour is optimum for a first visit) but I inquired first if I may return to hear and record more stories and she agreed wholeheartedly.

And now the confession: She admitted to me that she felt ill about our visit, and that she worried that she was not very interesting.

My intent from the beginning of this project, I assured her, is about the residents and their stories; it’s about fun; it’s about remembering the past with fondness and about seeing the connections – who we become and the moments that changed us. And most of all, it’s about recognizing that our lives matter – to our loved ones, our friends, visitors and volunteers, and to the staff.

I assured her that if the story-telling isn’t fun or if she doesn’t think it is worthwhile, then the project isn’t worth pursuing.

When I left her room, it occurred to me that in the beginning of this story-telling process, it’s vital to reassure the residents and perhaps to relate a couple of stories of another person’s life. That’s when the magic happens – all of us, young or old, like to hear stories. And when the stories are true – autobiographies in the making – we are all fascinated to capture a glimpse into the past and see inside one person’s life. At least, I know I am.

Because at the end of the day, we are all so unique, and not so unique. Once the stories flow, we can see how we are all connected – even though our stories are different. When she spoke of her family immigrating to Canada, the ship’s journey and final stop in the port of Halifax, I immediately thought of my parents’ arrival to Canada and wondered if they, like my friend, were scared, too.

We all think that our own individual lives are rather simple and mundane, and that in our own eyes, that we are not very special. But a funny thing happens when we share our stories with others: through the reflective lens of another, we begin to value the meaning and worthiness of our own stories. Through the lens, we see and understand the significance of our journey.

I believe that is the true gift that we receive when we share our stories.

I trust that my friend’s pleasure and joy in talking to me allowed her to see the significance of her life; I know that I received joy, inspiration and wisdom. And I cannot wait to visit her again.

But most of all, I am always so grateful that when we pay attention to people (and to their stories) we focus on their spirit – their true essence. And that is what connects us. Our spirits are all connected. We are all connected.

When we pay attention to another person, we share a part of us and in sharing we begin to care…our compassion, our kindness, and our love within grows. And that is the true gift!