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Archive for the ‘Habit’ Category

Caregiving has always been a “thing” that my family did.  Growing up, my brother and parents helped take care of our land lady, Grandma Martin, who lived upstairs and had Melanoma.

In 8th grade/Freshman year in high school, I volunteered at The Jewish Home for the Elderly of Fairfield Co.

We took care of my grandfather after heart surgeries.  And there were a number of them.  Some cardiac surgeon probably built a gazebo with all of the stays my grandfather had at Yale.

1993-1995, we were caregivers to my dying brother.  Don’t try to be a caregiver if you don’t have support and a good massage therapist, yoga teacher, and awesome friends!

I’ve worked with people who have DD diagnosis, addicts, hospice, and general counseling.  Have helped my parents with food prep for their freezer or late night computer questions.  Weight Watchers leader, etc.  Have done that since Dec 2013.

Then sometimes, the tables are reversed; some times out of choice, some times because that’s the way the world turns….

I find myself as patient right now and will be again this Spring.  Hospitalized from uncontrolled migraines.  And this is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, save completing my Advanced Directives.

But being on the other end of caregiving has been weird the past 2 1/4 days.  It’s weird to have folks kind of waiting on me.  It’s weird being pushed down the hall in a wheel chair rather than pushing (which is what I did when I hurt my back at the nursing home).  And I figured out in less that 24 hours, they gave me 102 oz of ice water to drink.  God, my Grandma (Gussy) would have loved all the ice water.

Anyway, the staff at St Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago, have been sooo awesome!  I cannot say that enough.  What a difference in caregiving from what I see every day, day in and day out at my workplace.  I had not planned to order dinner but at 5:30, I even had the cafe call and ask if I was planning to order.  How nice and dedicated to service this hospital is.  This is also the unit (floor) for the Diamond Headache Clinic and I always feel I get good care there too.

But, when I was wheeled down for an MRI, this tiny woman from Yugoslavia pushed me in the wheelchair.  She was well over 60 and I felt like a heel for them having her do it.  I was doped on Valium but could have pushed myself down there.  What went through my head was, you don’t deserve this, I am able and competent. . . yada, yada. . .

But I heard myself, as I talked to myself.  I was raised that the way you do good in this world, the reason you took this life, (or that the gods gave it to you) was to love others, be of service, and emulate your life like the great wise ones (well, as a catholic girl, that was Mary, Jesus, etc).  I have felt guilt for years if I wasn’t the one making things better.  But, as I read on the wall downstairs, we are here to give love to our neighbors and treat them well. . . not something being seen much in the media, social media, etc etc.

So here are some of the questions I am asking myself while I try to be mindful during my stay here:

What does caregiving mean to me?  Am I comfortable with the role of caregiver and care receiver?  If not, why?  Who have been the caregivers in my life and what was our relationship?  Who have I given care to?  Do I remember them all (as a professional who worked with HIV clients, I’ve had many patients die).  What gifts that I and my wards give each other?  What blessing did my caregivers grant me, if any?  If you are still currently a caregiver, do you use your support system, do you say no, how do you recharge your battery, how do you balance issues of intimacy?  Can you turn off your caregiving to be present at home?  What’s the most important part of caregiving for you?  What kind of care do you need.

In spirit… Jennifer

 

 

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All violence is injustice.  Responding to violence with violence is injustice, not only to the other person but also to oneself.  Responding to violence with violence resolves nothing; it only escalates violence, anger, and hatred.  It is only with compassion that we can embrace and disintegrate violence.  This is true in relationships between individuals as well as in relationships between nations.

~~  Thich Nhat Hanh, “Cutivating Compassion to Respone to Violence”

This quote is a bit of a hard one to chew on right now.  First because it feels like we are enveloped in a violent world.

We’ve ravaged the planet.  Multiple countries are at war in the world and no one except, maybe France, has declared war. . . or so it seems. Our political candidates are inciting mobs to injure people and some are saying hateful things about certain groups that if the candidate laid a hand on the people they hate so much, it would be called a hate crime because of their protected status.

A war on drugs.  On cancer.  On the left.  On the right.  Women.  Abortion.  Christmas.  We seem to have a constant sale on wars and we can’t get enough.  And all of this violence and absolutely nothing feels just.

On a personal note, this quote is a bit tough to meditate on becuase I find myself getting so angry when I read Facebook.  I want to (and admit I sometimes do) post messages that are mean, name-calling, etc.  It is all just TOO much.

But then, I take a minute and reflect which then leads me to reflect on more things for more time.  One of the things I keep trying to bring to my mind’s eye is a picture from a Thich Nhat Hanh talk (I don’t remember if he said this in 2003 when I saw him or if it was an audio Dharma talk).

He said when you are seated on your cushion, sit tall and steady.  And place your hands on your lap, palms up, and imagine a baby Buddha sitting in your palms.  Hold your hands like you are cradling the baby Buddha and allow a half-smile to come to your face as you glance down at the baby.

I find when I can remember to do this, to take the time, it settles me.  I try to think, what if whomever I am angry at was the baby Buddha.  How would my anger, my frustration, my mindlessness affect the baby? Would I want to do that to the baby Buddha?

And lately, I have been asking myself, can you hold the whole planet like it is the baby Buddha?  Some days I can and I feel at peace.  Other days, I don’t think I can hold anything because I have fists, not open palms.

Right now, where are you?  Can you sit and imagine yourself as the baby Buddha?  The planet?  The person who cut you off on the parkway?  Your boss?  The person at the grocery store?  Can you imagine any little bit of love that can start to cool the embers that envelope us all on this planet?

Take gentle care and remember those around you are suffering just like you.

Love and peace, Jennifer

 

 

 

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Driving up to see my parents today, I was thinking about yesterday’s post. I wrote

How many times do we hold on to things we heard growing up?  How many times do we refuse to look at a thought because we can’t imagine who we would be without it?   ~ Let Your Ideas Go

As I was driving, I was thinking of how much hate there is in the world, but in particular, in this country.  Our education system is failing.  We have more and more people being home schooled with very little oversight.  If you never leave your home, how do you ever learn that what’s you have heard your whole life is garage?  Is lies?

What happens when you are taught generation after generation of hate, lies, misinformation, bigotry, etc? When you don’t get to socialize with others?  I think it was when I went to college when I finally found out how different other’s had grown up and what they had learned and believed.  

If we never have the opportunity to un-learn what we’ve learned or never have the chance to learn another side, how can we grow, thrive, trust, and foster compassion?

Has our rustic individualism, cowboy-mentality, racism/sexism, etc in our country created out uneducated, unempathetic, and unkind world?  Is there a way to turn back or is it that with social media and a total lack of privacy that we see that it’s always been this way?  Is this what has allowed people like Trump to exist and thrive and spew his hatred??

Thought?  Ideas?  Suggestions?  Comments?

Take Gentle Care, Jennifer

 

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Whether we’re looking inside ourselves or outside ourselves, we need to cut off the head of whatever we meet, and abandon the views and ideas we have about things, including our ideas about Buddhism and Buddhist teachings.

Thich Nhat Hanh, “Simply Stop”

Well, this is probably a paraphrase of one of the most famous Buddhist sayings. . . in other words, “If you see the Buddha in the middle of the road, kill him.”

Yes, I am continuing my topic of letting go that I started earlier today.  In that post, I wrote about letting go of a friendship that is no longer useful, beneficial, or healthy.  But what about our ideas?

Here’s an interesting one from my personal life. . .   My father was estranged from his sister for a good portion of his life.  I grew up hearing that he would walk on by even if she was struggling and needed help.  He would not talk to her for any reason.  She tried to call a few times and he refused to take them.  Mom tried to get him to talk to her.  Finally, as my dad’s aunt (the only living sibling from that generation) was getting on in years, closer to dying, she talked to my dad about this a lot.  There is great wisdom in the generations before us.  Especially from our elders.

Dad went back home to go to his aunt’s funeral and he took the trip over to see his sister.  I thought I might die of a heart attack.  I never, never thought I would see that day.

They didn’t get any closer in the 2 years prior to her death.  He called from time to time to see how she was and she was so sickly he usually talked to her eldest daughter.  He did return for her funeral as well.

I’m not sure if he found peace of mind (and heart) by getting a hold of her, but he felt that out of his respect and love for his aunt, it was the right thing to do.

How many times do we hold on to things we heard growing up?  How often do we continue to listen to the tapes again and again?  Or worse, how many times do we refuse to look at a thought because we can’t imagine who we would be without it?

So here are my questions to you:  What things to you believe to be truthful about the world you live in (your personal world and the world we all share?  What are the thoughts that you would die to defend?  What are one’s that you question but haven’t been able to let go of?  What thoughts or beliefs have you been able to shed and how was your world changed without them?

Yours truly on this crazy journey.

Jennifer

 

 

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It is hard to let go of things, harder to let go of ideas, and even harder to let go of spiritual pretensions. Over time, as we familiarize ourselves with the many subtle twists and turns of letting go, we begin to be more savvy about how ego steps in to appropriate the entire process. In the millions of mini-decisions we make day by day and moment by moment, we are challenged each time either to let go or to re-solidify.  ~~~  Judy Lief, “Letting Go”

This has been a huge topic in my life this year and I finally came to grips with the face that I needed to sit with this topic or go mad.  Well, not really.  More like be mad, frustrated, hurt, angry, disappointed, betrayed, etc.  And I think I could write 100 blogs articles on this topic and never feel satisfied.  But from now until my next birthday, March, I plan to look at this topic, again and again, to see what truth it holds for me.

The hardest thing to let go of this year was a long time friendship. . . no the long, long ones, but someone who I’ve known about 10 years and had immense faith in up until recently.

It’s so painful to feel betrayed and lose the fidelity of someone you consider to be family, to be a sister, and someone whom you’ve shared the intimate stories of your life.

I’ve long known that friendships did not last forever.  I’ve lived in many places and have lost touch with people mostly because we were out of proximity.  I few people I’ve even turned away from when my grief was too much and I could not take the energy expenditure it took to keep up with the friendship.

And what I have found with time is that letting go of idea, belief, quest, dream, person, etc. is that there are layers and layers to let go of.  For example, when Mike died, I lost a brother.  I lost my big brother.  I lost the person whom I looked up to, especially on things of culture as he loved music, fashion, the arts, cooking, etc.  I miss that influence in my life.  Genetically, he was the person closest to me in the world.  And for those of you who haven’t lost a sibling, that might not make sense and I hope you never have occasion to “get it”.

But just as this was true for Mike or Harris & Barb, or anyone else I have loved, it is true of our dreams, our fears, and our desires.

I ask you to join me, in the months ahead, to look at your life and see what no longer fits, what hurts, what you never use, what you can’t have because there is no space in your life, or who you need to let go, by choice or my circumstance.

Ask yourself:  How does this benefit my life today?  Does it bring me closer to my dreams?  Does it connect to the deepest part of me?  Can I trust this person?  Do I trust them enough to bring up the subject and work through the problem?  What about your health, your mental health, your body, etc?    Are there things you need to let go of, release out into the cosmos?  Do you need to say goodbye to stress, anxiety, mindless eating, anger, a stale job, or habits that do nothing or perhaps harm you?  Ask yourself what are you willing to look at?  Do you have support as you look at these things?  Maybe even start of with that question first — if you are going to let go and allow healing to occur, who is there to support you in your process?

Feel free to share via post or email.  If you use the Ask Here tab, you can email and if you tell me not to share it in a post, I will happily respect that request.

May your heart know great love and gentleness.

Jennifer

 

 

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The Third Noble Truth. . .   There is an end to suffering. But how?  Don’t you think if everyone knew there was a way we’d all be signing up?  Ani Pema Chodron writes in Comfortable with Uncertainty, “. . . suffering ceases when we let go of trying to maintain the huge ME at any cost.  This is what we practice in meditation. When we let go of thinking and the story line, we’re left just sitting with the quality and the energy of whatever particular ‘weather’ we’ve been trying to resist.”    What?  Okay, no wonder were not lining up around the corner.  I love Ani Pema but what does this mean in real terms?

The cessation of suffering is to put an end to the cravings, clinging, desire, ignorance, obsession and more.

Oh, okay.  Wait, what?  We can stop suffering by stopping are ignorance and desire?  We can stop it when we let go and stop clinging?  That’s great!  Wait, who would I be without my attachment or my perseverating?  How can I stop wanting?  I’m sure there will be an iSomething out soon. . .  and I will HAVE TO HAVE IT!

Wait, there’s more. . .

When suffering is stopped, there is also no more rebirth, suffering, and no dying again.  This is the liberation of all beings from the cycle.  Then we are free.

Mandy Barrow, on resources.woodlands-junior.ket.school, a homework resource for kids in the UK, interprets the Third Noble Truth like this:  “The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible.  If [we] let go of our craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free.  We then have more time and energy to help others.  This is Nirvana”.

We have so many stories in our heads.   We have so many wishes in our hearts.  And the more impossible they are, the more we probably want them, and the more we want them, the more suffering we have.  I have some that I am not sure I will ever want to let go of, no matter how much pain they cause.  To me, some of these stories, at least right now, are the breath that keeps me alive.  But if I want contentment, peace, ease, am I willing to let go of that which I grasp onto the tightest?

I think it’s so important to do this work (see the upcoming post on the Eight-fold Path) with the Buddha,  Dharma, and the Sangha.  They are our inspiration, our safety net, they are our teacher, and our support.  If the journey was easy, a lot more of us shining in our contentment.  But there isn’t. . . whenever starting a journey into the unknown, make sure you have your tools, your guide, and your desire to let go.

And the best news, the Buddha gave us the tools.  The Fourth Noble Truth is the tool, the ultimate tool.  The Fourth Noble Truth is that they way out of our suffering is The Eight-fold Path.  Over the next few days, in addition to other things, I will write about The Path.

Until then, ask yourself some gentle, kind, questions and just sit with what answers come up for you.  What would you be without your storyline?  You desires?  You want for a different outcome?  Who would you be if you were not always right?  Who are you, stripped down of all the trim and trappings?  Are you ready to sit and be present to whoever it is you find?

With deep respect and honor,

Jennifer

 

 

 

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Mark Hanson, psychologist and neuroscientist, sums up the Second Noble Truth like this:  The Second Noble Truth is the Cause of Suffering.  And what causes suffering?  It is our clinging to things, objects, ideas, rituals, people, etc.

Clinging can be described as:

  • Desire
  • Attachment
  • Obsession
  • Craving pleasures, material goods, immortality, etc
  • Righteousness
  • Griping
  • Hunger
  • Persevering
  • Obstinate
  • Ignorance

In Comfortable with Uncertainty, Pema Chodron writes that the Second Noble Truth says, “. . .resistance is the fundamental operating mechanism of what we call ego, that resisting life causes suffering.”  She goes further to say that we are “addicted to ME”.

Life is constantly changing and everything in life changes as well.  Developmentally, cognitively, spiritually, socially we change.  We might be 60 yrs old and probably don’t have the same friends we do in elementary school (though I plan that to be the exception to that case).  At 21, we might not like the same food we did as kids.  Even the weather changes and depending where you live it might change very, very quickly, like on the ride from the foothills in Boulder, up the mountain, and back down to Denver.  I think we figured it out and we experienced a 30 degree change in one afternoon.

I can’t speak for all of us, but I’ve read several times that people who have migraines have brains that like the same things to happen.  Wake up and go to sleep every day at the same times.  Same amount of caffeine.  Same time eating.  Etc, etc, etc.  I have a feeling that it is not only people with migraines that like that.  I know that I have worked with men and women who have Autism who also like their schedules to stay the same.  And again, I don’t think that it’s just Autistic people that don’t like change.  Actually, I know that to be the truth.  If we are human, most of us desire (need) things to remain the same or we suffer.

I’m dating myself but do you remember when Coke Cola decided to come out with New Coke.  Worst idea ever.  Why?  We like what we like and we don’t like change.  How could they ruin our lives and make us drink New Coke?  I mean really, why spoil great?  Every time hotmail.com changes their email platform my parents want to pull their hair out. . .  “but the button was always on the right, why did they move it”?  We don’t like change and these are small changes in the grand scheme of our lives.

We have people we love move, they get older, they die.  We have fights with people we love or we (or they) betray each other.  I’ve found that I need to keep my keys, jewelry, pen I use at work, and cell phone in a bowl by the door.  I’m great when I do every day.  But, some days, I get a call as I walk in or I have too many grocery bags, (whatever), and the next morning, I am a sheer panic because my safety net is gone.  Panic.  Where’d the phone go?  Oh my god, I’m gonna be late.  Where the hell are those keys?  Where’s the ring that so and so gave me and it will start my morning off in a foul way and I have to make every effort to stop, breathe, and go on.  It is a good reminder of how far I still have to go on my journey.

The Second Noble Truth speaks to the birth of our suffering. . . our clinging, our need for sameness, how we think the world should be, how we think everything should be. We resist change and it is this resistance that causes our suffering.  It’s easy to look at the first and second noble truths and think:  great optimism Buddhists!  There’s suffering in life and our need to live by our ego that guides our persistent need to have everything remain the same and static.  It’s really easy to believe that and close the book.  Walk away.  Shake our heads and think, wow, such nihilists.  But it’s only the beginning.  We have to look at the nature of reality if we want to understand our suffering.

I don’t think there is any better example of the Second Noble Truth than grief.  I know that might be hard to swallow for some.  We can suffer terribly when we experience the loss of someone we love, adore, cherish.  We can’t imagine living our lives without the love of our life.  We certainly cannot fathom the loss of our children while we are still alive.  Now, I don’t think that our connectedness is bad, far from it.  But we experience such immense pain.

And think about what happened when a special person to you died. . .do you remember hearing that joke and wanting to forward that email to that person who isn’t here?  Do you remember how you felt when you started to forward the email?  Or how it felt when your grandfather didn’t call right after dinner to hear how your day was?  Such emptiness. Such longing.  And such suffering and some times we never get over it.  Well, I don’t think we ever get over our loss.  I don’t think we reconcile with it, have closure, etc.  We hope with time it hurts a little less.

So, after some thought, some quiet time:  what do you find are those things in life that you cling to the most?  How you were raised?  Your political views?  Your spiritual views?  What do you desire, need, want, have to have?  And how do we work with our desires while living in a society that is created to make us constantly want what we don’t have and don’t really need?  How do we work to not become extremists in our thinking and how we live our lives?  How do we work with our societal need for youth?  Beauty? Money?  How do we live with our pain (any kind of pain — physical, spiritual, psychological, etc)?  How do we loosen our grip and learn to breathe?

The Third Noble Truth is “There is an End to Suffering.”  Come back in a few days are check out the post on the Third Noble Truth.

In solidarity and with hope,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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