I was asked to speak at a conference for health care givers recently, on bringing a more caring approach to our aging population.
While I was sitting in my favorite chair contemplating what I might say, my daughter’s dog Frankie jumped up and settled lengthways against my outstretched legs. I laid my hand on his back with a light touch, to which he responded by sighing contentedly. I could feel his body twitching slightly as he relaxed, and the warmth of his body met the warmth of my hand in a silent bond that said, “You are safe here. You are loved.”
At first I thought how lucky Frankie is to have a loving family around him (he was in a shelter for part of his life). Then I thought, as I sighed and relaxed a little more myself, “Who is teaching whom here?” And that’s when it hit me. The key to care in health care is the willingness of the provider to see the patient as their teacher.
A light touch on the shoulder, or holding someone’s hand, with no agenda, no purpose, no outcome other than to be there — is a great gift — for both the giver and the receiver. This is a gift best given when you’re present, in both body and mind. It brings a deep calm to your spirit. It opens the doorway to a dimension so different from our ordinary hurried, troubled, frenetic states of mind that it can best be described by what it’s not. It’s not an action with a purpose. It’s not directed towards an outcome. It is being, pure and simple.
The dimension of being is where miracles happen. I’ve seen people break down and cry like a baby when someone sits with them and listens without judgment, maybe for the first time in their life. I’ve seen pain and worry disappear in the presence of love.
Being with another can only occur by being with yourself. With practice, the state of being expands like a wave of calm, so that when a troubled thought enters your mind, you can observe it without doing anything about it. In the presence of being, future concerns recede and disappear, and the timeless present comes to the foreground, heightening your senses, and awakening you to focus where you are.
With practice, you can also learn to sustain this state of being in the middle of a busy day. Yogi’s call this the yoga of action. Next week I’ll talk more about the yoga of action and what I’m learning about how to Be in Action.
This week, look for places where you can give the light touch of a warm hand to someone. Let them know, by simply being with them, that around you they are safe and loved. See if you can find new ways to practice being. And take a 5 minute break from doing every once in a while, with no purpose whatsoever. Just be.