Skip to content →

Wise Caregiving Posts

3 Reasons Why Compassion Makes You Happier Than Selfishness

Why should we act compassionately?  This is an important question for Westerners steeped in the Darwinian view that life is a selfish struggle.  If only the toughest survive, isn’t compassion towards others self-defeating?  The belief that we are primarily competitors makes it difficult to see the benefits of compassion.  But I’d like to suggest 3 ways in which we benefit by choosing compassion over selfishness. #1 – Reduced Stress Compassion is the natural human impulse to help relieve suffering.  Studies show that our compassionate feelings release oxytocin, the same hormone that creates the bond between mother and child and reduces…

3 Comments

The Value of Care

Our relationship to the value of caregiving contains a paradox.  On the one hand, we hold as heroes those who care grandly:  Mother Teresa’s care for Calcutta’s poor, St. Francis’s protection of living creatures, and the Indian guru Amma’s 33 million hugs come immediately to mind.  But on the other hand, while we value the care given by parents, teachers, healthcare workers, childcare providers, custodians (and on and on) we don’t value that care financially.  The paradox is that we both value and don’t value caregiving.   We expect caregiving to be offered freely.  I suspect that this has roots…

Leave a Comment

Lessons From The Monastery

I’m privileged to be on retreat at Deer Park Monastery. Today is Lazy Day – a day in which the schedule is dropped so the monks, nuns, and lay residents can relax. I’d like to use this lazy interlude to share lessons from the monastery that caregivers may find useful. Don’t do it alone Monastery residents seldom do things alone. They cook in teams, clean in teams, follow a common schedule, and care for one another as a family. Outside the monastery (and particularly in the West), we may be surrounded by others but we remain alone. Our freedom to…

Leave a Comment

Welcoming Difficulty

We can be especially sympathetic and affectionate with someone who persecutes us with abusive language. That very abuse conveys boundless loving-kindness. It is a compassionate device to liberate us entirely.                -Torei Zenji, 18th century Japanese Zen Master   ≈   I was expecting Dr. X’s call.  I’d left a message that the Medical Ethics Committee would like to speak with him.  When the surgeon phoned my office, I picked up:   ‘Thanks for getting back to me, Dr. X.  A concern has arisen, and as the Medical Ethics Committee Chair, I’d like to…

Leave a Comment

Are We Effective?

I was a brand new hospital chaplain, freshly ordained, trained, and full of ideas about how things ought to be: Patients would welcome my presence; staff would embrace my calm manner; administrators would gush about how much I meant to the hospital; my workload would be manageable and fulfilling.   Well, sometimes these things happened, but mostly work felt like one long catastrophe: Patients refused my visits; staff had no idea why I was there; administrators saw me as a costly luxury; and I frequently felt overworked, exhausted, and fed up with administrative tasks.   Reality did not match my…

Leave a Comment

In The Media

Thanks to the Northwest Dharma Association for publishing this article about our recent Contemplative Caregiving Retreat.  We’re planning a longer follow-up retreat for 2017. A Day of Exploring Contemplative Caregiving  

Leave a Comment

Grief’s Great Weight

Grief follows its’ own mind. It sneaks into the house through locked doors, has its way with the furniture, breaks the fine china, and departs on a whim. But it doesn’t retreat far: Just as we’ve finished sweeping the debris, grief returns to overwhelm whatever wall of incense and icons and soft beeswax candles we’re hiding behind and makes us doubt the holy answers. It lingers to wrack our bodies more painfully than an Inquisitor. And even after our breath has relaxed in celebration of its extended absence, we wake once again to feel grief’s great weight next to us…

Leave a Comment

Giving and Receiving

It would seem that the flow of care always moves from caregiver to patient. We have skills, they have needs, and assistance flows from us to them. We hover over them at the bedside like water coolers while they lay in the bed and drink from the tap. Seen this way, caregiving is an exhaustible commodity because there’s only so much in the tap and when our patients have drunk their fill, we retreat depleted. But must it be seen this way? Are there deeper truths that contemplative practice can reveal? Meditation practice pulls back the curtain on the boundaries…

4 Comments

Gratitude

Jonathan Prescott offered this talk on gratitude to the Guemes Island Community Church on 10/9/2016.

Leave a Comment