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Wise Caregiving Posts

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…

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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…

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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…

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Listen – Then Respond

The buzz on my belt brought an adrenalin rush.  The ER was paging and that meant trouble because they don’t call the chaplain when an 11-year-old boy breaks his arm or an elderly woman falls.  They call when death is in the house. I arrived to find Stephen, a middle-aged man, lying on a gurney surrounded by the experienced and efficient ER staff.  A CPR tag-team circulated blood through his lifeless body while others placed tubes and IVs and called out regular progress reports.  After some time, the lead physician said, ‘I’m calling it.  Time of death:  2:14 pm.’  And that…

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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  

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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…

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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…

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Gratitude

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

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Compassionate Care

This gentle video by Megan Mylan follows Masami Hayata as he cares for both his son and his aging mother.  I was inspired by his tenderness and patience and find myself wondering how we might all learn to offer such loving, attentive care.

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The Interbeing of Ordination and Chaplaincy

I began working as a healthcare chaplain in 2005, the same year I was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh into the Order of Interbeing (OI.)  For those unfamiliar with the role, healthcare chaplains help patients cope with their changing lives using the patient’s own language of meaning, whether that language is religious, scientific, philosophical or based upon their life experiences.  This requires the chaplain to listen with compassion and respond appropriately, without proselytizing the chaplain’s own beliefs.  My chaplaincy and OI practices have grown and supported each other over the years and I’d like to share some insights…

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