We are giving away a copy of The Caregiver’s Tao Te Ching: Compassionate Caring for Your Loved Ones and Yourself by William and Nancy Martin. Check out this sneak peak from the authors and leave a comment for your chance to win the book!
Ancient Wisdom for Today’s Caregiver
By William and Nancy Martin
Caregivers don’t lack for advice. Social, psychological, and medical experts all contribute helpful understandings to the complex process of caring for another person. But some-times we, who find ourselves at one time or another in the position of caregiving, can be overwhelmed by this well-intentioned advice. Not only are we faced with the difficulties involved in unwanted life changes, but we also confront countless versions of “the right way” to handle these changes.
At the risk of being one more of these advice-giving voices, we would like to suggest some compassionate perspectives contained in an ancient poetic text titled, The Tao Te Ching.
Written over 2,500 years ago, The Tao Te Ching expresses in short poetic verses a wise and universal philosophy of life that can bring a fresh breeze of satisfaction and peace into the complex and difficult task of giving care to another person. The legendary sage, Lao-Tzu, who is credited with writing this classic book, saw life as a wondrous and mysterious process that expresses its truths in everything it does. We would like to present just three brief examples of the many insights available in his little book that might be of comfort and inspiration to those of us who are giving care to another person.
Caregiving is a direct experience.
Talking about a path
is not walking that path.
Thinking about life
is not living.
(From Chapter 1 of The Tao Te Ching - translation by William Martin)
Lao-Tzu was not a follower of any religious system. He was a patient observer of the way life flows. He watched the rain soak the earth and the clouds clear to reveal the brightness of the sun. He watched rivers carve canyons and nurture fertile valleys. He saw the seasons come and go and watched animals and plants live out their lives in an intricate web of interdependence. He saw all things rise and fall, come and go, live and die. He understood that this mystery cannot be captured by words, concepts, beliefs, or ideals. It can be talked about but never really understood. It can only be revealed by direct experience.
The direct experience of giving care is new every moment and leads us in unfamiliar directions. We gather understanding along the way, but with each encounter we must show up, stay present with what is happening, and notice what actually occurs. When we do this, a space opens in which compassion for everyone involved, including ourselves, can naturally arise.
Caring for another person is not about orchestrating the day so that it goes according to some idealized “plan.” It is about letting go of our ideals and making room for the two people who are here in this place, in this moment. This brings us the freedom to open our hearts to ourselves and to those in our care.