Saturday, 7 November 2015


Once, I tried relaxation exercises.  I was hopeless.  In an earlier life, I was an acting student and for actors, it’s important to relax your body and focus intently on listening to others.  For me, there was something infuriating about being told to lie still and concentrate on my breathing.  I wanted to jump up and start yelling.

So a couple of days ago, when I participated in a mindful meditation workshop for caregiving parents of children with disabilities, I wasn’t expecting any gold stars.  I imagined that I knew something about mindfulness and meditation.  After all, I read about it in my Facebook feed sometimes and I’ve tried that ‘chewing a raisin for five minutes with my eyes closed’ exercise. 

But the workshop I attended made me realize that I knew NOTHING about mindfulness or its healing powers.  Karen Dillon (from the Children's Treatment Network) and Stephanie Moeser (a clinician in private practice) are both social workers who have made it their business to study the benefits of mindfulness and teach them to caregivers.  They offer their workshop to carers and clinicians alike and I had the privilege of attending with a group of parents of children with disabilities.  Mindfulness helps ALL caregivers though, and I found myself thinking about both Nicholas and my Mom during the workshop.

Karen and Stephanie began by introducing us to the work of mindfulness pioneer, physician and author John Kabat-Zinn.  Here he being profiled on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper.  Fascinating!  

Everyone took something different away from this workshop.  Mindfulness is a highly individual endeavour.  For me, the analogy of not being alone in the shower was striking.  My mind is always whirring away with conversations playing back, recitations of to-do lists, forgotten tasks breaking through reverie with a sudden 'Oh damn!' coming out of my mouth reflexively.  No, I am never alone in the shower.  I really liked the exercises involving movement too (remember, I hate stillness).  So walking slowly in bare feet is something I'd like to try.  

It's funny, I remember unwittingly practicing some of these techniques in my loneliest days of caring at home.  I recall peeling potatoes in the sink and really looking at my hands.  I concentrated on the rhythm of the motion and I savoured a grateful sense of pride that I was feeding my family in this work.  Now I know to call that thoughtful intention 'Mindfulness'.  Now I know that it can soothe anxious hearts, painful joints, lonely thoughts - mindfulness has the potential to accomplish that beautiful magic trick of helping us to care for ourselves and our loved ones at the same time. 

Remember, November is National Caregivers' Month.  Give yourself the gift of mindfulness - you'll be helping yourself AND your loved one. 

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