My father, recently admitted to hospice care, has declined further. People who saw him just three days ago are shocked at the difference they see today.
I have been with him all morning and have been in extreme discomfort watching him. I can be with someone when they appear to be relatively peaceful, but when they seem agitated or in discomfort, it is very challenging for me not to get agitated myself. I am a fixer! I want to solve the problem! And when I can’t, I feel anxious.
As I write those words I realize that I want to cultivate inner peace so that it can radiate out to Dad and everyone else around me. The last thing Dad needs is to feel my anxiety, subtle though it may be.
Today Dad’s arms and legs were experiencing jerky spasms, flying around in an uncontrollable way as he was lying there attempting to rest. I guessed that this was a symptom of Parkinson’s, but when the hospice nurse arrived she gently suggested it could be a result of the body’s chemistry getting out of whack. Apparently as the body breaks down, it is unable to maintain homeostasis and things start to fall apart.
Fortunately, at one point I browsed through some of the hospice’s literature and I discovered a quotation from a Buddhist teacher. He said something to the effect of: You don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to say anything, simply be present.
I see the wisdom in those words and there is still a part of me that rebels. I have to fix it! I have to make things better!
Nevertheless, those words propelled me to investigate further. Here is something I found:
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a revered Tibetan Buddhist teacher, says that when he was a boy he would experience overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety. He sought advice from his wise father, a master of meditation. His father said, “Each and every moment, we have the opportunity to connect with a timeless awareness that is not affected in any way by the changing conditions of our lives.”
Ah. timeless awareness. That sounds good. I read further.
He said, “The only way out of suffering is to move toward it; that the path of true awakening lies in experiencing every single moment, whether pleasant or painful, with complete and unconditional love.”
Ahh. Can I be present within my discomfort? Can I love myself in the midst of my discomfort? Can I refrain from judging the discomfort as “bad”? Can I refrain from judging myself as flawed because I am not feeling the peace I would prefer to feel? Can I learn not to prefer one feeling over another but to be present with whatever it is I am feeling?
Phew. That sounds like it would be a difficult thing to learn. And it does sound wise.
Rinpoche says further: “As my father taught me so many years ago, all we have to do is embrace each experience with awareness and open our hearts fully to the present moment…. You don’t need to do or say anything. When you are completely at ease with your own being, the ripples of your awareness will naturally spread out in all directions, touching the life of everyone you meet.”
So, perhaps I can practice noticing what I am feeling and refraining from judging it - ie, Now I am feeling sad. Now I am feeling anxious. Now I am feeling distracted. Now I am feeling the need for a break. Now I am feeling hungry.
I will still attempt to bring ease and comfort whenever I can. And perhaps I can attempt to accept how I’m feeling each moment without judging it as good or bad.
The lessons continue. I pray I learn them.
Meanwhile, bless my dear Dad, bless his caregivers, and bless all who are suffering.
And thank you, Rinpoche.
*Quotations from the following source: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/02/buddhist-teacher-yongey-mingyur-rinpoche-a-losar-letter/