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Meditation for Caregivers: Stress, Fear and Lovingkindness

sharon_salzberg.jpgThis is another post by Sharon Salzberg for the One City Blog. Sharon is one of three Buddhist lineage mentors for the Interdependence Project. She is also one of the foremost (and most awesome) Buddhist meditation teachers in America. She will next be teaching at the I.D. Project on November 11, 2009 as part of our Fall Buddhist Study Course. Check out other opportunities to study with her below.


–Ethan Nichtern

Meditation, Stress-Relief
, Fear, and Lovingkindness

As I have learned through my own years of experience, meditation can help us to relax, defuse stress and experience greater calm. It is also a way to explore the mind-body relationship, connect to our feelings, challenge our habits of fear and self-judgment, and discover a more sustained, genuine happiness. The insight we gain in meditation practice helps us see what in fact we cannot control, which translates into our ability to have healthier
boundaries about our work and our efforts to make this a better world.


Meditation helps us see our own difficult mind states ­ such as anger or fear or a sense of helplessness­ with compassion instead of self-judgment. It also provides a refuge during life’s storms by helping us connect compassionately with others, no matter the circumstances. Especially in times of uncertainty or pain, meditation broadens our perspective and deepens our courage. The spaciousness of mind and greater ease of heart that naturally arise through balanced awareness and compassion are fundamental components of a resilient spirit.


A few years ago I was set to do a 5 week course on lovingkindness meditation at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The program director, Grace, and I planned the course and decided to ask everyone attending to undertake a service project:–helping out in a soup kitchen, serving the homeless, volunteering in a hospice ­ something along those lines. But once the notice about the course went out, people began calling Grace, saying things like
“I’d like to volunteer somewhere, but in addition to working I’m taking care of my mother with Alzheimer’s, can that count?” “I have young children, and am overwhelmed as it is; can I possibly count that as my service?”


As Grace recounted these phone calls to me, I felt quite embarrassed at having missed how much care-giving so many do every day; no fanfare, no title, often no remuneration.

Ever since then I’ve tried to be quite consciously inclusive when I consider who is a caregiver. In two forthcoming programs I’m doing, I’d like to invite anyone who considers themselves a caregiver to participate, regardless of role or title.

One is a 3 day retreat for caregivers at the Insight Meditation Society in September, where we will practice meditation and yoga and explore the nature of resilience.


And the other is an evening and daylong in New York City in October, with a friend of
mine, Cheri Maples, who is a former police officer in Madison and a student of Thich Nhat Hanh. Cheri and I, along with the group, will explore the dimensions of the heart in service.

Comments read comments(12)
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Vanessa Brown

posted July 22, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Thank you. I am very overwhelmed by the care-taking responsibilities I have in my life, because I see how much my practice needs to grow to be fully present to myself before I can be fully present for others. I look forward to learning and growing!

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posted July 25, 2009 at 8:44 am

I saw the words “ubuntu” about a year ago- you are therefore I am. In looking back at the forces that be for the choices we had after my dad fell- broke his hip- came out of surgery with dementia. My mom never left us after that day- so my husband and I both take care of “my” parents. How did God lead me to such a man? I believe that God also lead me to buddism as well, I had borderline blood presure almost high, I read a book about lowering your BP through meditation from a Harvard doctor/teacher and my path was set even before the caretaking took place. Most won’t believe me but that’s their choice.
So- “UBUNTU” to all- you can find meaning in those words in more countless ways than probably Michael Jackson. All kidding aside, meditation is where it’s at for health physical and mental and most might not agree but I truly believe God doesn’t care if your path is buddism or whatever as long as you get to where you are going and it’s usually easier if you stay on His path.

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Jerry Kolber

posted July 25, 2009 at 6:46 pm

You are so eloquent in how you describe the effects of meditation practice on your ability to respond with spaciousness in the midst of crisis and care-giving. I lost a close friend early this year to disease, quite unexpectedly and suddenly, and though I continue to be shocked by the little ways I suddenly remember and miss her profoundly, my practice was enormously helpful in keeping me centered and having an inclusive, rather than depressive, response as I might have in the past. I’m looking forward to another one of your awesome visits to the IDP!

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posted December 1, 2009 at 12:33 am

“Stressful life peer pressure, work pressure and family issues leads to anxiety. Anxiety is basically a state of mind where people experience nervousness, fear, panic and a constant sad and depressed mood.
Deep breathing exercises are excellent for anxiety and many people report positive results from meditation. Some other natural anxiety remedies to look into are St.John’s Wort, SAMe, L-Theanine, and Tryptophan.”

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