Monthly Archives: March 2015

Loving Kindness

I’ve been on retreat this week, returning to the hermitage in the mountains of North Carolina where I first decided to follow my dream to be an inspirational speaker and writer. I came here this time mainly because my house was booked on AirBnB and I needed somewhere to stay. I also knew it would be a great place for me to prepare for a couple of talks I have coming up.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about this week is what some people see as my completely new direction. I’ve been contemplating whether my turn to the development of Sacred Caregiving is a genuine inspiration, or a well disguised cop out to continuing the pursuit of my dream. Personally, I have not necessarily seen the two as exclusive, but there is enough self-doubt to warrant closer examination.

Most of my energy and thinking, however, has been on the topic for my upcoming talks: Engaging Our Inner Critic: Changing Our Relationship from Adversary to Ally. I’ve been reading and studying materials to incorporate into my speech. I’ve also been practicing my solution to changing this relationship, which turned out to be slightly different from what I had originally derived.

I’ve learned that one of the ways I can really incorporate what I’m learning is to take a break and go for a walk. For me, there is something about moving my body that allows my mind to process on a deeper level. Being here next to waterfalls and hiking trails has made taking that time easy and enjoyable.

As I’ve been walking I realized how determined I am to be an authentic voice in the world. I recognized my difficulty in writing out my speech is because of this commitment. I know when I read from a manuscript, I lose my effectiveness to sound authentic. So, I’ve had to prepare for my talk without a script.

This, of course, has led the part of me that is critical into overdrive. Not having a perfectly timed, practiced and performed presentation is simply unacceptable. The messages I’ve been hearing from my inner critic are pretty disparaging.

However, I’ve seen this as a perfect opportunity for me to get out of my head of the discussion I need to give, and move into the practice for which my discussion will be based. Using the recommendation of Ann Weiser Cornell in Radical Gentleness: A 5-week course transforming your experience of inner criticism to one of inner acceptance, I went inside my body and practiced using self-in-presence language: I’m sensing something in me that is critical and I’m saying hello to it. I then asked that part of me another question: “What might you be worried about?”

To my surprise, the answer wasn’t that I’d get half way through my speech and forget what I was saying or ramble unintelligably the entire hour. No, the answer came in the form of a vision – and it was a much larger fear than just about the content of not having a written speech. I saw myself as an old lady: poor, lonely, and miserable.

With this image, I had a huge “NO WONDER” sense of empathy for the part of me that criticizes. No wonder it’s always pushing me to do more or be better; No wonder it’s always on my case about goofing off. It’s terrified I will end up old, lonely, poor and miserable.

I later realized this fear is likely a universal one for many of us. It’s what keeps us in relationships that no longer bring us joy. It’s what keeps us busy on Facebook or distracted by our addictions. It’s what keeps us from reaching out because we’re afraid we will be rejected. At our core we are afraid of getting old and being alone – and we don’t know how to deal with it.

As I contemplated this awareness and recommitted to showing up as authentically in life as I can, it occurred to me that Sacred Caregiving isn’t just about nursing homes or the direct care workforce. The topic I have been reading about and studying while here this week actually has a LOT to do with Sacred Caregiving. Because caring for others has to start with caring for ourselves, and that means changing our relationship to the part of ourselves that is criticizing.

I’m not sure exactly what this means for my new direction, but I know something deep in me clicked when I had this bigger vision. It’s now going to be my new tag line: Sacred Caregiving: Caring for Ourselves and Caring for Each Other.

Caring for ourselves can start with each of us being gentle and compassionate with all the parts of who we are and what we do. For me this week, that’s meant accepting the discomfort of not having a written speech, accepting the worry for how my talks will turn out, and allowing the uncertainty of my future direction. As self-in-presence, I can hold all of that and let it be.

What can you do in this moment to bring more loving kindness to yourself? Maybe start by putting a hand on your heart and breathing in love. Let the part of you that is criticizing know you hear it, but don’t get caught up in the content. Become big enough to hold all of who you are with love and compassion.

Overcoming Obstacles

“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” Rosalynn Carter

Would you just shut up!” The caregiver’s voice cut sharp across the dining hall. Nearby another aide responded “I don’t know what’s wrong with her, she’s been acting up all day!” I was shocked to hear this exchange at a fairly high-end religious retirement community and now understood why the residents were all eating quietly with their heads down. The resident who was being yelled at had dementia and apparently had asked for the umpteenth time about the piece of paper on her tray containing her dinner order.

Sadly enough, scenes like this – and worse – play out every day in family care homes or nursing homes across our nation. They don’t happen on family day or when you’re there visiting your loved one, but this kind of exchange is much more prevalent than most people realize. Residents fear retaliation for speaking up or administration often does nothing to hold staff accountable.

I was witness to this type of caregiving because at the time I was drilling in the wall putting up a trial of a new hand sanitizer. Staff don’t pay much attention to someone pushing a work cart who appears to be doing some sort of maintenance. They certainly didn’t seem to see me.

For seven years I was in and out of nursing homes throughout North America, promoting a hand hygiene infection control program and products proven to increase hand washing and decrease infections. After meeting with the Directors of Nursing, Housekeeping and Infection Control, I’d often be behind the scenes in dining halls, nursing stations or staff bathrooms. From this perspective I saw what will one day be the future for many of us.

There are certainly thousands of individuals doing this kind of work with loving care and compassion. I have absolute respect and admiration for all caregivers, both paid and unpaid. It’s hard not to be sympathetic with the CNA’s and other caregivers hired to wipe bottoms, clean up soiled sheets and change bed pans, usually for less than $15 per hour. However, low pay should not be an excuse for those that aren’t doing this work with the right attitude.

Our country is rapidly approaching a serious caregiving crisis: Employment of nursing assistants and orderlies is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022. There will not be a corresponding increase in the workforce of people who typically fill these jobs. However, due to the availability of jobs in this field, more direct care workers may seek employment for financial relief, unmotivated by a service or helping mentality.

I decided to incorporate my desire to share how the power of our perspective can change the quality of our life with my 25 years of services to older adults and my passion for mindful caregiving. My vision is Sacred Caregiving: creating a growing movement of visionaries teaching and inspiring caregivers to incorporate mindfulness, open-heart communication and a spiritual perspective in their work. In this way, I hope to improve the quality of care not only for older adults, but eventually for all populations receiving caregiving.

As one woman, starting at age 52, the fulfillment of my dream is daunting. It would be easy to get discouraged by how much work needs to be done and how much support is needed to make my vision a reality. When I see all the caregiver information available, I can feel scared and incompetent. If I think too much about the barriers, I can get discouraged from moving forward.

Someone recently shared with me, however, a story about his time in the army. Part of his training involved spending field time going through an obstacle course. I’ve always thought of this type of training as being a physical conditioning one, however he pointed out the psychological benefits. “Every time you come to a barrier,” he said “you learn to look for a way around it, even if it seems impossible.”

I may not have all the answers, experience or knowledge necessary to create a national movement. Maybe I won’t be able to get the funding needed to become a non-profit, or get the grants to keep it operating. Maybe that big wall in front of me isn’t surmountable. But, I am surely not going to let it stop me.

You see, the other thing my friend told me is this: sometimes those obstacles needed the help of teammates to get over. And with Rosalynn Carter’s definition of the four kinds of people in the world, I expect to have a lot of teammates. I also know I have a burning desire in my heart, an inspiration that is stronger than anything I’ve ever felt before, and a commitment to making this happen.

Sacred Caregiving Certified will one day be a status proudly displayed by nursing homes, child care centers, individuals and organizations. The wall that stands in front of me is an illusion. What the mind can believe, it can achieve. Join me and let’s do this thing …

Connect with me on Facebook, follow me @awakeninginlove and spread the word!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

When Inspiration is Finally Found

Awakeninginlove was started shortly after I lost my corporate job and made the commitment to follow my dream of being an inspirational speaker and writer. I knew I had the calling to share with others how important it is to follow our heart and do work we love. I invited others to follow and share my journey of leaping into the unknown and living on faith and trust that support will come.

…as we align with our purpose we WILL be supported beyond our wildest dreams.

When I first started this journey, I produced a YouTube asking the question “how do we move our lives in the direction of our dreams and take action to make that happen? How do we get from here to there?” A part of my discussion included an awareness of being taught NOT to dream with messages of “it’s too big, too much, not realistic, etc. Figuring out what inspires us on a deep personal level is challenging when we don’t think our dreams are possible.

I talked about this as well in another YouTube video on the missing pieces of the law of attraction (LOA). Primarily how it is difficult to visualize and feel what it is we want with specifics when we’ve been conditioned to believe we can’t have it. Personally, I knew I had a calling to inspire others, however I didn’t had a clear vision of how that calling was to play out in real life.

I started because I know I’m passionate about the power of perspective. I combined all of my spiritual, self-improvement, and metaphysical understanding into 8-steps to help change focus, get in touch with the body wisdom and see things from a soul perspective. However, something has been missing that’s kept me from the motivation to move that into the world.

Rather than feel frustrated by this, however, I’ve continued to hold to my one word focus for this year: TRUST. I trusted my struggles and frustration were a part of a larger process that was necessary for my personal growth. I trusted that the breakthrough I needed would come when the time was right. I continued to be gentle with myself and did what work I could each day with an open heart.

Little miracles have been appearing all around me and I’ve been recognizing and giving gratitude for them along the way. However, I was still unprepared for the amazing convergence of my personal interests, which have seemed somewhat diverse. There was a magical moment for me when everything came together. It was like a light switch being turned on to reveal what was around me all the time but which I couldn’t see.

I’ve spent most of my professional career in some aspect of services to older adults and I knew I felt passionate about elder care. I wasn’t able to see, however, how this interest had anything to do with my passion to help people understand how the way we give meaning to and interpret the events of our lives directly relates to the quality of our lives. My deep spiritual interest in the power of our perceptions seemed a world away from my professional life.

I have been doing caregiving and had started writing a book titled “5 Months to 95 Years: My Year in Caregiving.” In it I talk about the gifts of caregiving and how being with a baby helps me see things as if I’m seeing them for the first time; when I am with an elder I see things as if I might be seeing them for the last. In this way I have felt alive and present in the moment. This all seemed to be separate, however, from my calling to inspire others.

I spent a day last week providing transportation for an elderly woman who lives nearby. As I drove, one of the things she shared was her frustration with some of the care at the nursing home where her husband lived. I listened sympathetically, remembering my own observations going in and out of nursing homes across North America for my work. While there are many amazing caregivers, there are also some who don’t seem to have this open-hearted mindful perception of caregiving as a gift and honor.

That evening, as I was putting together a website for last minute or emergency caregiving, I came across the following quote by Nancy L. Kriseman: “Embracing a healing presence requires you to just be in the moment together.” I had just written how I considered caregiving sacred and when I saw this quote everything clicked into place. The veil was lifted and the light came on. The idea for Sacred Caregiving was born.

The inspiration that had been missing for me to take the next steps with Your Life Perspective was suddenly there. Using the tools of perception and mindfulness, a training program can be created to help develop Sacred Caregiving. Helping both caregivers who are stressed and need help to continue caring for their loved ones, and those who are doing the work of caregiving without any passion or love whatsoever.

I have awakened in love to this idea and my commitment to creating a national movement and training program needs your help. Please join, “like” and share my new community page on Facebook. If you’re on Twitter, find and follow me at @awakeninginlove.

Share this message and let’s get the word out to make this vision a reality. Thanks for reading and thanks for following my journey. It continues to unfold in surprising and unexpected ways! I encourage you to keep searching for what brings you inspiration and to take the same plunge to follow your dreams and discover the passion in your heart.

Perceptions and Attitudes: The Power To Choose

March rolled in with an ice storm here in North Carolina. It arrived on the heels of two weeks of unusually cold weather, including a day of 6-8” of snow; a rarity for this area. The last two weeks of February were particularly brutal weather-wise.

For those living in areas of the country where snow and ice is the norm, life goes on as usual. In North Carolina, however, it comes to a standstill. Lines at the grocery store wrapped around aisles as bread and milk flew off the shelves right before the coming storms. Schools and businesses shut down for days.

Following the ice storm, there was rain. Cold, wet and miserable. As spring rolls in, the temperatures are beginning to fluctuate, predicted to bounce up to 75 degrees today and then drop as low as 18 degrees Friday night. It seems as if spring is taking her own sweet time to arrive in totality.

One of the things I love about where I live is that in general we have a long fall and long spring, with mild temperatures. Typically our winters are relatively mild as well, although the last two years have belied that fact. Right now everyone I talk with is longing for spring and tired of the cold.

As I look out my window, the sides of the trees appear to be painted with a neon green stripe. The brightness is in strong contrast to the brown trunks. I recognize this pattern as the coming of spring, although I suspect few people notice since the trees are still bare.

Ironically, as much as I’m hearing groans and moans about the cold, I know it won’t be long before people are complaining about the heat. With either end of the temperature spectrum, perceptions and attitudes vary depending on experience. For most people living here, the summers are hot and humid. For me, having relocated many years ago from southeast Texas, they aren’t so bad.

It is a reminder to me that perceptions and attitudes are what make up our life. I can imagine there are a lot of local folks looking out their windows complaining about the cold rain. Or maybe wondering when it’s going to actually warm up to the predicted temperature. Or disappointed the warm weather won’t last.

Whatever the weather outside your window, take notice of the beginning signs of spring. Pay attention to what you are focusing on and how you are perceiving what is happening. This is where we have the most control and often fail to exercise it.

I continue to be fascinated with our power to choose. It is the single most powerful thing we have available to change our life. We can choose what to focus on, what things mean and what to do. However, it seems our power of choice is one thing most of us have a tendency to forget or take for granted.

I recognized my own folly with this recently as I shared widely the news of how my meager income stream from unemployment was ending. Shortly after writing about it in my last blog, I found myself questioning why I kept talking about it. My journal entry reads as follows:

“When I make the point to people my unemployment has run out, what am I looking for? Sympathy? Fear? Compassion? How is my sharing that information helping me (or them)? Am I subconsciously trying to become the victim? This was my choice. I decided not to look hard for a job and now I am living with the consequences of that decision.”

The insight and awareness I had in that moment related to understanding my circumstance is the result of my choice(s). Yet, I caught myself almost complaining about it, or acting as if all this was outside my control. I made the choice not to work harder in networking or contacting potential employers.

I do not mean to indicate that if I HAD been feverishly looking for a job and still unable to find one, that was in my control. In that case what would have been in my control would be my focus, attitude and assignment of meaning to the situation. Those are things we always can make a choice to change.

There are thousands of other examples of how I forget the power of my choice or don’t utilize it the way I could. Much of what I am in the process of developing as a solution involves coming off auto-pilot and making more conscious and aware decisions. In this way we might have a new life perspective.

My focus and attention over the next several weeks will be on developing content and planning a New Life Perspective course. My goal is to help others free themselves from disappointment, discover their power to create, and experience life through a soul perspective. Mostly, however, my goal is to learn and do this more for myself so that I might be an example to others.

I’ve asked myself several times why I have chosen this path. My answer has been I want to end suffering: yours and mine. Yet even in that answer I recognized the focus hasn’t been quite accurate in creating what I want. Because what I want for myself and others is a greater recognition, remembrance and utilization of this power of choice. And through it, the experience of creating a life of greater peace, love and joy.

As I finish this blog, the clouds part and the sun comes out. The pine trees sway, indicating there is still a brisk wind. I know it’s not yet warmed up outside. However, I look up at the blue sky and give thanks for this day. Tomorrow the temperatures will drop again, but today I have been granted a slice of spring and a reminder of what gives me inspiration.


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