I have written often of the benefits of meditation, particularly when combined with music as a guided meditation experience. Now there is increasing evidence from mainstream medical research of what has been understood for thousands of years by wise teachers of many traditions: meditation is great for people!
The truly excellent thing about meditation is that anyone can do it, pretty much anywhere. It is easy, free (or very inexpensive if you choose to buy CDs or download guided versions), is proven as effective as pharmaceutical aids in reducing depression and stress, and has no side effects other than an increased sense of well-being and peacefulness. Click here to see the research done at Johns Hopkins investigating meditation as anti-depressant. What's not to love about that? The Mayo Clinic also published a newsletter article titled "Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress" which gives an great overview of the subject .
Various forms of meditation have been taught, mostly in eastern cultures, and the practice has been growing by leaps and bounds in the west over the past thirty years or so. There have been a number of pioneeers in bringing the practice of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) to the west, including Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His clinic was featured on the public television series Healing and the Mind with Bill Moyers in 1993. Meditation has such incredible benefits that I believe everyone can find some help by practicing it. In my own experience as a caregiver, meditation and music, combined with fervent and frequent prayer, saved my sanity when it was hanging by a thread. I find it compelling that the list of benefits meditation offers so exactly corresponds to symptoms many (or most) caregivers experience. The only mystery to me is why more caregivers don't use this incredible tool for balance and strength. Which is why I am making it my mission to get this information out to those who need it through this website & blog, by writing, speaking, teaching, and otherwise promoting it. How often is there a perfect solution to so many of our everyday stresses just waiting for us to sit down and get quiet long enough to find its gifts?
If you'd like to explore the ideas and resources for meditation, please visit my Meditation and Music page on this site and also take a look at the ideas for Self-care and Caregiver Resource Store. I will also be publishing a book which further details resources and tools for caregivers: Sanity Savers for Caregivers at the End of Their Rope. You can add your name for an announcement of publication, which is targeted for March 2014. If you would like to read a chapter from the book about the uses of music and meditation, click here. I encourage you to explore the idea of various forms of meditation and find what appeals to you personally. In my 17 years of caregiving, music and meditation were the brightest jewels in the caregiver crown. Try it out. You have nothing to lose and so very much to gain!
For those in the Naples area, there's a special opportunity tonight to view the acclaimed documentary I Remember Better When I Paint, with special guest & co-director Berna Huebner. Hosted by the Naples Art Association, the film, narrated by Olivia de Havilland, is the first international documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer's and how these approaches can change the way we look at the disease.
The event will be held tonight, February 17, 2014 at the Naples Women's Club, 570 Park Street in downtown Naples, beginning with a reception at 6 pm, the film screening at 6:30 pm and followed by a panel discussion with several experts in the field. This is free to the public. For more information, please visit the Naples Art Association website.
Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another. ~Thomas Merton
I want to share with you a couple funny stories about my Mom in the nursing home. They are proof that love never dies and is our true destiny, as Thomas Merton attests.
I arrived for a visit with Mom to find her sitting in the TV common area holding hands with the gentleman in the seat next to her. As I walked in and gave her a big hug and kiss, I asked how she was. She smiled a very sweet, slightly sly smile and glanced at the man beside her saying, "I'm doing fine. I've got a man!" I cracked up, since she was 91 at the time and because it reminded me so much of the Gershwin lyrics from the song I Got Rhythm: I've got my man, who could ask for anything more? She then expressed concern about whether I had a man of my own (I assured her quickly that I did, lest she suggest something I didn't want to contemplate).
Mom and this very kind man continued to be good friends and companions until death parted them, and it always warmed my heart to see them holding hands and smiling at each other fondly.
The second story happened earlier, soon after Mom arrived at the home and before she met her gentleman friend. I was at work, in a frantically busy office, when my cell phone vibrated, indicating a call from the nursing home. In a bit of a panic, fearing some kind of emergency, I grabbed the phone and rushed out to the parking lot to get a good signal, leaving a lobby full of people waiting, none too pleased about my disappearing act.
The social worker from the nursing home quickly allayed my fears and then told me she had an "incident" to report. Well, that sounded pretty ominous. An incident? She further relayed that while waiting for the dining room to open, my mother had been sitting in a small alcove watching TV when another resident, a man, kissed her. I think I laughed out loud at this point feeling very relieved and repeated, incredulously, "Kissed her? Do you mean a peck on the cheek kind of kiss or were tongues involved?", I questioned. She assured me that it was fairly innocuous, according to her interview of the two people involved and witnesses. She further reported my Mom did not seem distressed at all by the kissing "incident" and indeed could not recall it. Well, I've had kisses that were less than memorable, but I suspected it was Mom's Alzheimer's causing this lack of recall. As I breathed a sigh of relief, I explained to the harried woman that I was not upset by this breach of manners, and actually, if this were the worst "incident" that ever happened that would be excellent. In fact, I continued, "My Mom may have even been the kiss-er instead of the kiss-ee, in this case, given her propensity for flirting." Sometimes you just have to look at the lighter side of life and love.
With all the Valentine's Day hoopla yesterday so fresh in mind, it feels good to know that love can bring us joy at any age and in any circumstance. So get out there and hold hands with someone you love. And make your own kissing incident. Love is our destiny, indeed!
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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