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Excerpt from "The Caregiver's Tao Te Ching"

by William and Nancy Martin


From the book, The Caregiver's Tao Te Ching. Copyright © 2011 by William and Nancy Martin. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com

Our Journey

We began this book to express our gratitude for the wisdom and encouragement that the classic Chinese text the Tao Te Ching has brought to us over the past twenty years. Its author, Lao Tzu, though a legendary figure from 2,600 years ago, feels like a trusted elder uncle, watching us with compassion and acceptance as we have walked, skipped, and stumbled along the paths of our lives. His understanding of how the Tao expresses itself in every atom of the cosmos has helped us maintain our balance through all the seasons of our life together: our love for each other, our relationship with our children, and our acceptance of our own aging. In The Caregiver’s Tao Te Ching, we hope to craft some of Lao Tzu’s wisdom, especially for those who find themselves, willingly or not, in the role of caregiver.

Life does not unfold according to our wishes. It is not predictable. It does not follow a smooth and comfortable path. It offers beauty and love mixed with transience and loss, creating a marvelous melancholy — a blend of pleasure and pain that brings intensity and mystery to existence. In the midst of such complexity, the ability to give care to one another is an essential part of a meaningful and compassionate life.

It is our deepest hope that the ancient wisdom of Lao Tzu, which pours through the Tao, will join with our present-day direct experience of tenderness and loss to express the true nature of giving and receiving care. At the core of our being lies an ancient, innate wisdom. This is the source and power of compassionate care. It allows each of us to live out this task in our own unique way.

Your caregiving journey may be similar to ours, or it may be quite different. You may be helping a loved one through recovery from an illness or surgery. You may be caring for someone with a long-term disability. You may be called to give care in one or more of hundreds of different ways. Whatever your situation, you will benefit from the support of Lao Tzu’s wisdom and from an awareness of your own deep connection with the essence of life that he called the Tao.

Caregiving and the Tao have other characteristics in common. Each asks that we show up and have a direct experience of life as it is unfolding in this moment. Each seems unpredictable to our conditioned mind yet follows its own course and asks us to follow along. Each contains paradoxes that our desires and opinions cannot resolve and therefore asks for our acceptance. Each asks not for a grand plan but for a willingness to take the next simple step.

Chapter 1: Let Go

Caring for loved ones with your ideas and caring for them with your actions are two different processes.
The first arises within your mind and often brings confusion.
The second is a direct experience, free of mental voices,and leads to clarity
The mind that wants to help does not know how.
The mind that lets go of wanting knows exactly what to do.
Both minds reside within us.
Learning to live with both unlocks the secret of caregiving.
Be quietly present with yourself in the presence of another human being.
If you can do this you will know the next simple thing to do.
This is all that is ever necessary.

The first step in caregiving is to let go of our ideas about what it means to be a helpful, compassionate caregiver. These mental images set standards that easily lead to disappointment, frustration, and self-doubt. The direct experience of giving care is new every moment and leads us in unfamiliar directions. We gather experience along the way, but with each encounter we must show up, stay present to what is actually happening, and see what occurs. When we do this, a space opens in which compassion for everyone involved, including ourselves, can naturally arise.

Caring for another person is not about orchestrating the tasks of the day so that we can do it “right.” It is about letting go of our ideas and making room for the two people who are here in this place, in this moment. It is the freedom to be who we are and to open our hearts to ourselves and to those in our care.

William and Nancy Martin. William Martin has been a Taoist scholar for thirty years, and is a counselor, teacher, and author who serves as a teaching guide at The Still Point Center for Zen Practice in Chico, California; his wife, Nancy, has experience as a minister specializing in life transitions and has trained and supported hospice volunteers in their work with the dying and their families. She is the founder of Zen Compassionate Care, an independent, intensive training program that uses Zen awareness practice to aid in the development of caregiving skills.

Books can be purchased from your favorite bookseller or from www.newworldlibrary.com
 

From the book, The Caregiver's Tao Te Ching. Copyright © 2011 by William and Nancy Martin. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com  


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