When first starting out as a volunteer at the Zen Hospice Project over 6 months ago, I had no idea about the ways in which my life would be influenced. All I knew was that I wanted to learn more about what the hospice does and how I could help. It turned out that I was benefitting from participating in the range of courses offered too. Whether it was when participating in the variety of Mindful Caregiver Education (MCE) courses or helping in the preparation for future courses to be run, it quickly dawned on me that I was now forever changed.
Each of the courses are deeply rooted in the Zen philosophy of “mindfulness” – an aspect of the eastern expression of the art of living that most of the western world either isn’t aware of or hasn’t fully understood yet. In general, when dealing with the most complex and challenging of circumstances either as a caregiver or a family member of a loved one residing at the hospice or even the patient themselves, the most overwhelming emotions can come to the fore. Most of us rely on coping mechanisms to deal with these extreme and heightened sentiments that don’t necessarily mitigate the upheaval we feel. They serve more or less as a quick-fix to address the situation in the short-term or are rooted in measures than seem to be self-serving. The real impact of such events usually are felt in the long-term, much after the fact. It is in these instances of contemplative turmoil do we feel the full swell of the underlying pain.
In order to better handle ourselves in these moments, it is best to incorporate the practice of mindfulness right from the beginning. Each of the courses offered at the Zen Hospice Project provide a chance to inculcate this practice as a discipline and as a tool to have at our disposal, as we continue to lead our lives in each of our individual paths. I myself, having gone through the courses, have learnt that being present in the moment, by allowing oneself to be fully aware of the gift of life and all that we take for granted, a wave of compassion and gratitude can wash over us. It is with this realization, it becomes possible to gain a lens to look at all the above mentioned difficult circumstances with a new approach. The temporary nature of our life and everything that comes with it becomes apparent. It helps in realizing that everything that seems insurmountable, shall pass.
It is this awareness of the dynamic nature of our existence, through crests and troughs, forever changing and evolving, that nothing stays on forever. Nothing material anyway. All that remains is an act of kindness, a good deed rooted in compassion or even the compassion one can offer with just their silent presence. Therein lies the true art of living. Sometimes learning that can be as simple as signing up for a course, so I’ve learnt.
Dhiraj Korwani is a Special Skills Volunteer and regular contributor to Zen Hospice Project. To read more about Zen Hospice Project’s Mindful Caregiver Education, click here.