Throughout my career as a nurse, I have been “burned out” at various times. Along with the impulse to find spiritual freedom, this journey of burnout and creating resilience has brought me to learning and teaching compassion meditation for nurses and other healthcare providers as well as patients and family members.
There is a particular moment of burnout that can be identified as “hitting the wall”. These moments are the crux point, when things get to be too much and something has to change. My memory of these moments is graphic, even many years later. Handing the tiny silver bracelets of a baby who we had been unable to resuscitate to her grieving parents. Realizing that the patient I had been working with in a community mental health program was not going to stop undermining my every effort to help. That moment of knowing that I needed something more, to find the inner resources, education, time and space, to be able to cope with the work I wanted to do.
These experiences led me to ask many questions. How can we retain the core motivation that inspired us to enter this field of caring? How can we restore ourselves? How can we tap into the resiliency that I knew existed, within the profession and within each of us?
Meditation is one of the ways that we can learn to evoke our natural compassion. Sustainable Compassion Meditation is a practice, a means to cultivate the innate capacity to find our own inner resource for replenishment, to cultivate resiliency, and a sustainable source of compassionate presence to others. We are not seeking to find it outside of ourselves, in a better ‘strategy’, but rather to reveal to oneself our innate capacity for care and compassion.
This involves training in three aspects of care, receiving care, extending care and deepening oneself in the field of care. The practice allows us to touch in on the rich and sustainable source of loving care that surrounds us, and sustains us all whether we are normally aware of it or not.
I am continually impressed by the impact that these seemingly simple practices have on my ability to be present for my patients and myself. The power that these practices seem to unlock in so many, has led me to learn to teach, as I feel they are a key skill for anyone in a caring position and for us to create a culture of care, so that this is our reference point that changes the system.