Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Turning Poison into Medicine.

Chanting for wisdom.
When we care for others, our own strength to live increases. When we help people expand their state of life, our lives also expand. Actions to benefit others are not separate from actions to benefit oneself. Our lives and the lives of others are ultimately inseparable.  -– Daisaku Ikeda

Caregiving is hard work, and so much of past articles I’ve read emphasized the negative effects and challenges. As a former caregiver (and somewhat of a hypochondriac), I used to believe that caregiving stress would lead to premature aging via the shortening of my telomeres. On a positive note, recent news suggests that caregivers are healthier and live longer.

When my father became ill, the duties of caregiving were completely new to me and I felt inadequate as I tried my best to assist him.  As I had mentioned in a previous post, I was initially resentful of my situation, and would often daydream about how I would run away. Some criticized the decisions I made regarding my father's care, and I felt very lonely.  In the beginning, I spent “free time” crying and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, my Buddhist mantra, in order to manage the responsibilities.  

I chanted a lot during the caregiving years, and this helped to strengthen my resolve on days when I felt like falling apart.  My Buddhist practice also helped me to bring forth compassion and wisdom to make sure that my father was well cared for.  What was more amazing: caregiving became the springboard for tremendous personal growth.  I began to understand that the happiness of others is not separate from my own - No effort is ever in vain. This realization led to deeper happiness and appreciation, especially for the difficulties.  Eventually, chanting put me “in rhythm” with my environment so days flowed more smoothly, and it helped me to be flexible when situations were unpredictable. 

Through harnessing the power of Buddhist practice, I gained: compassion, patience, confidence, hope, sensitivity, affection, open-mindedness, flexibility, sense of purpose, spiritual growth, inner strength, and gratitude. I used to think caregiving was an obstacle to my happiness, but it became the cause for greater fulfillment.

I would like to express thanks and gratitude to all the noble caregivers who are working tirelessly everyday to make sure that loved ones are well cared for. Nichiren states, "...where there is unseen virtue, there will be visible reward (WND, Vol 1, 1278, p.907)."  This quote applies to all of you.  May your lives continue to shine brilliantly!

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