In a effort to respond to the stress being experienced in the healthcare arena, my colleagues and I crafted a memo to executives, physicians, and caregivers to assist in assessing, planning, and responding to the new time in our lives.
I specifically focused on the technique I have developed to bring some centering calmness to the crazy situation and pace of our lives. While the memo is fashioned with the fast paced world of the healthcare provider in mind, those of us in the world of quarantine have our own reality to cope with, most of it unfamiliar, either with added presence of kids and spouse, without the normal breaks provided by work, or the new reality of isolation. Either way, most of us are having to adjust our days to fit the new reality.
This can be a good time to dive into some new things, like launching a study on a topic you might have been interested in but just did not have time to pursue.
It may be a good time to begin a new hobby such as painting, writing, or practicing that musical instrument that has been staring at you from the corner of the room.
As one old friend told me, she is using the time to do the cleaning she has been promising to do, but just simply never got around to due to lack of time. She’s pretty excited from the initial efforts on the landscape of her living space.
Another friend is doing what I always do this time of year: preparing a garden. There’s nothing like breaking the hard crust on the soil, making the proper amendments. I love the smell. It feels real, and has always served as an antidote to my urban blues. I always plant tomatoes, various varieties, and then another bed of herbs and peppers that I use in my cooking. By the way, I learned about pepper properly from a man on Hwy 155 out of Tyler,Texas who is known as The Pepper King. Screw the Tiger King, I’m loving my Texas gold. It’s a joyful labor, which should be the model for all of work. I love the sweat, and the coolness of a Spring breeze.
This week, Holy Week, I am carving out some special time to dive a bit more deeply into the biblical narrative of Jesus’ last week. My old Oxford Bible is my refuge as I read the story, once again, of Jesus coming to Jerusalem for a showdown. He was pressing a full tilt version of the Kingdom of God over and against the religious and political structures of his day. It cost him his life.
I am back to hanging out in my old friend, the Gospels. It is the place Albert Schweitzer first pointed out the crumbs on the ground to guide my search for Jesus. Jesus Christ Superstar cast the story and drama for me in Broadway lights, and Godspell filled out the radical teachings cast in the context of community. And while I am remembering, Clarence Jordan, an old Baptist preacher, transposed the story into a Southern idiom as the Cotton Patch version of the Gospel, with Harry Chapin painting the picture in music. The Gospel and I go way back.
Mark is the most clean in presenting the history, just the facts, ma’am. Matthew adds his more thoroughly Jewish perspective. and Luke is more of a storyteller, adding side notes. And of course, John, never my favorite because of the lack of historical attention, includes a long, and I mean LONG, section of Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples. Maybe John is an old man’s Gospel because it is grabbing me in a way it never has before this year. The word “Abide” seems to leap off the page. Anyway, I am investing some time and energy in this reading, quiet tending, and prayer.
I trust you are finding creative ways of entering in and using this odd time. If you have found some ways, particularly those that surprise you, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org .
So here’s the memo I sent to my healthcare leaders that I work with across the country. I am so grateful for their heroic actions, literally laying down their lives to care for people who need their expertise and compassion. They are telling me this is helpful in the frazzled moments of their lives so I thought I might share it more broadly with you.
Regardless of how you do it, make sure you are taking care of yourself during this odd time. You will be glad you did a few months from now.
So here is the offering on PAUSE.
In the stressful time of tending to patients, family members, fellow staff- take a mindful pause, a mini-retreat, a minute meditation to give you a needed break!
When? Where? How?
When: You can grab a minute pause between patients, procedures, activities. You can plan them by scheduling them into your day, or you can simply make it happen when you think of it. Simply PAUSE.
Where: Anywhere will do in a pinch. Usually, it works better to get a private space, but that’s not always possible. Sometimes, you can take a small walk around the floor, or to another unit. I know one person who loves the stairwell. Simply PAUSE.
How: The simplest form of mindfulness is paying attention to your breathing, inhaling and exhaling. Focus on the feeling of the air flowing through your nostrils, filling your chest, pausing briefly, then exhaling, through your nose or mouth. Tai Chi practitioners suggest exhaling through the lips, like blowing up a balloon. Three, five or seven seems to work best in a short break for a mindful moment. Imagine you are bringing the air deep into the center of your chest, to your heart, for best effect.
We have seen such simple exercises bring about a centeredness that dives beneath the flurry of activity, the buzz of noise, the sense of chaos. In this brief mindful moment, one finds a center of the self which can relieve the press of stress.
Taking care of your self gives you the capacity to care for others.
I pray this is helpful, Simple but effective. This year Passover and Easter have a special significance and meaning, primarily because we are more aware of the reality of what it means to be human. I hope it offers you the opportunity to move more deeply into an intentional life of purpose and meaning.