Friday, 11 September 2015
Over Coming our Obstacles
As a Carer there are times when you feel like there is no ground beneath your feet. This should not be surprising because after all, in our role as a Carer we realise impermanence is everywhere, the health of the person we care for can change by the hour or the minute. One routine that worked a month ago, might change the next, due to circumstances or failing health. While the person we care for relies upon routine, with the inevitable change, comes increased stress on you as the Carer and increased upset for the person you are caring for. This week has been the first week back at school for my twins, while the classroom has stayed the same, that's about it. A different teacher, new coat pegs, different tables at lunch time, a new bus and bus drivers to get use to. For a child with brain damage who struggles to map in his mind his surroundings, this new experience is torture.
None of us like change, but for most of us we find a way to cope. But for children and adults with learning difficulties and for those with physical disabilities, routine is a way of feeling grounded and secure. When something disrupts our routine we inevitably see it as an obstacle, we can feel a physical change in our bodies, and mental confusion can arise. But what if we didn't see it that way? As a Carer the world feels permanently full of obstacles and sometimes they are too big to climb over or I don't have the strength to move them out of the way.
It is at times like these I often reflect on my reaction to these obstacles. As a Buddhist I have been trying to learn from my experiences and draw on the teachings of the Buddha to help me face these difficult times. With my children and their differing needs I feel that I am constantly faced with new challenges. Most of you will know that sinking feeling when you try and get help, and following an assessment the door is shut in your face once more. I am aware that this festers in me, I feel so angry that there are so many obstacles, so many struggles to get my children the help they need. At the back of my mind I know that I will not be here forever, and when I am gone who will carry the sword and go on fighting for them.
Recently I have been reading about the story of the Buddha's enlightenment. On that night when he sat under the tree and was faced with many challenges and distractions, Mara tried to tempt the Buddha with obstacles that could distract him from the path to enlightenment. The Buddha showed great strength and turned the arrows of his enemies in to flowers. He showed that the obstacles we face are not our enemies, but rather our friends. Yes I did say friends! I know that is hard to take in, but we learn the most from the knives that cut us the deepest. If we see the obstacles as our enemies, then we also see the world around them in this negative light and we become stuck. I for one do not want to spend the rest of my life stuck!
So I am taking on board this lesson from the Dharma teachings.
So when Social Services, the NHS, or which ever service it may be, shut the door again, I won't let myself dig a big hole of anger and bitterness. It is about how I choose to perceive things, and I am tired of feeling worn down, if I don't make friends with the situation then I am at War with myself.
I have felt like I have been in battle for a long time, and my children are only five, this cannot continue, I will get Carer burn out! It is time for a change.
The only enemy we really have is the one within ourselves that says they don't like things as they are now. That longing for a life that is more peaceful, secure, happy, a life that feels like an impossible dream. But the reality is that even if your child or partner wasn't disabled, if you weren't a Carer, life would still have challenges, just different ones. Obstacles are there to teach us something, rather than getting angry and wasting energy trying to climb over them, it is better to stand back and find a way to transform them. We can blow down the wall of defeat, with compassion for ourselves and others.
Rather than getting caught up with a wave of negative emotions we have the choice to sit with the feeling, and let it pass rather than giving it the energy to become a self inflicted wound of anger and blame. At those times when we feel the worst of our negative emotions; rather than supporting the theory that we are in some way to blame for our situation, we instead need to give ourselves some loving kindness. When some things are out of our control we have to learn to accept the changing nature of life and by transforming our obstacles in to flowers we can make our world just a little bit more bearable.