You likely have a predisposition to helping people that led you to becoming a professional caregiver. Perhaps you have developed a skillset that supports your success. For example, you have homed in on the importance of being kind, responsible, understanding, compassionate, and having a caring attitude. It is possible you are not even aware of the rich qualities you possess, since caring for others has come naturally to you. However, bringing more awareness to yourself and your role can be beneficial.
With a better understanding of what motivates you, it is possible to use the art of mindfulness to enhance the care you provide for your clients. Mindfulness is a simple practice that can be learned and easily integrated into your daily life. Understanding and practicing the different levels of mindfulness can be extremely rewarding for you and the people you care for.
The Four Levels of Mindfulness
The mindfulness movement has gained momentum in recent years and has been central to transforming the lives of many people. The central practices of mindfulness is where you focus on your breathing and your awareness in the present moment. Caregivers are no exception.
However, what many people do not realize is that mindfulness has more depth and complexity than the basic practices that you may find in an internet search. Rather, mindfulness has a long and ancient tradition reaching back at least 2,500 years. The following are four levels of mindfulness that can help you achieve the best results as a caregiver:
Mindfulness of Nature
Due to the nature of the human brain, i.e., the tendency to separate and individuate, you may feel as though you are disconnected from nature. For example, consider the mindset of hunters seeking to conquer aspects of nature. The idea that we are separate from nature is contradictory, as we are a part of nature.
Whether it is right or wrong, everything in existence is a form of nature and can be appreciated as such. Nature is not just the plants, animals, and trees outside, it is also your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. You can gain a larger sense of your place in the world and the cosmos by appreciating nature.
Mindfulness of Self
Stages of mindfulness often include two people or objects. It is only in the stage ‘mindfulness of self’ that you are completely focused on one individual, yourself. In some ways this is also the most important stage since harmonizing yourself leads to better conditions for others. If you are a caregiver, you might consider spending more time on this stage.
Bring your attention to your breathing. As you follow breath slowly in and out, allow your awareness to traverse your body. How does it feel to be you today? What feeling and sensations can you feel? Where can you feel them? If you discover tension or stress somewhere, gently bring your attention to it. Gently lean into the tension and feel it resolve.
Mindfulness of Others
As a caregiver you probably practice mindfulness of others more often than you realize. In fact, you probably have a natural disposition towards caring for others and attending to their needs. While this may come easily to you, it is still good to have background information about some of the techniques you are using so that you can recognize your interactions as a mindfulness practice.
One of the main components of ‘mindfulness of others’ is active listening. When a client or colleagues are speaking in a Memory Care Facility about an issue they are having, there is an instinctive tendency to solve the problem. The practice of mindfulness is resisting this tendency and holding space for them instead. For example, listening to someone genuinely, attentively, and without interrupting, is actively being mindful.
Mindfulness of Reality
What is reality? Depending on your philosophical perspective, it could mean objective reality, shared reality, or subjective reality, or a reality that is different depending on your biological, social, and psychological makeup. Mindfulness of reality is about contemplating these questions and coming to an understanding of how reality works for you.
To practice mindfulness of reality it is useful to contemplate impermanence. Impermanence is the reality that your life is limited, but that after your death the planet continues to turn, and the world continues to bustle with people. Even after you are gone there are still people who will need assistance from someone trained and skilled. In short, reality is the thing that does not go away regardless of your desires or expectations.