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Waiting for a surgical procedure is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences a person can endure. As a registered nurse working in an operating room, most of the patients I meet on a daily basis are experiencing some level of fearful anticipation.They are putting their bodies in the hands of those they do not know personally yet are trusting on a professional level. They are vulnerable.
The ones who do not verbalize their fear in matter-of-fact terms generally express their feelings of compromise in other areas (“will I be covered up during surgery?”). While they may not directly say they are fearful, their behaviors, words, and energy levels all indicate that they are in need of steady and connected presence by those rendering their professional skills and care. Throughout my years of nursing in varied areas, the presence of vulnerability remains a universal constant.
I became personally familiar with the concept of this type of physical and emotional vulnerability through my own experience with an acute health crisis. In a complete reversal of roles, I became the patient. My desire to take a more proactive and accountable role in my health became pivotal during this time. Meditation became one of the avenues I explored as a method of coping with my own personal stress that was occurring as an offshoot of my health issues. My experience was life changing. The growth and benefits I witnessed were related to my physical health, yet the changes became all encompassing. My self-awareness in all areas of my life grew significantly. I became certified to teach meditation in 2014.
As a meditation teacher, I have studied theories and techniques which have allowed me to form a strong basis for my own personal philosophies. I believe in being consistently rooted in my own meditation practice as my “anchor” to pull me back to center and keep myself grounded as much as possible. I have done readings, research and participated in workshops learning from deeply connected individuals. While these experiences have been cathartic and resulted in a great deal of personal growth for me, it has been my deep desire to somehow communicate these experiences and benefits of mindfulness and meditation to the world.
Nursing has allowed me to do that. Yet not in the way that I had imagined.
When I initially became certified as a meditation teacher, my ambition was to integrate my learning and share it within our healthcare system. Naïvely, I believed that the quickest way to that end was to facilitate classes delivering the information in a very formal manner-teaching presence and awareness. I quickly realized that what my formal delivery system lacked was meaning. I was a regurgitator of knowledge. Most importantly, although you can “teach” skills to allow people to be more aware of themselves, humans innately engage in these skills to some degree without anyone talking to them about it.
After those initial classes, I hadn't noticed that I wasn't interacting and connecting at my most real level. Interestingly enough, I had my most inspiring conversations after the sessions were over. I might have had a participant or two who stayed behind to talk. Ironically, I seemed to be asked the same question in varied ways:
How has meditation helped me?
It was not until I reflected on this for a while that I realized that the most effective tool that anyone of us can bring to the table is a strong sense of self-awareness and clarity about who we are. The process of being human means that there are shreds of recognizable familiarity in every encounter we have with others. People want to make sense of what is happening to them at their own pace and in their own way.
There is something safe about knowing that someone is seeing the rawness in you and reaching out their hand to say “I’m here”. It conveys the feeling that you are not alone.
My most intense assimilation of that knowledge, though, has come from being one on one with another human being who is feeling their weakest and craving anything in that moment for a sense of stability. They need comfort.
They are not looking for words. Nor are they seeking assurances of statistics of previous surgeries and outcomes, technical information, or explanations that you have experience in assisting people with relaxation techniques.
They want you. They want your presence and your steady energy to guide them to focus and keep them locked into that very present moment. Not what is behind them and certainly not what lies ahead in the days to come.
I consider it a privilege to stand before these individuals in a relationship of service and feel it essential to offer them my most grounded self that I am able to. Sometimes it is all they have.
The most powerful way to transmit this energy to someone is to be rooted in yourself. To be humbled by the experience of serving that individual in that moment. To not get lost in tasks and routines but to understand that healing involves connection first and foremost. Certainly not to get lost in words.Those who work in a healing capacity often engage in this way without even being aware of it.
My approach to sharing my learning has evolved since those initial days because of what I am privileged to see and interact with on a daily basis. My patients and peers have provided me with my most essential lightbulb moments and continue to do so daily.
Although you can dive very deeply when learning to meditate, the premise is to simply connect to the present moment and disconnect from the train of thought in your mind. While formal learning has its place, my own experience has guided me towards a more no-frills, user-friendly approach when connecting with others. For me, a disconnect from their thoughts for just a moment is simplest. The easiest way to do that is to be fully engaged yourself. Real and aware. Present and connected to the other in front of you.
All we can offer someone else is ourselves…exactly where we are at. Meeting them with acceptance exactly where they are it. It is the best place to start.
It’s a meditation in and of itself.