My seventy-year old mother and I, attended the Art of Silence retreat at the International Center for Meditation and Well-Being in Boone, North Carolina.
Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease 5 years ago. She has been practicing Sudarshan Kriya and meditation daily for the past 2 ½ years; she was interested in learning more.
I knew attending the retreat at the center would be uplifting and empowering for her. I was nervous about how she would handle the trip. I was nervous because it would be the first time we traveled together. Mom does not speak any English.
Days before the trip, my own stress had impacted my ability to clearly perceive her needs and capacity. In trying to give her comfort, I did too much. It caused us more stress and worry. “I have to take care of my mom for the next 10 days!” It felt like a big weight over my head.
Our journey to North Carolina reminded me that in so many ways, we were being taken care of. We were treated with such care by airport and hotel staff, strangers and friends. Everyone wanted to help us. On arrival at the retreat center, we were assigned to a room with utmost convenience for her limited physicality. We settled in . . . my heart felt lighter.
When the silence program began, I realized what it truly means to take care of a loved one. The silence and peace that surrounded us cooled my head, and slowed my footsteps. I started observing more clearly both of our needs and capacities.
Moments I felt that I was being the best daughter and caretaker, were when I was translating meditation instructions for her. Our eyes were closed. With a few light and soft lines between us, we became loose and present. With simple hand gestures and soft touches, we were communicating deep love and tenderness without words.
I have thought of myself as “victim”. I complained, “Why did my mother have a debilitating disease? How will I take care of her in the future?”
In silence, a sense of ease and empowerment naturally and effortlessly dawned on me. I saw how amazingly courageous Mom is. Despite being in a completely unfamiliar place, despite her disease, she has the thirst to try new experiences and step out of her comfort zone.
Awareness came that I have all the resources needed to take care of her. I have inner strength and talent; I have help from the outer world. When calm and centered, I tap into these inner and outer resources. When I offer care from this space, it is easier, and more relaxing for both the caretaker and the cared for.
On the last gathering of the retreat, an audience member asked Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living foundation, “How do you take care of so many people in the world and look so cool and calm?” Sri Sri simply smiled and looked at her with love. His smile and ease, that come from a space of deep silence and love, captured the essence of the entire retreat. He radiates peace and centeredness wherever he travels, and makes people feel naturally at ease and cared for. Joy, celebration and love abound.
Many of us have the responsibility to care for families, loved ones, community and the greater world. Whatever action we take, when we act from this space of inner silence and peace, from a sense of inner joy and contentment, the whole world becomes a caring family.
Silence is the Secret to Caretaking