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The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seven

Heaven and Earth are everlasting
The reason Heaven and Earth can last forever
Is that they do not exist for themselves
Thus they can last forever

Therefore the sages:
Place themselves last but end up in front
Are outside of themselves and yet survive
Is it not due to their selflessness?
That is how they can achieve their own goals


                                                                              Lao Tzu

There are few moments better than seeing someone find joy or happiness and knowing that you have been a part of that experience. In verse seven, Lao Tzu is explaining that it is a moment that can be truly savored only if it is an honest, selfless offering to another and not something that comes with strings attached.

Giving unconditionally from the heart can seem like tricky business. It is generally thought to leave you open and vulnerable but just the opposite is true. Giving from your heart is the best exercise for this incredible muscle and it is the only way to truly strengthen it.

Conditional offerings to another person emanate from the mind or intellect not the heart. While we often convince ourselves that we are being cared and generous; there is a conscious or unconscious strategy or expectation associated with your involvement. These strings ultimately tie us up in disappointment or anger.

Too often I hear colleagues curse the day they decided to enter into their caring profession. This customarily follows a period of sensing that what you do or give is never good enough; that you are always asked/mandated to do more or, that your role is to clean up everyone else’s mess. But, I am not speaking of justice or fairness in this edition of my blog. I am speaking of torturing yourself with seeking the elusive sense of personal contentment in what you do from outside sources such as clients, visitors, workmates or administration. That habit is like chasing smoke.

The profession of healthcare and human services will always be underfunded and over-regulated. Engaging with individuals and their families, at a time when they are most vulnerable, presents many opportunities for success or stepping on landmines. Appreciation and gratitude for your services cannot be a daily expectation. Individuals are usually rude, demanding or insensitive because that is the way they choose to live their lives. They are not directing their bad behavior at you, although it can certainly seem that way. It is the way they are. You just got in their way. You can choose to take it personally and tear another run in the fabric of your wellbeing or you can see it for what it is and thank the Universe that you do not have to make someone else feel bad in order to feel good or powerful.

Professional and family caregivers must find a way to ensure that their actions are always fueled by heart energy or they run the very real risk of burning out. This means living a balanced life and knowing how to feed yourself with all the right things that keep your heart full. There is a Nigerian proverb that states, “No matter how dark, the hand always knows the way to the mouth.” Never lose sight of your own needs but stay mindful of the difference between have a need and being needy. Compassion arising from your own neediness comes with strings.

The only expected outcome must be the knowledge that you are walking your path as designed. Otherwise, bitterness and doubt creep into the places that should hold your faith and courage. Practice your profession compassionately because that is what you were born to do. Decide to take that extra moment, go that extra mile because that is who you are; no strings attached. Have the courage to fuel your actions, your caring from the heart expecting nothing in return other than the intuitive understanding that you are walking in the light strong and safe.

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